January 01 – This Day In History
Lincoln Signs The Emancipation Proclamation
On January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Trying to mend a country mired in a bloody civil war, Abraham Lincoln made a desperate, but carefully determined, decision concerning slavery in America.
Toward the end of 1862, the Union was not in a good disposition. The Confederate Army had defeated Union soldiers in substantial battles. Both Britain and France were prepared to officially
recognize the Confederacy as a separate nation. In an August 1862 letter to New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley, Lincoln admitted “my paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and it is not either to save or to destroy slavery.” Lincoln hoped that proclaiming a national policy of emancipation would stimulate a rush of the South’s enslaved men into the ranks of the Union army. That would deplete the Confederacy’s labor force, on which the southern states depended to wage war against the North.
Lincoln waited to unveil the pronouncement until he could do so after a Union military success. His opportunity came after the battle at Antietam. On September 22, 1862, he issued a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. It declared all enslaved people free in the rebellious states as of January 1, 1863. Lincoln as well as his experts restricted the proclamation’s language to enslavement in states outside of federal control as of 1862. They failed to resolve a very contentious issue at that time – enslavement in the nation’s border states. In trying to please all parties, Lincoln left open many loopholes that future civil rights advocates would be forced to deal with.