The Emancipation Proclamation: The Document That Forever Changed America
The Emancipation Proclamation is one of this country’s most important documents. Since its announcement on New Year’s Day, 1863, thousands of African-Americans nationwide have felt the impact of its powerful words. One impact is that the document emancipated a plethora of slaves then under Southern control. Arguably an even greater effect, however, was its use as a strong motivational tool for African-American slaves. This motivation provided many African-Americans with a sign of hope and optimism for lives without slavery, despite the Emancipation Proclamation’s limited power regarding freeing the slaves.
Abraham Lincoln, the writer of the document, was strongly against slavery and believed he could only win the Civil War by abolishing slavery. The Civil War revolved around the ideals of slavery and the Emancipation Proclamation was the beginning of the end for the Confederacy. This document’s impact is still felt today, by African-Americans currently residing in the United States without the burden of slavery. Also, the Emancipation Proclamation has become a frontier in history for its extreme views on slavery during a time when slavery was encouraged and used as a common practice. The Emancipation Proclamation was integral in abolishing slavery throughout the United States because it ended tyranny over the black population and gave back the freedom slaves had longed for.
From the time when Abraham Lincoln was inducted into office, he always felt the need to abolish slavery. Many historians believe that the Civil War erupted due to the very fact that Lincoln opposed slavery (Holzer, Williams, and Greene, 30). When the time came to announce the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln and his cabinet debated for hours as to determine when and where the document should be presented. Lincoln knew he could not triumph in the war unless he put an end to slavery and he knew he could not end slavery without first winning the war. However, Lincoln faced considerable pressure from his peers who were often impatient and stubborn (Goodwin, 29).
Some even believed that Lincoln should not even participate in the matter saying “that the president, as the president has nothing to do with the condition of a negro.”(Mr. Lincoln and Freedom, 1). Despite the constant demands, Lincoln continued to be patient and question the reaction of the states once the document was in effect. If the states decided to rebel, Lincoln would be faced with another problem added onto the war.
Yet, if the states accepted the document, Lincoln knew that the war would soon be over. In September of 1862, after much debate and discussion, Lincoln started writing the Emancipation Proclamation, which would soon free the slaves in the South to fight for the Union cause. The preliminary version of the Emancipation Proclamation was similar to the final draft that would be announced on New Year’s Day of 1863. However, several important differences occurred between the two documents including specifically which states would be affected by the Emancipation Proclamation. The preliminary version declared that all slaves living in Confederate states were free.
However, the final document declared ten specific states were it would take affect (North and South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Virginia, Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas) (Lincoln, 1). In addition, the rough draft stated that all slave owners would be compensated for losing their slaves. However, despite the President’s offer, the South rejected the idea and continued to despise the idea of a nation without slavery. The reaction in the North to the preliminary version of the Emancipation Proclamation was very positive, yet, there will still large amounts of undecided citizens, mostly because many people did not know whether to support the Union cause or to continue with the labor-saving slave movement. In the South, there was an obvious unenthusiastic view on the document, with much of the public in clear rebellion.
Yet, despite the mixed reaction towards the initial Emancipation Proclamation, Abraham Lincoln knew he had to free the slaves in order to preserve the Union. Although the states had differing views on the Emancipation Proclamation, foreign countries such as England, France, and the Netherlands greatly approved of the document. Many European countries were against slavery, yet many were supportive of the Confederacy. Their support of the Confederacy was mainly due to the fact that most of their cotton importation came from the South and the repairs of several British warships were named after Southern cities such as the CSS Florida and CSS Alabama (Franklin, 174). However, when the Emancipation Proclamation was announced, they changed their views on the war and began favoring the Union because of their anti-slavery approach. Their approval of the document would be a decisive blow to the Confederacy, who lost many supporters that could have helped them win the war.
Now that the Union had the support of the European countries and African-Americans, the Civil War had unofficially ended. The much anticipated Emancipation Proclamation was announced on January 1st, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation gave many detailed descriptions of how African-Americans would be treated after the war and what their current conditions would be in the meantime. Lincoln stated that “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.” (Lincoln, 1). This line from the first paragraph of the Emancipation Proclamation declares freedom for all slaves under Southern control and for all citizens to treat them fairly and to respect their freedom.
However, the Emancipation Proclamation was limited as to which states it affected. It freed slaves in ten of the eleven Confederate states, Tennessee being the exception because it was split between the Union and Confederacy. Also, it did not free slaves in any of the border states that still was comprised of slaves. Despite the limited affect on all slaves, the Emancipation Proclamation acted as something more than a symbol of freedom. Lincoln also stated in the Emancipation Proclamation that “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.
