Emancipation Proclamation

Also found in: Dictionary, Legal, Wikipedia.
Related to Emancipation Proclamation: 13th Amendment

Emancipation Proclamation,

in U.S. history, the executive order abolishing slavery in the Confederate States of America.

Desire for Such a Proclamation

In the early part of the Civil War, President Lincoln refrained from issuing an edict freeing the slaves despite the insistent urgings of abolitionists. Believing that the war was being fought solely to preserve the Union, he sought to avoid alienating the slaveholding border states that had remained in the Union. "If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it; and if I could do it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that." He wrote these words to Horace Greeley on Aug. 22, 1862, in answer to criticism from that administration gadfly; he had, however, long since decided, after much reflection, to adopt the third course.

Lincoln kept the plan to himself until July 13, 1862, when, according to the cabinet diarist Gideon Welles, he first mentioned it to Welles and Secretary of State William H. Seward. On July 22 he read a preliminary draft to the cabinet and acquiesced in Seward's suggestion to wait until after a Union victory before issuing the proclamation. The Antietam campaign presented that opportunity, and on Sept. 22, 1862, after reading a second draft to the cabinet, he issued a preliminary proclamation that announced that emancipation would become effective on Jan. 1, 1863, in those states "in rebellion" that had not meanwhile laid down their arms.

The Proclamation

On Jan. 1, 1863, the formal and definite Emancipation Proclamation was issued. The President, by virtue of his powers as commander in chief, declared free all those slaves residing in territory in rebellion against the federal government "as a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing said rebellion." Congress, in effect, had done as much in its confiscation acts of Aug., 1861, and July, 1862, but its legislation did not have the popular appeal of the Emancipation Proclamation—despite the great limitations of the proclamation, which did not affect slaves in those states that had remained loyal to the Union or in territory of the Confederacy that had been reconquered. These were freed in other ways (see slaveryslavery,
historicially, an institution based on a relationship of dominance and submission, whereby one person owns another and can exact from that person labor or other services.
..... Click the link for more information.
). Nor did the proclamation have any immediate effect in the vast area over which the Confederacy retained control. Confederate leaders, however, feared that it would serve as an incitement to insurrection and denounced it.

Purpose of the Proclamation

The proclamation did not reflect Lincoln's desired solution for the slavery problem. He continued to favor gradual emancipation, to be undertaken voluntarily by the states, with federal compensation to slaveholders, a plan he considered eminently just in view of the common responsibility of North and South for the existence of slavery. The Emancipation Proclamation was chiefly a declaration of policy, which, it was hoped, would serve as an opening wedge in depleting the South's great manpower reserve in slaves and, equally important, would enhance the Union cause in the eyes of Europeans, especially the British.

At home it was duly hailed by the radical abolitionists, but it cost Lincoln the support of many conservatives and undoubtedly figured in the Republican setback in the congressional elections of 1862. This was more than offset by the boost it gave the Union abroad, where, on the whole, it was warmly received; in combination with subsequent Union victories, it ended all hopes of the Confederacy for recognition from Britain and France. Doubts as to its constitutionality were later removed by the adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment.


See J. H. Franklin, The Emancipation Proclamation (1963); E. Foner, Nothing But Freedom: Emancipation and Its Legacy (1983).

Emancipation Proclamation

edict issued by Abraham Lincoln freeing the slaves (1863). [Am. Hist.: EB, III: 869]

Emancipation Proclamation

Lincoln’s declaration freeing the slaves (1863). [Am. Hist.: Jameson, 161]
References in periodicals archive ?
NIST has made similar encasements before, most recently for the State of New Yorks exhibit of the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, but also for the Constitution, Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights and many other national treasures.
Another striking thing about the Emancipation Proclamation is how legalistic it is.
The Emancipation Proclamation was wildly controversial in its time, some arguing that it was an unconstitutional usurpation and others that it was an inadequate half measure.
Joseph began his session by noting the significance of 2013 as the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington, and the 150th anniversary of the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation.
Though the Emancipation Proclamation was politically a wartime and domestic document, it was truly an international text, with the expectation that other nations be bound by these commitments and to serve as a means to promote Union war efforts diplomatically.
Long recognized as the defining act of Lincoln's presidency, the Emancipation Proclamation didn't end slavery outright.
On September 17, 1862, several thousand of those men fought in and won the battle of Antietam, a victory that enabled President Abraham Lincoln to issue the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation soon after.
A couple of years ago, speaking to a bipartisan group of college students about the Emancipation Proclamation, President Barack Obama commented, half jokingly, that if the executive order were signed today, headlines would scream, "Lincoln Sells Out Slaves" His observation spoke not only to our sensationalist news culture, but also to the rocky reputation of the Proclamation itself, a document that has been both praised and damned by politicians, scholars, and activists on both sides of the ideological aisle since Lincoln announced it in 1862 and then signed it 150 years ago this year, on January 1, 1863.
The Emancipation Celebration is a remembrance days to when the Civil War raged, Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation after the Battle of Antietam in August of 1862.
President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, ordering the freeing of slaves, has been sold for over two million dollars at a New York auction.
The Emancipation Proclamation is also well-organized and attractive.
This engaging collection of essays is intended to enhance our appreciation of what the editors and contributors convincingly argue to be one of Abraham Lincoln's most ill understood state papers: the Emancipation Proclamation.