Emancipation Proclamation of 1863
Emancipation of Slaves during the Civil War
Emancipation Proclamation, January 1, 1863
Abraham Lincoln and Emancipation of Slaves
President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, as the nation approached
its third year of bloody Civil War. The proclamation declared "that all persons held as slaves" within the rebellious
states "are, and henceforward shall be free."
Despite this expansive wording, the Emancipation Proclamation was limited
in many ways. It applied only to states that had seceded from the Union, leaving slavery
untouched in the loyal Border States. It also expressly exempted parts of the Confederacy that had already come under Northern control, but most important,
the freedom it promised depended upon absolute Union military victory.
It was only when Lincoln feared losing
the Civil War (1861-1865) that he freed slaves in the South. "If
I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it," wrote Lincoln in 1862. "What
I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union." See also President Abraham Lincoln on Race.
However, although the Emancipation Proclamation did not immediately free a
single slave, it fundamentally transformed the character of the war. After January 1, 1863, every advance of Federal troops
expanded the domain of freedom. Moreover, the Proclamation announced the acceptance of black men into the Union Army and Navy, enabling the liberated to become liberators. By
the end of the Civil War, approximately 180,000 black soldiers and sailors had fought for the Union and freedom.
Preceded by the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, the Emancipation Proclamation set the
stage for the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.
From the first days of the Civil War, slaves had acted to secure their own
liberty. The Emancipation Proclamation confirmed their insistence that the war for the Union must become a war for freedom.
It added moral force to the Union cause and strengthened the Union both militarily and politically. As a milestone along the
road to slavery's final destruction, the Emancipation Proclamation has assumed a place among the great documents of human
The original of the Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863, is in the
National Archives in Washington, DC. With the text covering five pages the document was originally tied with narrow red and
blue ribbons, which were attached to the signature page by a wafered impression of the seal of the United States. Most of
the ribbon remains; parts of the seal are still decipherable, but other parts have worn off.
The document was bound with other proclamations in a large volume preserved
for many years by the Department of State. When it was prepared for binding, it was reinforced with strips along the center
folds and then mounted on a still larger sheet of heavy paper. Written in red ink on the upper right-hand corner of this large
sheet is the number of the Proclamation, 95, given to it by the Department of State long after it was signed. With other records,
the volume containing the Emancipation Proclamation was transferred in 1936 from the Department of State to the National Archives
of the United States.
The Emancipation Proclamation
January 1, 1863
By the President of the United States of America:
Whereas, on the twenty-second day of September, in the year of our Lord one
thousand eight hundred and sixty-two, a proclamation was issued by the President of the United States, containing, among other
things, the following, to wit:
"That 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; 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
"That the Executive will, on the first day of January aforesaid, by proclamation,
designate the States and parts of States, if any, in which the people thereof, respectively, shall then be in rebellion against
the United States; and the fact that any State, or the people thereof, shall on that day be, in good faith, represented in
the Congress of the United States by members chosen thereto at elections wherein a majority of the qualified voters of such
State shall have participated, shall, in the absence of strong countervailing testimony, be deemed conclusive evidence that
such State, and the people thereof, are not then in rebellion against the United States."
Now, therefore I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, by virtue
of the power in me vested as Commander-in-Chief, of the Army and Navy of the United States in time of actual armed rebellion
against the authority and government of the United States, and as a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing said rebellion,
do, on this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and in accordance with
my purpose so to do publicly proclaimed for the full period of one hundred days, from the day first above mentioned, order
and designate as the States and parts of States wherein the people thereof respectively, are this day in rebellion against
the United States, the following, to wit:
Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, (except the Parishes of St. Bernard, Plaquemines,
Jefferson, St. John, St. Charles, St. James Ascension, Assumption, Terrebonne, Lafourche, St. Mary, St. Martin, and Orleans,
including the City of New Orleans) Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia, (except
the forty-eight counties designated as West Virginia, and also the counties of Berkley, Accomac, Northampton, Elizabeth City,
York, Princess Ann, and Norfolk, including the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth[)], and which excepted parts, are for the
present, left precisely as if this proclamation were not issued.
