Slaves shall be henceforward and forever free

“Emancipation of the slaves, proclamed [sic],” J. Waeschle, 1862         Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

As president of the United States, in the midst of the Civil War President Abraham Lincoln issued this proclamation – the Emancipation Proclamation- that signalled freedom from slavery

Two hundred and ten years ago, on February 12, 1809, Abraham Lincoln was born. He was the 16th President of the United States, between 1861-1865. Regarded as one of the great persons to hold this office, he has become something of a legend, undoubtedly greater for his having been the first President to be assassinated while in office. Six foot four in height, though not an abolitionist, he regarded slavery as evil.

Prior to his election as President, seven Southern states had seceded from the Union. In his inaugural address on March 4, 1861, Lincoln reached out to the South by telling them he had no intention of changing slavery as it existed; but he held firm to the ideal that the Union be forever preserved and indissoluble.

Southern states formed their own Confederate Union, claiming Fort Summer in Charleston. This was the first hostile act of the Civil War. Lincoln ordered supplies sent by sea to support Fort Sumter, but within two days the Confederates began their siege of the fort, and it surrendered. North and South, the border was drawn. States with the Union were asked by Lincoln to send 75,000 men even as he established a blockade of all ports with the Confederates. Kentucky, Missouri, and Maryland remained in the Union, while Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas joined the Confederacy.

As he led the Union through the Civil War, Lincoln enjoyed vast powers. The battle was not swift; the Battle of Bull Run in Virginia, where the Confederates trounced Union Army. To quote, “the struggle for the heart and soul of a nation would weigh heavily on the shoulders of this Commander and Chief.”

It was in the September of 1862 that the Union Army won a small victory at Antietam in Maryland. Lincoln used this event to make one of his most important decisions. He issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared that slaves residing in rebellious states "be then, henceforward and forever free." This would become effective January 1, 1863.

Strategically, the Emancipation Proclamation was aimed only at those states at war with the Union, and did not affect slave-holding border states that did not join the Confederacy. More than an attempt to free the slaves, it was an attempt to re-join the country.
The Proclamation was an important factor in turning the tide of the war. Not only did freeing the slaves deprive the South of manpower, but in the neighbourhood of 186,000 former slaves joined the Union Army. Europe’s perspective on the War altered, from being about politics to being about principle. Earlier defeats had tempted both Britain and France to recognize the Confederacy; but the Proclamation made them reconsider.

The Emancipation Proclamation was an executive order issued by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863. It proclaimed the freedom of slaves in the Confederate States that were still rebelling.

The Emancipation Proclamation, January 1, 1863

A Transcription of the Text
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 labour 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.

Source: United States National Archive and Records.



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