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Emancipation Proclamation
July 12, 1862 Abraham Lincoln writes a letter to the Congressmen from the border states, warning them of his upcoming Emancipation Proclaimation. In it he states, "I do not speak of emancipation at once, but of a decision at once to emancipate gradually."
  The Emancipation of Slaves
July 13, 1862 Abraham Lincoln reads a draft of the Emancipation Proclaimation to Secretary of State William Seward and Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, both strong abolitionists. Seward begins talking about the problems it will cause. Welles sits there dumbfounded
  The Emancipation of Slaves
  William Seward
July 22, 1862 President Lincoln presents his Emancipation Proclaimation to his Cabinet. William Seward recommends waiting until a victory to present it to the public.
  Abraham Lincoln
  William Seward
  The Emancipation of Slaves
  Salmon P. Chase
September 22, 1862 Following the preemptive strike at Antietam President Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing slaves in states or portions of states still in rebellion on January 1, 1863
  Abraham Lincoln
  The Emancipation of Slaves
January 1, 1863 The Emancipation Proclamation goes into effect
  The Emancipation of Slaves
  Emancipation Proclamation (Full Text)

Emancipation Proclamation

For many months Abraham Lincoln toiled over the words to the Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln always spoke of a "House divided" when stating the reasons for the war. Aware that the Second Confiscation Act was winding its way through Congress, on July 13, 1862 the President read what he called the Emancipation Proclaimation to two members of his cabinet, William Seward and Gideon Welles. Seward seized on the idea of foreign intervention in the war if the Proclamation was read, but Welles was dumbfounded.

On July 17 Congress passed the Second Confiscation Act, calling for traitors against the United States to be put to death (or serve 5 years in prison) and have their slaves set free. When Lincoln presented his document to his Cabinet on July 22, 1862, most of them were shocked. Scholars differ over why Lincoln waited until his second year to free the slaves. The proclamation came after the humbling losses by the Army of the Potomac in the Peninsula Campaign. The election of 1862 was shaping up to be difficult on the Republicans. Many of the field commanders did not support abolition and were fighting to preserve the Union.

Some modern historians maintain that as far as Lincoln is concerned emancipation was never a question of if but more a question of when. Others believe Lincoln used the Emancipation Proclaimation as a foriegn affairs ploy to keep France and Britain out of the Civil War, especially on the side of the South. Lincoln deftly sidestepped the question of emancipation twice, once when John Fremont proposed it and again when David Hunter proposed it. When Lincoln first proposed the Emancipation Proclaimation it contained two paragraphs detailing a "..gradual, compensated..." emancipation. Revised wording on this concept was still in the document when he released his Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862.

Surprisingly, the document seemed to have a chilling effect on Lincoln's generals. Many were not abolitionists, including George McClellan and Don Carlos Buell. McClellan issued a statement calling for all men in the Army of the Potomac to support the decisions of their government. Buell, heavily involved in the Confederate Invasion of Kentucky just let it pass. Joe Hooker, a lifelong Democrat and not an abolitionist issued a statement supporting Lincoln's decision. Hooker was never one to let a small political matter get in the way of his chance for advancement.

Most historians agree that Lincolns' sole desire was to quickly end the war. He believed that his proposal would not alienate the border states and could rally pro-Union factions in the South, leading to a quick end to the war.

Whatever Lincoln's real goal was is not recorded, but the Emancipation Proclamation failed misarably. During the election of 1862 the Republicans lost seats in the House and Senate for the first time in history. Britain and France were never that close to entering the war on the side of the South although strong factions in both countries were advocating such a move.

Links appearing on this page:

Abraham Lincoln
Army of the Potomac
Confederate Invasion of Kentucky
Don Carlos Buell
George McClellan
Joe Hooker
July 13
July, 1862
Peninsula Campaign
September 22
September, 1862

Emancipation Proclamation was last changed on - December 30, 2006
Emancipation Proclamation was added on - December 29, 2006

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