And by virtue of the power, and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and
declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated 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.
And I hereby enjoin upon the people so declared to be free to abstain from
all violence, unless in necessary self-defence; and I recommend to them that, in all cases when allowed, they labor faithfully
for reasonable wages.
And I further declare and make known, 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.
And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by
the Constitution, upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind, and
the gracious favor of Almighty God.
In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the
United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington, this first day of January, in the year of
our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty three, and of the Independence of the United States of America the eighty-seventh.
By the President: ABRAHAM LINCOLN
WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.
(Sources and related reading below.)
Recommended Reading: Lincoln's Emancipation
Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America
(Simon & Schuster). Description: One of the nation's
foremost Lincoln scholars offers an authoritative consideration
of the document that represents the most far-reaching accomplishment of our greatest president. No single official paper in
American history changed the lives of as many Americans as Lincoln's
Emancipation Proclamation. But no American document has been held up to greater suspicion. Its bland and lawyerlike language
is unfavorably compared to the soaring eloquence of the Gettysburg Address and the Second Inaugural; its effectiveness in
freeing the slaves has been dismissed as a legal illusion. And for some African-Americans the Proclamation raises doubts about
Lincoln himself. Continued below...
Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation dispels the myths and mistakes surrounding the Emancipation
Proclamation and skillfully reconstructs how America's
greatest president wrote the greatest American proclamation of freedom. About the Author: Allen C. Guelzo is the Grace Ferguson
Kea Professor of American History at Eastern University
(St. David's, Pennsylvania), where he also directs the Templeton Honors College. He is the author of five books, most recently the highly acclaimed Abraham
Lincoln: Redeemer President, which won the Lincoln Prize for 2000.
Recommended Reading: Uncle Tom's Cabin (Wordsworth Classics),
by Harriet Beecher Stowe (Author). Description: Edited and with an Introduction and Notes by Dr Keith Carabine, University of Kent at Canterbury.
Uncle Tom's Cabin is the most popular, influential and controversial book written by an American. Stowe's rich, panoramic
novel passionately dramatizes why the whole of America
is implicated in and responsible for the sin of slavery, and resoundingly concludes that only 'repentance, justice and mercy'
will prevent the onset of 'the wrath of Almighty God!'.
Recommended Reading: The Radical and the Republican: Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, and the Triumph
of Antislavery Politics. Review From Publishers Weekly: The perennial tension between principle and pragmatism
in politics frames this engaging account of two Civil War Era icons. Historian Oakes (Slavery and Freedom) charts the course
by which Douglass and Lincoln, initially far apart on the antislavery spectrum, gravitated toward each other. Lincoln began
as a moderate who advocated banning slavery in the territories while tolerating it in the South, rejected social equality
for blacks and wanted to send freedmen overseas—and wound up abolishing slavery outright and increasingly supporting
black voting rights. Conversely, the abolitionist firebrand Douglass moved from an impatient, self-marginalizing moral rectitude
to a recognition of compromise, coalition building and incremental goals as necessary steps forward in a democracy. Continued
views on race were essentially modern; the book is really a study through his eyes of the more complex figure of Lincoln.
Oakes lucidly explores how political realities and military necessity influenced Lincoln's
tortuous path to emancipation, and asks whether his often bigoted pronouncements represented real conviction or strategic
concessions to white racism. As Douglass shifts from denouncing Lincoln's foot-dragging to
revering his achievements, Oakes vividly conveys both the immense distance America
traveled to arrive at a more enlightened place and the fraught politics that brought it there. AWARDED
FIVE STARS by americancivilwarhistory.org
Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President
(Library of Religious Biography). Description: Since
its original publication in 1999, "Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President" has garnered numerous accolades, including the prestigious
2000 Lincoln Prize. Allen Guelzo's peerless biography of America's
most celebrated president is now available for the first time in a fine paperback edition. Continued below...
The first "intellectual biography" of Lincoln, this work explores the role of ideas
in Lincoln's life, treating him as a serious thinker deeply
involved in the nineteenth-century debates over politics, religion, and culture. Written with passion and dramatic impact,
Guelzo's masterful study offers a revealing new perspective on a man whose life was in many ways a paradox. As journalist
Richard N. Ostling notes, "Much has been written about Lincoln's
belief and disbelief," but Guelzo's extraordinary account "goes deeper."
