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I shall never forget that memorable night, when in a distant city I waited and watched at a public meeting, with three thousand others not less anxious than myself, for the word of deliverance which we have heard read today. Nor shall I ever forget the outburst of joy and thanksgiving that rent the air when the lightning brought to us the emancipation proclamation.

In that happy hour we forgot all delay, and forgot all tardiness, forgot that the president had bribed the rebels to lay down their arms by a promise to withhold the bolt which would smite the slave system with destruction; and we were thenceforward willing to allow the president all the latitude of time, phraseology, and every honorable device that statesmanship might require for the achievement of a great and beneficent measure of liberty and progress.

Just like before the Proclamation was actually finalized, the moment of slaves learning of their freedom became a common trope of Civil War era artists. In this black and white print three generations of slave look admiringly at a Union soldier reading the Proclamation.

Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation

You must be logged in to post a comment. Search for:. About Tickets Donate Contact. Feb Watch Meeting: Waiting for the Hour When Lincoln did sign the Proclamation on January 1, , freeing slaves across the Confederate territory, widespread joy developed throughout the African-American community.

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History in Five: Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation

Leave a Reply Click here to cancel reply. It did not end until December , with the ratification of the 13th Amendment, which irrevocably abolished slavery throughout the nation. But the Emancipation Proclamation was the crucial turning point in this story. In a sense, it embodied a double emancipation: for the slaves, since it ensured that if the Union emerged victorious, slavery would perish, and for Lincoln himself, for whom it marked the abandonment of his previous assumptions about how to abolish slavery and the role blacks would play in post-emancipation American life.


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Emancipation would be undertaken by state governments, with national financing. As early as November , he proposed it to political leaders in Delaware, one of the four border states along with Kentucky, Maryland and Missouri that remained in the Union. But Lincoln found that even there, slave holders did not wish to surrender their human property.

Nonetheless, for most of , he avidly promoted his plan to the border states and any Confederates who might be interested. Lincoln also took his proposal to black Americans.

Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation - Bill of Rights Institute

In August , he met with a group of black leaders from Washington. But most blacks refused to contemplate emigration from the land of their birth. In the summer of , a combination of events propelled Lincoln in a new direction. Slavery was disintegrating in parts of the South as thousands of slaves ran away to Union lines. With the war a stalemate, more Northerners found themselves agreeing with the abolitionists, who had insisted from the outset that slavery must become a target.

Enthusiasm for enlistment was waning in the North. The Army had long refused to accept black volunteers, but the reservoir of black manpower could no longer be ignored. In response, Congress moved ahead of Lincoln, abolishing slavery in the District of Columbia, authorizing the president to enroll blacks in the Army and freeing the slaves of pro-Confederate owners in areas under military control.

The Civil War

Lincoln signed all these measures that summer. That summer, with his preferred approach going nowhere, he moved in the direction of immediate emancipation. Seward persuaded him to wait for a military victory, lest it seem an act of desperation. Soon after the Union victory at Antietam in September, Lincoln issued the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, a warning to the Confederacy that if it did not lay down its arms by Jan. Lincoln did not immediately abandon his earlier plan. His annual message to Congress, released on Dec. The Emancipation Proclamation is perhaps the most misunderstood of the documents that have shaped American history.

Emancipation Proclamation

Contrary to legend, Lincoln did not free the nearly four million slaves with a stroke of his pen. It had no bearing on slaves in the four border states, since they were not in rebellion. It also exempted certain parts of the Confederacy occupied by the Union. All told, it left perhaps , slaves in bondage.

But the remaining 3. The proclamation did not end slavery in the United States on the day it was issued.

Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America, by Allen C. Guelzo

Indeed, it could not even be enforced in most of the areas where it applied, which were under Confederate control. But it ensured the eventual death of slavery — assuming the Union won the war. Were the Confederacy to emerge victorious, slavery, in one form or another, would undoubtedly have lasted a long time. It is dull and legalistic; it contains no soaring language enunciating the rights of man.