The emancipation proclamation was an historic moment in the history of the United States. It did not only come at a time when the country was being faced by slavery problems but also at the time when the country was at the height of its bloodiest civil war. The emancipation proclamation was issued by the US president Abraham Lincoln and consisted of two different executive orders. The executive orders were issued by the president as the commander-in-chief of the United States army and navy, were meant to free slaves and end slavery altogether.
The first executive order was issued in September 22, 1862 and was to free slaves from the hands of states under confederate states of America that had not joined the Union by January 1, 1863. The second one was made in January 1, 1863 and was more specific as it stated the states where the order would apply (Christopher 56). Abraham Lincoln was born in February 12, 1809 and raised in Kentucky. He married his wife Mary Todd in 1842 and together bore four sons, but unfortunately only one of his sons (Robert) survived childhood (Thomas & Burlingame, 56).
The United States 16th president had a little formal education and is said to have been self-educated. He nevertheless became a lawyer and joined Republican Party as a politician which helped him assume presidency in 1860. During his term in office, the southern states pulled out of the Union citing that president Lincoln and the northerners did not approve of slavery. President Lincoln faced a lot of challenges during the five year periods he served as the president. First, a war broke out between the southerners and the northerners six weeks into his presidency.
In what was to later become a bloodiest American civil war, the states within the Union fought the states under the Confederacy for five years. In a tactically move to win the war president Lincoln issued the emancipation proclamation in September 22, 1862 which required the states outside the Union to free all slaves. The second one in January of the following was the most effective as it saw a number of slaves being released. He succumbed to assassin’s bullet in 1865 just a year after being re-elected the United States president (Thomas & Burlingame, 102).
Abraham Lincoln was highly regarded as a great human rights defender as was illustrated by his Gettysburg Address in November 1863. In this short speech he called on Americans to ensure human freedom if it has to survive as a nation. His legacy has been defined in the history book as the man who freed millions from slavery and changed the course of that heinous act. The emancipation proclamation that was issued twice in a span of less than six months was a well orchestrated plan to have slavery abolished in the United States. The first proclamation prepared the way for the second one.
Into the second year of the American civil war, Lincoln issued the second executive order barring slavery in the Confederate states (Crowther, 55). This was more specific as it not only stated the intended states wanted to stop slavery but also gave a time frame of a hundred days from January 1, 1863. Ten southern states; South Carolina, Georgia, North Carolina, Louisiana, Florida, Texas, Alabama, Virginia, Mississippi and Arkansas were mentioned in this second order. The states of Kentucky, Delaware, Maryland and Missouri that practiced slavery were not included in the order because they were under the Union.
Exemption was also extended to the Tennessee state which was neither under the union nor the confederacy and the numerous counties that had joined the Union before January 1, 1863 (Crowther, 56). Implementation was very swift as the Union commanders stationed in the marked states helped to enforce the proclamation (Christopher 67). Although, the immediate impact of the second executive order is not well documented, it is believed that several slaves were freed immediately by many states especially in the regions that were occupied by the Union forces.
These states included North Carolina, Virginia, Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas, Alabama and South Carolina. Regions within those states that were under the Union occupancy released most slaves upon the emancipation proclamation (Poulter, 48). During the entire period of emancipation, no violent acts were reported between the masters and the ex-slaves (Crowther, 76). However, the proclamation changed the course of the American civil war. There was a big shift in the initial objectives of the war prompted by the northerners.
From the initial aims of uniting the two regions, a new agenda was born. It must be noted that Abraham Lincoln’s aim at first, was to use emancipation proclamation to force the Confederate states to join the Union. He exempted states that practiced slavery and were within the Union but ordered those under the Confederacy to end slavery in their states. This informed the opinion that the objectives of the emancipation proclamation was to help the Union win the civil war (Klingaman, 234).
