Emancipation Proclamation

Emancipation Proclamation


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Emancipation Proclamation


President Abraham Lincoln was considered pro-abolition before the election of 1860. However, throughout the first year of the Civil War he maintained that he had invaded the Confederacy in order to save the Union, and not to abolish slavery. He continued by stating, “if I could save the Union without freeing one slave I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all of the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that.”

The first year of the Civil War would witness one victory after another for the Confederate forces. At this time the Union Army became demoralized and they began having problems attracting new volunteers. Making things even worse, the Confederate victories had begun to attract the attention of European countries. These countries were interested in becoming their trading partner if the Confederates were successful in seceding from the nation. At the same time pressure to free the slaves came from all sectors of Northern society including newspaper editors and Northern generals who had freed slaves in war zones. Most of the freed slaves had been found living in dire conditions.

Faced with dwindling troops, President Lincoln needed to take action. He believed that if he emancipated the slaves they could provide a new source of manpower. He was also hoping that emancipating them would secure backing for the Union from the European countries that had already freed slaves. Lincoln worked on the document throughout June of 1862. Then of July 22, he presented it to his cabinet. At this time Secretary of State William Seward urge the president not to publish the document until the North had won a major victory. Otherwise, he was afraid that it might send the Confederates the wrong message, a message that said they were desperate and that emancipation was a last resort.

Although the Battle of Antietam was not a runaway victory, it did in fact force the retreat of Robert E. Lee and stop his invasion of the North. A week after the victory, on September 22, 1862, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. It caused an immediate uproar. It freed the slaves in the South while not mentioning the slaves that existed in the North. He had freed the slaves in territory where he presently had no jurisdiction. As a result, the slave owners in the North kept their slaves. The following fall the Lincoln Republicans lost several seats to the Democrats who at the time favored a peaceful ending to the war and the recognition of the Confederacy. They even won Lincoln's home state of Illinois.

At the same time there were some extremely positive results of the Proclamation. France and Great Britain immediately sided with Lincoln on moral grounds. Also, before the Proclamation only a few thousand African Americans served in the Union Army. After the Proclamation runaway slaves and slaves that had been freed by Union forces signed up in droves. By the war’s end about 190,000 African Americans had enlisted, which was about 10% of the entire Union Army. Before long, the Emancipation Proclamation and its result became a key turning point in the war, and without it the end of the war could have easily had a different outcome. It would forever be known as one of the most important documents in American history. In 1865, eight months after the war ended the United States Congress enacted the 13th Amendment that officially ended slavery for African Americans. The amendment would put an end to the greatest wrong in the history of our nation.