” (Lincoln,1). Lincoln’s call to African-Americans to join the army was immediately heard as over 180,000 slaves (Franklin, 121) would participate in the war. However, the Emancipation Proclamation’s immediate impact on warfare would be nothing compared to the effect it had on African-Americans. Many African-Americans rejoiced after hearing word of the Emancipation Proclamation. News of the Proclamation spread rampant throughout the slave community. Elders preached to children about the Emancipation Proclamation and stressed the importance of what it meant to be free.
Many Southern slaves tried to escape their plantations in hopes of joining Union forces. Those who did escape experienced something completely new and fought valiantly as soldiers of the Union. Slaves who remained with their owners had optimistic views on life without slavery and completed daily tasks with enthusiasm. As slave owners continued to lose their labor-saving system, they also lost valuable chefs and seamstresses. Slaves were vital in providing the South with the everyday chores such as cooking and sewing.
Slaves also participated in repairing railroads and working dutifully on farms for their owners and fellow Southerners (Hope, 236). The loss of slaves would become a crushing blow to the Southern cause and would also prove to be a momentum swing in the war from the South to the North. The reaction in the states to the Emancipation Proclamation did not differ from the reaction to the initial proclamation several months earlier. There were many supporters of document, but several disputes arose throughout the United States. Throughout the year of 1863, several riots erupted, including those in Union states such as New York and Illinois. These riots were “anti-emancipation carnivals”(Guelzo, 1) that were known to be violent and vicious.
Republicans who formally supported Lincoln dropped the party because “they could not stomach the Emancipation Proclamation and the mismanagement of the war” (Mr. Lincoln and Freedom, 1). Despite some negativity towards the Emancipation Proclamation, there were also many positive thoughts and comments on the document and Abraham Lincoln. The Illinois Journal praised Lincoln stating, “This great man, whom it is not extravagant to say is God-like in his moral attributes, child-like in the simplicity and purity of his character, and yet manly and self-relying in his high and patriotic purpose — this man who takes no step backward — let his consummate the grandest achievement ever allotted to man, the destruction of American slavery.” (Mitgang, 330).
Also, many foreign countries praised the Emancipation Proclamation, becoming supportive of the Union and anti-slavery cause. One New York editor commended Lincoln reviving the spirit of the American Revolution stating, “Its puts us right before Europe….It brings back our traditions; it animates our soldiers with the same spirit which led our forefathers to victory under Washington; they are fighting today, as the Revolutionary patriots fought, in the interests of the human race.
…” (Carlson, 1). Despite the critics, Lincoln’s decision to present the Emancipation Proclamation was something he knew he had to accomplish in order to win the war and grant eternal freedom for African-Americans.
The Civil War came to an official conclusion on April 9th, 1865 at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, when General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant and Union forces. The North celebrated the victory and the reunion of their country that their brave soldiers fought so valiantly for. Yet, the end of the war also began the process of officially removing slavery in the United States.
Slavery was officially abolished on December 6th, 1865 when the thirteenth amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified by Congress. It states that, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” (Thirteenth amendment to the Constitution, 1) The thirteenth amendment finished what the Civil War and Emancipation Proclamation started nearly three years earlier. The thirteenth amendment ceased slavery throughout the United States and helped end the bloodiest war on American soil. The Emancipation Proclamation is one of the most powerful documents ever written.
Although it had limited roles in freeing the slaves, its influence on the African-American community was unmatched by any other document in American history. The Emancipation Proclamation provided slaves with a sense of freedom and liberty that has not been experienced by their race for over 200 years. Word of the document was passed rapidly throughout the slave community, transforming the Civil War into a fight for freedom and equality. The initial reaction of the document in other parts of the world was very diverse. In the North and in Europe the document was well acclaimed and praised for its fight against slavery. In the South, most slave owners condemned the document, afraid of the possibility of losing their slaves.
Lincoln’s bold statement produced an enormous impact that not only shocked a troubled nation at a time of civil war, but the lasting impact he unknowingly created is still felt today. The Emancipation Proclamation, along with the thirteenth amendment, created a civil rights movements that would inspire those like Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks to advocate equality and justice for all African-Americans. Lincoln’s illustrious document sparked a new frontier founded on the beliefs of freedom and equality, opening a door to future impartiality among women, Native Americans, and numerous foreign races. The Emancipation Proclamation was essential in eliminating slavery throughout the United States of America because it ended unjust tyranny over the black population and enabled slaves to experience political and religious freedom their race had not known for nearly 250 years.
Works Cited Carlson, Oliver. “The Man Who Made News: James Gordon Bennet.: New York Times 1942: n.pag.Print Congress.
“The Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.” Congress. 1865. Amendment.
