Emancipation Proclamation

Topics: American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln, Emancipation Proclamation Pages: 5 (1815 words) Published: November 24, 2013

Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation
The Emancipation Proclamation led to the end of slavery, and is one of the most controversial documents in American history. Human slavery was the focus of political conflict in the United States from the 1830s to the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861. Abraham Lincoln, the Republican candidate for presidency in 1860, personally abhorred slavery and was pledged to prevent it from spreading to western territories. At the same time he believed that the Constitution did not allow federal government to prohibit slavery in states where it already existed. Abraham Lincoln once said, “I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me” (McPherson 21). In accordance with his quote, when President Lincoln issued the unprecedented Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, Lincoln freed slaves in the Southern states, but he and his actions were being controlled by Civil War. The Civil War was fought between 1861 and 1865 between the Northern states, or the Union, and the Southern states, or the Confederacy. On September 22, 1862, in the midst of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln put forth a Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation (Tackach 45). The document stated that after January 1, 1863, slaves belonging to all Southern states that were still in rebellion would be free (Tackach 45). However, the Emancipation Proclamation had no immediate effect; slavery was not legally prohibited until the Thirteenth Amendment was added to the Constitution in 1865, about three years after the Emancipation Proclamation was decreed (Tackach 9-10). If the Emancipation Proclamation did not completely abolish slavery, what was the point of the document? Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was not actually written for the purpose of freeing any slaves. Rather, it was a war tactic to militarily weaken the South, add soldiers to the Union cause, and please abolitionist Northerners. From the start of the Civil War, Lincoln clarified that the goal of the war was not “`to put down slavery, but to put the flag back,’” and he refused to declare the war as a war over slavery (Brodie 155 as qtd. in Klingaman 75-76). In a letter to Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune, in August 1862, Lincoln wrote: “My paramount object in this struggle is not either to save or destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it…” (Tackach 44). Lincoln also refused to declare that slavery was the Civil War’s main focus because many Whites in the North and in the much-valued Border States would not agree with a war to free slaves since they believed Blacks were inferior to Whites (Wheeler 225-226). The political and military advantages of the Border States made Lincoln reluctant to proclaim the Civil War to be a war about slavery (Wheeler 225-226). Even Jefferson Davis, president of the enemy Confederacy, disagreed with a war about slavery (Wheeler 226). Then why did President Lincoln, in the midst of a war he claimed was not about slavery, issue the Emancipation Proclamation? The Emancipation Proclamation itself answers the question, stating that Lincoln was freeing the Southerners’ slaves, “upon military necessity” (Klingaman 232). Lincoln freed Southern slaves, “as a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing… rebellion” (Klingaman 231). President Lincoln took advantage of his position as Commander-in-Chief of the United States, as well as his ability to act without Congress’ consent, and issued the Emancipation Proclamation for military reasons (Heinrichs 15). Lincoln knew that the proclamation would prove to be a useful tool of defense during the fierce Civil War. It can only be concluded that Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation for somewhat selfish reasons, as to increase the North’s chances of victory in the Civil War. By issuing a document that freed slaves, the North could undoubtedly gain foreign allies, and at the same...

Cited: Hunt, H. Draper. Hannibal Hamlin of Maine: Lincoln’s First Vice-President. Syracuse,
NY: Syracuse University Press, 1969 - as quoted in - Klingaman, William
K. Abraham Lincoln and the Road to Emancipation: 1861-1865. New York:
Viking, 2001.
New York: Viking, 2001.
McPherson, James M. Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution. New
York: Oxford University Press, 1990 - as quoted in - Klingaman, William
K. Abraham Lincoln and the Road to Emancipation: 1861-1865. New York:
Viking, 2001
Tackach, James. The Emancipation Proclamation: Abolishing Slavery in the South. San
Diego: Lucent Books, 1999.
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