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Emancipation Proclamation

  • Emancipation Proclamation, January 1, 1863
  • Emancipation Proclamation, January 1, 1863
  • Emancipation Proclamation, January 1, 1863
  • Emancipation Proclamation, January 1, 1863
Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on the first day of 1863, declaring all enslaved people in rebel states to be free.
Related documents:
  • The (Fort) Monroe Doctrine
    The (Fort) Monroe Doctrine, Cartoon, 1861
  • Emancipation, Lithograph
    Emancipation, Lithograph, 1865
  • Waiting for the Hour
    Carte-de-Visite of Waiting for the Hour, 1863
  • Convention Resolved to Abolish Slavery
    Virginia Constitutional Convention Resolved to Abolish Slavery, March 10, 1864
  • Thirteenth Amendment
    Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, 1865
« Return to Forever Free

Emancipation Proclamation, January 1, 1863

Soon after Union troops secured territory in Confederate states, enslaved African Americans flocked to their encampments. Union officers were unsure what to do with the refugees, often sending them back to their owners or allowing them to stay and work at the camps. Those people who worked and stayed at the Union camps were classified as "contrabands" of war, or enemy property. Lincoln rescinded emancipation orders that two Union generals, John C. Frémont and David Hunter issued, in September 1861 and May 1862, respectively, preferring to reserve to himself as commander-in-chief the power to emancipate. The United States Congress passed the Confiscation Act of 1861 allowing Union officers to appropriate the property of rebels, including enslaved people working to support the Confederate army. The next year Congress passed the Second Confiscation Act, which freed the contrabands working with the Union army.

Lincoln was initially unsure and cautious about emancipating the slaves. On several occasions, he made it clear that his primary intention was to save the Union regardless of the outcome on slavery. On April 16, 1862, he signed the District of Columbia Emancipation Act, allowing for the emancipation of all slaves within the District of Columbia. The act also approved compensation for loyal slaveholders and offered the colonization choices of Liberia or Haiti to newly freed African Americans. About the same time Lincoln offered similar emancipation plans to the state legislators of the border slave states of Maryland, Kentucky, Delaware, and Missouri.

In July 1862, Lincoln drafted the Emancipation Proclamation and submitted it to his cabinet for advice and revisions. His cabinet members were taken aback by the radical sentiment, and their support was mixed. Lincoln revised the proclamation and on September 22 announced his preliminary proclamation, a military measure warning that if the war continued and states remained in rebellion he would free all slaves held in rebellious states on January 1, 1863. His September proclamation came five days after an estimated 6,300 Union and Confederate soldiers died in the defeat of Lee's Confederate army near Antietam, Maryland.

The war continued, and, as anticipated by many enslaved people, on the first day of 1863, Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. The proclamation freed only slaves held in rebellious states and not in the border slave states or in areas of the South already occupied by the United States Army. The proclamation also for the first time officially allowed African American soldiers to fight for the Union.

Legal emancipation for all enslaved people of the United States was not achieved until the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment on December 6, 1865. But the symbolism of the Emancipation Proclamation is undeniable. It gave hope to millions of enslaved people and turned the Union army into liberators and the Civil War into a war of liberation. After Lincoln issued the proclamation, enslaved people became freed when Union troops gained Southern territory. Freedom came to different areas of the South as the Union troops moved. The most famous and probably the last place in the former Confederate States in which the Emancipation Proclamation took effect was Galveston, Texas, where on June 19, 1865, General Gordon Granger read a military order announcing that all the slaves of Texas were free according to the Emancipation Proclamation. That date has come to be celebrated in the African American community as Juneteenth.

For Educators

Questions

1. Which president issued the Emancipation Proclamation?


2. On what day was the proclamation issued? On what day did it go into effect?

Further Discussion

1. The Emancipation Proclamation was a military edict. What was its purpose? Who did it actually free?

Notes

The original copy of this final draft by Lincoln was lost in the Chicago fire of 1871. Photographs of the original show it was primarily in Lincoln's own handwriting. The superscription and ending were written by a clerk, and the printed insertions are from the preliminary proclamation Lincoln presented at a cabinet meeting on September 22, 1862.

Links

Library of Congress Bibliographic Information-Emancipation Proclamation

This Day in Virginia: January 5

Suggested Reading

Siddali, Silvana R. From Property to Person: Slavery and the Confiscation Acts, 1861–1862. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2005.

Guelzo, Allen C. Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2004.

Holzer, Harold, Edna Greene Medford, and Frank J. Williams. The Emancipation Proclamation: Three Views. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2006.

Ira Berlin et al. Slaves No More: Three Essays on Emancipation and the Civil War. Cambridge, Eng.: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

By the President of the United States of America:
A Proclamation.
Whereas, on the twenty-second day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two, a proclamation was issued by the President of the United States, containing, among other things, the following, to wit:
 "That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.
 "That the Executive will, on the first day of January aforesaid, by proclamation, designate the States and parts of States, if any, in which the people thereof, respectively, shall then be in rebellion against the United States; and the fact that any State, or the people thereof, shall on that day be, in good faith, represented in the Congress of the United States by members chosen thereto at elections wherein a majority of the qualified voters of such State shall have participated, shall, in the absence of strong countervailing testimony, be deemed conclusive evidence that such State, and the people thereof, are not then in rebellion against the United States."
 Now, therefore I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, by virtue of the power in me vested as Commander-in-Chief, of the Army and Navy of the United States in time of actual armed rebellion against the authority and government of the United States, and as a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing said rebellion, do, on this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and in accordance with my purpose so to do publicly proclaimed for the full period of one hundred days, from the day first above mentioned, order and designate as the States and parts of States wherein the people thereof respectively, are this day in rebellion against the United States, the following, to wit:
 Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, (except the Parishes of St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Jefferson, St. John, St. Charles, St. James Ascension, Assumption, Terrebonne, Lafourche, St. Mary, St. Martin, and Orleans, including the City of New Orleans) Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia, (except the forty-eight counties designated as West Virginia, and also the counties of Berkley, Accomac, Northampton, Elizabeth City, York, Princess Ann, and Norfolk, including the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth[)], and which excepted parts, are for the present, left precisely as if this proclamation were not issued.
 And by virtue of the power, and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free; and that the Executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons.
And I hereby enjoin upon the people so declared to be free to abstain from all violence, unless in necessary self-defence; and I recommend to them that, in all cases when allowed, they labor faithfully for reasonable wages.
 And I further declare and make known, that such persons of suitable condition, will be received into the armed service of the United States to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service.
And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God.
 In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington, this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty three, and of the Independence of the United States of America the eighty-seventh.
          ABRAHAM LINCOLN
By the President:
William H. Seward
 Secretary of State.