Franklin, John Hope. The Emancipation Proclamation. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1963. Print.
Goodwin, Doris Kearns. Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2005. Print. Guelzo, Allen C. “Seven-Score Years Ago.
..” Washington Post 1 Jan. 2003: n.pag.
Print. Holzer, Harold, Frank J. Williams, and Edna Greene Medford. The Emancipation Proclamation: Three Views. N.
p.: Baton Rouge, LA, May 2006. Print. Lincoln, Abraham. “The Emancipation Proclamation.” White House.
1 Jan. 1863. Speech. Mitgang, Herbert. Abraham Lincoln: A Press Portrait (Illinois Journal).
N.p.: Fordham University Press, 163. Print Primary Sources Congress. “The Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S.
Constitution.” Congress. 1865. Amendment. The Thirteenth Amendment to the U.
S. Constitution was the document that truly freed the slaves, not the Emancipation Proclamation. This amendment was important to the paper because it liberated the slaves forever from racial tyranny. Lincoln, Abraham. “The Emancipation Proclamation.” White House.
1 Jan. 1863. Speech. Although, the Emancipation Proclamation did not liberate the slaves, it was used as a motivational tool for millions of African Americans. It was utilized in this paper to show how important the Emancipation Proclamation was to African American’s hope towards becoming free. Lincoln, Abraham.
“Emancipation Proclamation, Preliminary Version.” White House. 22 Sept. 1862. Address. The preliminary version of the Emancipation Proclamation explained how slave owners in the South would be compensated for their loss.
This was used to illustrate how Abraham Lincoln cared about how other people would be affected if the Emancipation Proclamation was signed and approved. Lincoln, Abraham. “Victory Speech from the White House.” White House. 11 Apr.
1865. The Victory Speech from the White House expressed the great things that would come of the United States after the conclusion of the Civil War including the eradication of slavery. This was used to show what changes Lincoln would make to the United States after winning the war. Secondary Sources Carlson, Oliver. “The Man Who Made News: James Gordon Bennet.: New York Times 1942: n.
pag.Print Carlson’s article on James Gordon Bennet describes Bennet’s life. This was incorporated in this paper to use Bennet’s words on the Civil War and the environment surrounding the soldiers. “Emancipation Proclamation.” Antietam National Battlefield.
N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Nov.
2009. <http://www.nps.gov>. This website gave much insight on the process of creating the Emancipation Proclamation.
This was used to show the process it took to create the Emancipation Proclamation. “Emancipation Proclamation.” Mr. Lincoln and Freedom. The Lincoln Institute, 2009. Web.
3 Nov. 2009. <http://www.mrlincolnandfreedom.org>.
This website gave many important facts and statistics about the Civil War and described some of Lincoln’s plans for the future of the United States. This was important to this paper because it gave some interesting numbers that support could an opinion in this paper. “The Emancipation Proclamation.” National Archives and Records Administration. N.p.
, n.d. Web. 2 Nov. 2009. ;http://www.
archives.gov;. The Emancipation Proclamation was very limited as to what slaves were free and did not affect border states. This was important to this paper because it showed loopholes inside the Emancipation Proclamation. Franklin, John Hope. The Emancipation Proclamation.
Garden City, New York: Doubleday ; Company, Inc., 1963. Print. This book gave insight and analysis about the Emancipation Proclamation including some of Lincoln’s thoughts and ideas about the Emancipation Proclamation. This was used to represent the ideas and thoughts Lincoln went through creating the Emancipation Proclamation. Goodwin, Doris Kearns.
Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2005. Print. Many of Lincoln’s closest allies during the war were former presidential running-mates. This was used in this paper to illustrate Lincoln’s cabinet member’s ideas and questions about the future of the United States.
Guelzo, Allen C. “Seven-Score Years Ago…” Washington Post 1 Jan.
2003: n.pag. Print. The newspaper article describes civilization after word of the Emancipation Proclamation. This was utilized in this paper to describe anti-emancipation riots.
Holzer, Harold, Frank J. Williams, and Edna Greene Medford. The Emancipation Proclamation: Three Views. N.p.: Baton Rouge, LA, May 2006.
Print. This book gave expert historian’s(the authors of the book) opinions and thoughts on one of the most revered documents in United States history. This book was used in this paper to express these historian’s thoughts on the Emancipation Proclamation and gave a different view on this admired document. Mitgang, Herbert. Abraham Lincoln: A Press Portrait (Illinois Journal). N.
p.: Fordham University Press, 163. Print Mitgang’s look on Lincoln’s life provided a different aspect on the Civil War and Emancipation Proclamation. This was used in this paper to provide a quote describing Lincoln’s personality.