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Emancipation Proclamation

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Emancipation Proclamation

One of the most popular misconceptions in American history is that Abraham Lincoln ended slavery with the Emancipation Proclamation. In fact, it was not the Emancipation Proclamation, but the Thirteenth Amendment that brought an end to slavery in the United States. But this is not to say the Emancipation Proclamation was not important. Keep reading to learn how the Emancipation Proclamation revitalized the North and changed the course of the Civil War.

The Emancipation Proclamation Definition and Meaning

Emancipation Proclamation Copy of Text StudySmarterCopy of the Emancipation Proclamation, Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The Emancipation Proclamation was an executive order issued by President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War that freed all slaves in Confederate territory.

The Emancipation Proclamation Date

Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1st, 1863, but he had already warned it was coming one hundred days earlier in the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. The Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, issued on September 22, 1862, allowed Confederate states time to surrender so they could avoid losing their slaves when the actual Emancipation Proclamation took effect. No states heeded his warning.

The Emancipation Proclamation Summary

The Emancipation Proclamation Summary: President Lincoln’s Stance

Emancipation Proclamation Summary Portrait of Abraham Lincoln StudySmarterPortrait of Abraham Lincoln, Source: WIkimedia Commons.

Although President Lincoln did not support slavery himself, prior to the Civil War and even at the start of the Civil War, he had no intentions of ending slavery. His main goal was preserving the Union and little else mattered:

My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. 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 save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that.” - Abraham Lincoln, Letter to Horace Greeley, August 1862

Even further, Abraham Lincoln believed that the Constitution did not allow for the end of slavery in states where it already existed. The best he could hope for was preventing the establishment of slavery in new territories.

But, as the Civil War was approaching its third year, the Union needed a boost if it was going to win the war. Abraham Lincoln believed freeing slaves in the South would debilitate the Confederacy and give the Union more reason to fight.

The Emancipation Proclamation Summary: The Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation

Painting of the Battle of Antietam, Source: Wikimedia Commons.

President Lincoln, taking the advice of his Cabinet, waited until a significant Union victory to issue the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation and the Battle of Antietam provided just that. At the Battle of Antietam on September 17th, 1826, one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War, the Union succeeded in halting the advancement of Confederate troops in Maryland. Five days later, Abraham Lincoln issued the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation riding on the high of Union victory.

Emancipation Proclamation Summary: Limitations

When it came to the Emancipation Proclamation, President Lincoln’s main goal was still to preserve the Union. As such, there were limitations to the Emancipation Proclamation. The main limitation was that it only freed slaves in Confederate territory. Border states who remained loyal to the Union (Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, and Massachusetts) were able to keep their slaves. Additionally, the freedom of slaves in the South was contingent upon a Union victory. The Emancipation Proclamation meant nothing if the Confederacy reigned supreme.

Emancipation Proclamation Text

In the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, President Lincoln warned:

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”

Because no Confederate states surrendered in the hundred days allotted, President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation listing the territories affected and the consequences:

I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated [rebellious] 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.”

Emancipation Proclamation Effects

Although the Emancipation Proclamation declared that slaves in Confederate territory were free, it would take time for slaves in the South to actually see this freedom as the Union army had to be there to enforce it. But the Emancipation Proclamation greatly helped the Union war effort. For one, the abolition of slavery in Confederate territory gave something for the North to rally around, helping boost morale.

The Emancipation Proclamation also dashed Confederate hopes of the British or French coming to their aid. Previously, the Confederacy thought they had a chance of getting support because of European reliance on Southern cotton. However, England and France would not fight for a cause that explicitly supported slavery.

Lastly, the Emancipation Proclamation ended the ban on Black soldiers in the Union army. Free Black men from the North and recently freed Black men from the South could now enlist. However, they still faced discrimination. Black soldiers often served in all-Black units led by white officers and they did not receive proper compensation.

The 54th Massachusetts Infantry

The 54th Massachusetts Infantry was one of the first all-black infantries to serve in the Civil War. Made up of volunteers from the North, they proved the bravery of black soldiers and participated in a number of successful sieges in the South. The film, Glory, is based on their regiment.

Emancipation Proclamation Significance

While the Emancipation Proclamation did not bring an end to slavery, it was an important first step in its abolition. Congressmen, recognizing the Emancipation Proclamation as a war-time document not supported by the Constitution, set to work on an amendment that would abolish slavery. The Thirteenth Amendment, ratified on December 6th, 1865, formally ended slavery in the United States.

Emancipation Proclamation - Key takeaways

  • President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1st, 1863. He had warned the Confederate States it was coming one hundred days earlier in the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.
  • The Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in Confederate territory. This excluded border states that were loyal to the Union.
  • The Emancipation Proclamation boosted Northern morale, prevented England and France from supporting the Confederacy, and allowed Black men to join the Union army.
  • It was an important step in the abolition of slavery that came with the Thirteenth Amendment.

Frequently Asked Questions about Emancipation Proclamation

The Emancipation Proclamation freed all slaves in Confederate territory.

The Emancipation Proclamation was an executive order issued by Abraham Lincoln that freed all slaves in Confederate territory.

Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1st, 1863.

The Emancipation Proclamation did not free all slaves, only those in Confederate territory.

Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. 

Final Emancipation Proclamation Quiz

Question

When was the Emancipation Proclamation issued?

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Answer

January 1, 1863

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Question

How many days did Confederate states have to surrender after the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation?

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Answer

100

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Question

How many states surrendered after the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation?

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Answer

0

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Question

Abraham Lincoln's goal was always to end slavery in the United States.

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Answer

False

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Question

What battle provided the victory Abraham Lincoln wanted before issuing the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation?

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Answer

Battle of Antietam

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Question

Which was not an effect of the Emancipation Proclamation?

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Answer

the freedom of slaves in border states

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Question

Why did the Confederates believe England and France would support them?

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Answer

European reliance on Southern cotton

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Question

What ended slavery in the United States?

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Answer

the Emancipation Proclamation

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Question

When was the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation issued?

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Answer

September 22, 1862

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Question

Which state could not keep slaves under the Emancipation Proclamation?

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Answer

Virginia

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