The Emancipation Proclamation on 1 January 1863

On January 1, 1863, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. When President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on 1 January 1863, black abolitionists finally could claim the Civil War as their own struggle-a battle for liberation (Ripley 221). It modified the federal legal status of enslaved African Americans within the South from slave to free. Lincoln wanted the president empowered to issue a proclamation that provided for gradual emancipation and the legal abolition of slavery (Guelzo 25). During the Civil war the United States were separated into four different parts: the union states, the boarder states, the Confederate states, and territory. All slaves in the Confederate states had freedom only, but it did not apply to those slaves in the Union. The Union had two goals: restore the Union, and end slavery in the Confederate states. African Americans considered the document’s full meaning and had various sentiments over Lincoln’s act.

Abraham Lincoln had some challenges to overcome before he wrote the Emancipation Proclamation Ten days later, on July 22, 1862, he presented the first draft of the Emancipation Proclamation to the cabinet (Vorenberg 27). As a result most former slaves worked as laborers or joined the Union military, which eased the Union’s shortage of soldiers. Along with his proclamation, which targeted only those slaves in rebel-controlled areas, was an order from Lincoln allowing military and naval officers in rebel areas to recruit male African Americans, free or enslaved, as noncombat soldiers (Vorenberg 27). Lincoln’s first challenge was that the U.S. Constitution did not prohibit slavery. Individual states could outlaw slavery, but not the U.S. Government. The war was no longer just about preserving the union, it was also about freeing the slaves.

Lincoln first issued the Emancipation Proclamation, in a very rough form, just after the Union’s victory at Antietam, on September 1862. It declared that each slave in the Confederacy was free. His preliminary proclamation of September 1862 promised the southern states full restoration of their rights (including, implicitly, slaveholding) if they would give up rebellion (Vorenberg 27). The liberation proclamation broadened the goals of the war. While slavery had been a serious issue that started to the war, Lincoln’s only mission was to maintain the Union. To ensure the abolition of slavery in all the U.S., Lincoln pushed for the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment and insisted that Reconstruction plans for Southern states require a new constitution. The Thirteenth Amendment was passed in 1865 and banned all slavery everywhere. The Emancipation Proclamation applied mainly to slaves in the South and not border states.

While the proclamation had freed most slaves, it had not made slavery illegal. By itself, the proclamation failed to free one slave. According to Vorenberg: The proclamation was surely the most powerful instrument of slavery’s destruction, for, more than any other measure, it defined the Civil War as a war for black freedom. Most Americans today would name the emancipation as the most important result of the war. Had the original document not been destroyed by fire in 1871, it would no doubt reside alongside the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution as one of our national treasures (1). People would argue that all slaves worked harder than their commander. These slaves were freed due to Lincoln’s commitment to free all slaves. Many slaves were freed during the war, beginning with the day when the Emancipation Proclamation took effect.

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