Lincoln and Chief Justice Taney: Slavery, Secession,
and the President's War Powers, by James F. Simon (Simon & Schuster). Publishers Weekly: This surprisingly taut and gripping book by NYU law professor Simon
(What Kind of Nation) examines the limits of presidential prerogative during the Civil War. Lincoln and Supreme Court Chief
Justice Roger Taney saw eye to eye on certain matters; both, for example, disliked slavery. But beginning in 1857, when Lincoln criticized Taney's decision in the Dred Scott case, the pair
began to spar. They diverged further once Lincoln became president when Taney insisted that
secession was constitutional and preferable to bloodshed, and blamed the Civil War on Lincoln.
In 1861, Taney argued that Lincoln's suspension of habeas
corpus was illegal. This holding was, Simon argues, "a clarion call for the president to respect the civil liberties of American
citizens." Continued below...
In an 1862
group of cases, Taney joined a minority opinion that Lincoln lacked the authority to order the seizure of Southern
ships. Had Taney had the chance, suggests Simon, he would have declared the Emancipation Proclamation unconstitutional; he
and Lincoln agreed that the Constitution left slavery up to individual states, but Lincoln
argued that the president's war powers trumped states' rights. Simon's focus on Lincoln and Taney makes for a dramatic, charged
narrative—and the focus on presidential war powers makes this historical study extremely timely.
Recommended Reading: Lincoln and Douglas: The Debates that Defined America (Simon & Schuster) (February 5, 2008) (Hardcover)
. Description: In 1858, Abraham Lincoln was known as
a successful Illinois lawyer who had achieved some prominence
in state politics as a leader in the new Republican Party. Two years later, he was elected president and was on his way to
becoming the greatest chief executive in American history. What carried this one-term congressman from obscurity to fame was
the campaign he mounted for the United States Senate against the country's most formidable politician, Stephen A. Douglas,
in the summer and fall of 1858. Lincoln challenged Douglas directly in one of his greatest
speeches -- "A house divided against itself cannot stand" -- and confronted Douglas on the questions of slavery and the inviolability
of the Union in seven fierce debates. As this brilliant narrative by the prize-winning Lincoln scholar Allen Guelzo dramatizes, Lincoln
would emerge a predominant national figure, the leader of his party, the man who would bear the burden of the national confrontation.
the great issue between Lincoln and Douglas was slavery. Douglas was the champion of "popular sovereignty," of letting states and territories decide
for themselves whether to legalize slavery. Lincoln drew a
moral line, arguing that slavery was a violation both of natural law and of the principles expressed in the Declaration of
Independence. No majority could ever make slavery right, he argued. Lincoln lost that Senate
race to Douglas, though he came close to toppling the "Little Giant," whom almost everyone
thought was unbeatable. Guelzo's Lincoln and Douglas brings alive their debates and this whole year of campaigns and underscores
their centrality in the greatest conflict in American history. The encounters between Lincoln and Douglas engage a key question
in American political life: What is democracy's purpose? Is it to satisfy the desires of the majority? Or is it to achieve
a just and moral public order? These were the real questions in 1858 that led to the Civil War. They remain questions for
The Impending Crisis, 1848-1861
(Paperback), by David M. Potter. Review: Professor
Potter treats an incredibly complicated and misinterpreted time period with unparalleled objectivity and insight. Potter masterfully
explains the climatic events that led to Southern secession – a greatly divided nation – and the Civil War: the social, political
and ideological conflicts; culture; American expansionism, sectionalism and popular sovereignty; economic and tariff
systems; and slavery. In other words, Potter places under the microscope the root causes
and origins of the Civil War. He conveys the subjects in easy to understand language to edify the reader's
understanding (it's not like reading some dry old history book). Delving
beyond surface meanings and interpretations, this book analyzes not only the history, but the historiography of the time period
as well. Continued below…
rejects the historian's tendency to review the period with all the benefits of hindsight. He simply traces the events, allowing
the reader a step-by-step walk through time, the various views, and contemplates the interpretations of contemporaries and
other historians. Potter then moves forward with his analysis. The Impending Crisis is the absolute gold-standard of historical
writing… This simply is the book by which, not only other antebellum era books, but all history books should be judged.