Although, unprecedented at the beginning, the proclamation set the stage for the abolitionists to fight for abolition of slavery in America. Thus a new agenda was born; to fight for human freedom in the United States. The proclamation did not escape political debates at the time. Most democrats, who were opposed to the civil war and supported the secession as well as slavery in the south, rejected the emancipation proclamation. It was so much politicized that in the 1862 elections, it became an issue in the campaigns, which saw the democrats up their numbers in the house by 28.
The other democrats, who bought into the Lincoln’s objectives of the war, backed off and did not support the emancipation decree. President Lincoln saw the political opposition increasing by the day and therefore used the Gettysburg Address to indirectly refer to his proclamation and abolition of slavery as a new war objective by using his famous phrase a “new birth of freedom”. This endeared him towards the pro-abolitionists within his republican party that helped his re-nomination in the 1864 elections (Berlin, 260).
The emancipation proclamation twist in the American civil war changed the foreign opinions about the war. The Great Britain involvement in the war had brought it diplomatic tension with the United States. At first, before the proclamation, United Kingdom had favored the Confederacy’s quest to secede especially when it provided the southerners with the British-made warships. But the northerners were strongly determined to win the war at all costs and the Trent Affair of 1861 only worsened the situation between the two countries (Klingaman, 234). The emancipation proclamation then changed everything.
The British were forced to reconsider their support for confederacy because such a support would be viewed as a support for slavery, a practice they had long abolished. The confederacy’s case for secession never received much sympathy thereafter and the Union cause was salvaged. Many international leaders hailed Lincoln’s decisive and bold steps in fulfilling the dreams of American forefathers. Proclamation therefore came at the right time as the initial tension between the United States and European nations was eased and the union conduct in the war was never scrutinized as their cause was now favored (Christopher 54).
Towards the end of the war, the pro-abolition groups got concerned that the proclamation would never be recognized after the war as people would consider it as a decree made for the war according to Berlin (260) they also desired to see the freedom of all slaves in America; not only those within the Confederacy but also those within the Union states. These prompted them to pressed Lincoln to seek a constitutional amendment that would secure freedom for all slaves. In his 1864 presidential campaigns, Lincoln was forced to pledge a constitutional amendment that would abolish slavery in the entire United States.
His campaigns were boasted by separate abolition laws passed by two different states – Maryland and Missouri in 1864. After being re-elected, Lincoln hurriedly forced the 38th congress to amend the constitution as fast as possible and January 1865 was the historic moment for all slaves in America. The congress passed to the state lawmakers for ratification the 13th amendment, barring any form of slavery within the borders and territories of the United States. After being ratified in December 1865, the law took effect after twelve days.
It is estimated that about 40,000 slaves and 1,000 slaves were released immediately in Kentucky and Delaware respectively (Christopher, 58). Although some have consistently criticized Lincoln as a white supremacist who only made the decree after being pressed by the abolitionists who wanted racial reforms, his legacy will forever remain in the memory of all American races. He took a bold step not only to savage the Union from disintegration but also secured the freedom of the slaves.
His belief in human freedom and goodwill to see his dreams through saw the end of heinous act that is slavery at a time when there was tension everywhere. He achieved a lot within a span of five years considering the opposition he faced from all corners of the country and even internationally. He simply won two wars with Emancipation Proclamation. Work Cited Berlin, Ira, Eds. Freedom: A Documentary History of Emancipation 1861-1867, Vol. 1: The Destruction of Slavery, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1985, p. 260 Christopher Ewan.
“The Emancipation Proclamation and British Public Opinion” The Historian, Vol. 67, 2005, p. 34-78 Crowther, Edward R. “Emancipation Proclamation”. In Encyclopedia of the American Civil War. Heidler, David S. and Heidler, Jeanne T (Eds), 2000, p. 45-78 Klingaman, William. Abraham Lincoln and the Road to Emancipation, 1861-1865 New York: Viking Press, 2001, p. 234 Poulter, Keith. “Slaves Immediately Freed by the Emancipation Proclamation”, North & South vol. 5 no. 1, December 2001, p. 48 Thomas, Benjamin & Burlingame, Michael. Abraham Lincoln: A Biography, California: SIU Press, 2008, p. 23-500