The Emancipation Proclamation
Washington, C.C. 1 January 1863
– Abolition of Slavery By the President of the United States of America: A Proclamation.
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 freedom.
”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.
“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.”
Constitution of the United States
The Emancipation Proclamation together with the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights are considered to be the four greatest documents in history relating to human freedom.
The Question of Slavery had been a major difficulty for the United States since the Declaration of Independence declared that “all men were created equal with rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” . The agonizing debate to include these inalienable rights into the Constitution continued throughout the writing of the Constitution and then throughout the drafting of the Bill of Rights. The final failure to include them tempered the greatness of these momentous documents.
The political philosophy of freedom, liberty and equality as set forth by our founding fathers of our great country is certainly paradoxical, considering that by the mid 1800’s we were the only major country in the world allowing slavery!
Abraham Lincoln was a staunch abolitionist although he was not free of prejudice. In order to win over the majority of the public, Lincoln, at his inaugural address in 1861, vowed not to interfere with the institution of slavery. Contrary to present belief, the general public in the North approved of this attitude.
On the outbreak of the Civil War, it was recognized that the slaves represented a military support advantage to the South. Lincoln reasoned that, if given a chance, these slaves may be willing to join the Northern armies, giving the advantage to the North. In addition, some action against the continuation of slavery would cause England and France to reevaluate their sympathies more in favor of the North.
Lincoln broke his vow and determined to issue a proclamation on January 1, 1863 freeing those slaves in areas of the South which were in active rebellion with the North. In all other areas of the South, the slaves were not freed by the Proclamation.
Lincoln had no legal right to issue such a proclamation, and indeed the affected states ignored it. However, the slaves, themselves, did not ignore it and nearly 180,000 slaves responded and found their way to join the Northern armies!
Jefferson Davis’s Counter Emancipation Proclamation (Also preserved at the Karpeles Manuscript Library) answers Lincoln by calling for increased men, supplies, patriotism and devotion to meet this new threat.
The Counter- Emancipation Proclamation
“The present condition of public affairs induces me to address the Governors of the several States on a subject of vital importance to the people. The repeated defeats inflicted on the Federal forces in their attempt to conquer our country have not yet sufficed to satisfy them of the impossibility of success in their nefarious design to subjugate these States. A renewed attempt on a still larger scale is now in progress; but with manifest distrust of success in a warfare conducted according to the usages of civilized nations …
… the United States propose to add to the enormous land and naval forces accumulated by them, bands of such of the African slaves of the South as they may be able to wrest from their owners, and thus to inflict on the non-combatant population of the Confederate States all of the horrors of a servile war.”
“To repel attacks conducted on so vast a scale … I earnestly appeal to them …
for their co-operation in the following important particulars:
1. In the enrollment of the conscripts and the forwarding of them to the proper points of rendezvous.
2. In restoring to the army all officers …absent without leave, or whose term of absence has expired, or who have recovered from disability and are now able to return to duty.
3. In securing for the use of the army all such necessary supplies as exist within the States in excess of the quantity indispensable for the support of the people at home.
Prompt action in these matters will save our people from very great suffering; will put our army in a condition to meet the enemy with decisive results, and thus secure for us an early and honorable peace on the basis of recognized independence.
In addition ….I…..recommend to the several Legislatures …..to command slave labor to the extent which may be required in the prosecution of works conducive to the public defense….”
The military success of the Emancipation Proclamation fueled the abolitionist movement and the proclamation, almost in spite of itself, became a fresh expression of one of man’s loftiest aspirations — the quest for freedom.
The advance toward full emancipation was now inexorable, much to Lincoln’s delight. The “death blow to human bondage was sealed” two years later “by the ratification of the 13th Amendment” ..
The Emancipation Proclamation Amendment to the Constitution
of the United States.