Recommended Reading: What Hath
God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848
(Oxford History of the United States)
(Hardcover: 928 pages). Review: The newest volume in
the renowned Oxford History of the United States-- A brilliant portrait of an era that saw dramatic transformations in American
life The Oxford History of the United States
is by far the most respected multi-volume history of our nation. The series includes two Pulitzer Prize winners, two New York
Times bestsellers, and winners of the Bancroft and Parkman Prizes. Now, in What Hath God Wrought, historian Daniel Walker
Howe illuminates the period from the battle of New Orleans to the end of the Mexican-American
War, an era when the United States expanded
to the Pacific and won control over the richest part of the North American continent. Continued below…
narrative portrays revolutionary improvements in transportation and communications that accelerated the extension of the American
empire. Railroads, canals, newspapers, and the telegraph dramatically lowered travel times and spurred the spread of information.
These innovations prompted the emergence of mass political parties and stimulated America's economic development from
an overwhelmingly rural country to a diversified economy in which commerce and industry took their place alongside agriculture.
In his story, the author weaves together political and military events with social, economic, and cultural history. He examines
the rise of Andrew Jackson and his Democratic party, but contends that John Quincy Adams and other Whigs--advocates of public
education and economic integration, defenders of the rights of Indians, women, and African-Americans--were the true prophets
of America's future. He reveals the power
of religion to shape many aspects of American life during this period, including slavery and antislavery, women's rights and
other reform movements, politics, education, and literature. Howe's story of American expansion -- Manifest Destiny -- culminates
in the bitterly controversial but brilliantly executed war waged against Mexico
to gain California and Texas for the United States. By 1848, America
had been transformed. What Hath God Wrought provides a monumental narrative of this formative period in United States history.
Sources: Herman Belz, Emancipation and Equal Rights: Politics and Constitutionalism
in the Civil War Era (1978); Christopher Ewan, "The Emancipation Proclamation and British Public Opinion" The Historian, Vol.
67, 2005; John Hope Franklin, The Emancipation Proclamation (1963); Gates, Jr., Louis. Lincoln on Race and Slavery (2009);
Bennett, Lerone. Forced into Glory: Abraham Lincoln’s White Dream (2007); Guelzo, Allen C. Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation:
The End of Slavery in America (2004); Guelzo, Allen C. "How Abe Lincoln Lost the Black Vote: Lincoln and Emancipation in the African American Mind," Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association
(2004); DiLorenzo, Thomas. The Real Lincoln: A New Look at
Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War (2003); DiLorenzo, Thomas. Lincoln
Unmasked: What You're Not Supposed to Know About Dishonest Abe (2007); Harold Holzer, Edna Greene Medford, and Frank J. Williams.
The Emancipation Proclamation: Three Views (2006); Howard Jones, Abraham Lincoln and a New Birth of Freedom: The Union and Slavery in the Diplomacy of the Civil War (1999); Mitch Kachun, Festivals of Freedom: Memory
and Meaning in African American Emancipation Celebrations, 1808-1915 (2003); McPherson, James M. Ordeal by Fire: the Civil
War and Reconstruction (2001 [3rd ed.]), esp. pp. 316-321; Nevins, Allan. Ordeal of the Union:
vol 6. War Becomes Revolution, 1862-1863 (1960); C. Peter Ripley, Roy E. Finkenbine, Michael F. Hembree, Donald Yacovone,
Witness for Freedom: African American Voices on Race, Slavery, and Emancipation (1993); Silvana R. Siddali, From Property
To Person: Slavery And The Confiscation Acts, 1861-1862 (2005); John Syrett. Civil War Confiscation Acts: Failing to Reconstruct
the South (2005); Michael Vorenberg, Final Freedom: The Civil War, the Abolition of Slavery, and the Thirteenth Amendment
(2001); Library of Congress; National Archives; National Park Service.