The Emancipation Proclamation 1863

The Emancipation Proclamation 1863

The Emancipation Proclamation 1863
The Emancipation Proclamation – An 1890 lithograph depicting the historic proclamation.

On January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, as the country entered its third year of deadly civil war. “All people kept as slaves” within the insurgent states “are, and henceforth shall be free,” the declaration said.

Despite its broad language, the Emancipation Proclamation had significant limitations. It only applied to states that had seceded from the US, leaving slavery in the loyal border states unaffected. It also specifically omitted areas of the Confederacy (the Southern separatist states) that had already been taken over by the North. Above all, the independence it guaranteed was contingent on Union (US) military success.

Although the Emancipation Proclamation did not abolish slavery in the United States, it won the hearts and minds of millions of Americans and changed the course of the war. Every advance of federal forces after January 1, 1863 increased the realm of liberty. In addition, the Proclamation proclaimed that black males would be accepted into the Union Army and Navy, allowing the released to become liberators. Almost 200,000 black soldiers and sailors fought for the Union and freedom by the conclusion of the war.

Slaves have fought for their own freedom from the beginning of the Civil War. The Emancipation Proclamation reaffirmed their belief that the Union’s fight had to become a battle for liberty. It gave the Union cause more moral heft and strengthened the Union militarily and politically. The Emancipation Proclamation has earned a position among the great documents of human freedom as a watershed moment on the path to slavery’s ultimate abolition.

The original of the January 1, 1863 Emancipation Proclamation may be seen in the National Archives in Washington, DC. The document was originally tied with slender red and blue ribbons and a wafered impression of the United States seal on the signing page, with the content filling five pages. The majority of the ribbon is largely intact; sections of the seal may still be read, while others have worn away.

The text was combined with other proclamations in a big book that the Department of State kept for many years. It was strengthened with strips around the center folds and then mounted on a bigger sheet of strong paper when it was ready to be bound. The number of the Proclamation, 95, is written in red ink in the upper right-hand corner of this big sheet, long after it was signed, by the Department of State. The book holding the Emancipation Proclamation was transferred from the Department of State to the National Archives of the United States in 1936, along with additional papers.

SEE ALSO:

The U.S. Constitution (1787);

The Dred Scott Decision (1857);

The Abolition of Slavery (1865);

The Brazilian Slave Emancipation Act (1888).

Sources:

The Emancipation Proclamation 1863

The Law Book: From Hammurabi to the International Criminal Court, 250 Milestones in the History of Law (Sterling Milestones) Hardcover – Illustrated, 22 Oct. 2015, English edition by Michael H. Roffer (Autor)

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