First Reading of the
Emancipation Proclamation of President Lincoln
by Francis Bicknell Carpenter (1830 - 1900)
A TIMELINE OF
EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION ORIGIN AND RELEASE
Library of Congress
BEFORE THE EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION AT THE WAR'S BEGINNING
ISSUES A DEADLINE ON THE FINAL ISSUING OF THE PROCLAMATION FOR JAN. 1,
Once the war started, thousands of slaves began to run to
Union lines. Thousands of other slaves began to exhibit insubordinate
and even rebellious behavior on their home plantations, especially as
more and more southern white males went away to war. Northern free
blacks urged Lincoln to act decisively to encourage slave rebellions.
They called for the President to issue an emancipation proclamation.
Also, it seemed almost certain that an act of emancipation would make it
difficult for England or France to officially recognize the Confederacy
in view of the antislavery sentiments among their home populations --
especially in England.
Accordingly, Lincoln announced to his cabinet on July 22,
1862, that he would issue an Emancipation Proclamation in his capacity
as commander in chief of the armed forces in time of war. The
Proclamation would free all slaves in areas still in rebellion, and
henceforth it would be a Union objective to destroy slavery within the
Confederate South. His cabinet persuaded Lincoln to wait until a Union
victory, lest it appear to the world like an act of desperation. When
General McClellan stopped Robert E. Lee's advance into Maryland at
Antietam Creek in September 1862, Lincoln announced his preliminary
proclamation. The President warned that if the rebellion did not end by
January 1, 1863, he would issue his presidential order of emancipation
and move to destroy slavery in the rebel states once and for all.
Abraham Lincoln, Brooklyn Museum
The Emancipation Proclamation
was a presidential proclamation and executive order
issued by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863, as a war
measure during the American Civil War, directed to all of the areas
in rebellion and all segments of the executive branch (including the
Army and Navy) of the United States. It proclaimed the freedom of slaves
in the ten states that were still in rebellion. Because it was issued
under the President's war powers, it necessarily excluded the border
states not in rebellion- it applied to more than 3 million of the 4
million slaves in the U.S. at the time.
The Proclamation was based on the president's constitutional
authority as commander in chief of the armed forces; it was not a law
passed by Congress. The Proclamation also ordered that suitable persons
among those freed could be enrolled into the paid service of United
States' forces, and ordered the Union Army (and all segments of the
Executive branch) to "recognize and maintain the freedom of" the
ex-slaves. The Proclamation did not compensate the owners, did not
outlaw slavery, and did not grant citizenship to the ex-slaves (called
freedmen). It made the eradication of slavery an explicit war goal, in
addition to the goal of reuniting the Union.
Around 20,000 to 50,000 slaves in regions where rebellion had
already been subdued were immediately emancipated. It could not be
enforced in areas still under rebellion, but as the Union army took
control of Confederate regions, the Proclamation provided the legal
framework for freeing more than 3 million slaves in those regions. Prior
to the Proclamation, in accordance with the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850,
escaped slaves were either returned to their masters or held in camps as
contraband for later return. The Proclamation applied only to slaves in
Confederate-held lands; it did not apply to those in the four slave
states that were not in rebellion (Kentucky, Maryland, Delaware, and
Missouri, which were unnamed), nor to Tennessee (unnamed but occupied by
Union troops since 1862) and lower Louisiana (also under occupation),
and specifically excluded those counties of Virginia soon to form the
state of West Virginia. Also specifically excluded (by name) were some
regions already controlled by the Union Army? Emancipation in those
places would come after separate state actions and/or the December 1865
ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, which made slavery and
indentured servitude, except for those duly convicted of a crime,
illegal everywhere subject to United States jurisdiction.
On September 22, 1862, Lincoln had issued a preliminary
proclamation that he would order the emancipation of all slaves in any
state (or part of a state) that did not end their rebellion against the
Union by January 1, 1863. None of the Confederate states restored
themselves to the Union, and Lincoln's order, signed and issued January
1, 1863, took effect. The Emancipation Proclamation outraged white
Southerners who envisioned a race war, angered some Northern Democrats,
energized anti-slavery forces, and undermined forces in Europe that
wanted to intervene to help the Confederacy. The Proclamation lifted the
spirits of African Americans both free and slave. It led many slaves to
escape from their masters and get to Union lines to obtain their
The Emancipation Proclamation broadened the goals of the Civil
War. While slavery had been a major issue that led to the war, Lincoln's
only mission at the start of the war was to keep the Union together. The
Proclamation made freeing the slaves an explicit goal of the Union war
effort, and was a step toward abolishing slavery and conferring full
citizenship upon ex-slaves. Establishing the abolition of slavery as one
of the two primary war goals served to deter intervention by Britain and
YOUTUBE DOCUMENTARIES CONCERNING THE EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION
Viewers now have easy access to the
Lincoln Institute documentary series about the
drafting of the Emancipation Proclamation. They
produced by the
and featuring the
Gilder Lehrman Collection.
Questions to Answer
READ: A House Divided: Emancipation
Proclamation for a visual story of its draft and enactment. Answer the
1. When did President Lincoln start the Emancipation Proclamation, and
when did he release it to the public? Why did he wait?
2. Up until the time of releasing the Emancipation Proclamation, had
the Union Forces attained any great victories? What was our first
victory (won battle)?
3. The Emancipation Proclamation freed a lot of slaves. What slaves
were freed? Which slaves were not freed?
4. What border states remained in the Union, and had slavery?
5. Did the Emancipation Proclamation free the border state slaves? Why
did Lincoln choose not to free their slaves?
6. How did Lincoln make the freeing of slaves legal? The U.S.
Constitution had laws in it that made slavery legal?
7. Why did northern states not allow slavery? How did they get by
"not" allowing slavery?
8. Did all of Lincoln's cabinet members support the Emancipation
Proclamation? Which ones did, and which ones didn't?
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