Jeremy Simmons December 15, 2008 Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation On January 1, 1863, as the nation approached its third year of bloody civil war, United States President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. The proclamation declared "that all persons held as slaves" within the rebellious states" are, and henceforward shall be free." The Emancipation Proclamation consisted of two executive orders. The first one, issued September 22, 1862, declared the freedom of all slaves in any state of the Confederate States of America that did not return to Union control by January 1, 1863. The second order, issued January 1, 1863, named the specific states where it applied. When the proclamation came into effect, it was widely criticized, because it freed the slaves over whom some people said the Union had no power over. In practice, it committed the Union to ending slavery, which was a controversial decision in the North. Lincoln issued the Executive Order by his authority as "Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy" under Article II, section 2 of the United States Constitution. Initially, the proclamation did not free any slaves of the border states (Kentucky, Missouri, Maryland, Delaware, and West Virginia), or any southern state (or part of a state) already under Union control. It first directly affected only those slaves who had already escaped to the Union side. However, when the slaves heard of the Proclamation, they quickly escaped to Union lines as the Army units moved South. As the Union armies conquered the Confederacy, thousands of slaves were freed each day until nearly all “approximately 4 million”, according to the 1860 census, were freed by July 1865. (Slave Census, 1860). When the war finally came to an end, the people who had come up with the idea of the proclamation were concerned, since the proclamation was a war measure; it had not permanently ended slavery. Several former slave states passed legislation prohibiting slavery; however, some slavery continued to exist until the institution was ended by the sufficient states' ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment on December 18, 1865.
Before the proclamation the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 required individuals to return fugitive slaves to their owners. Initially this did not occur in areas of war because some Union generals declared slaves in occupied areas as contraband or illegal imports of war. This decision was controversial because it implied recognition of the Confederacy as a separate nation under international law, a notion which Lincoln steadfastly denied. As a result, he did not promote the contraband designation. Some generals also declared the slaves under their jurisdiction to be free and were replaced when they refused to rescind such declarations. Abraham Lincoln moved gradually to deal with the issue of freeing the slaves. On March 13, 1862, Lincoln forbade Union Army officers from returning fugitive slaves. On April 10, 1862, Congress declared that the federal government would compensate slave owners who freed their slaves. Slaves in the District of Columbia were freed on April 16, 1862 and their owners compensated. On June 19, 1862, Congress prohibited slavery in United States territories. By this act, they opposed the 1857 ruling of the Supreme Court of the United States in the Dred Scott Case that Congress was powerless to regulate slavery in U.S. territories. In January 1862, Thaddeus Stevens, the Republican leader in the House, called for total war against the rebellion to include emancipation of slaves, arguing that emancipation, by forcing the loss of enslaved labor, would ruin the rebel economy. In July 1862, Congress passed and Lincoln signed the "Second Confiscation Act." It liberated slaves held by "rebels”. It provided: “ SEC. 2. And be it further enacted, That if any person shall hereafter incite, set on foot, assist, or engage in any rebellion or insurrection against the authority of the United...
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