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The Emancipation Proclamation

September 1862

Lincoln and cabinet
The first reading of the Emancipation Proclamation before the Cabinet
(Painting by F.B. Carpenter, c.1866; from an engraving at the US Library of Congress)

Since early 1861, President Lincoln had been under considerable pressure by abolitionists to free the slaves, and wished to do so. Not until Congress passed the 'Second Confiscation Act' (July 17, 1862), which freed slaves in the Confederate States, did Lincoln have obvious political and public support for emancipation.

The President had been working on drafts of the Emancipation Proclamation for some time before he read one to William H. Seward and Gideon Welles on July 13, 1862. They were both somewhat shocked by it. On July 22, Lincoln presented it to the full Cabinet at their regular meeting. Apparently the reaction was mixed, for and against, and Lincoln came away convinced that he needed to issue such a document from a position of strength, and that he was not then in that position (because of the disappointing military situation). A military victory was needed. The Proclamation would have to wait.

The Battle of Antietam, though not a stunning victory, did reverse the fortunes of the Rebels, and Lincoln considered it sufficient for his purpose. He issued the Proclamation below 5 days after the battle.

starSee more about it ... at the fine National Archives Emancipation Proclamation exhibit

By the President of the United States of America:


Whereas on the 22nd day of September, A.D. 1862, a proclamation was issued by the President of the United States, containing, among other things, the following, to wit:

That on the 1st day of January, A.D. 1863, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.

That the executive will on the 1st day of January aforesaid, by proclamation, designate the States and parts of States, if any, in which the people thereof, respectively, shall then be in rebellion against the United States; and the fact that any State or the people thereof shall on that day be in good faith represented in the Congress of the United States by members chosen thereto at elections wherein a majority of the qualified voters of such States shall have participated shall, in the absence of strong countervailing testimony, be deemed conclusive evidence that such State and the people thereof are not then in rebellion against the United States.

Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, by virtue of the power in me vested as Commander-In-Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States in time of actual armed rebellion against the authority and government of the United States, and as a fit and necessary war measure for supressing said rebellion, do, on this 1st day of January, A.D. 1863, and in accordance with my purpose so to do, publicly proclaimed for the full period of one hundred days from the first day above mentioned, order and designate as the States and parts of States wherein the people thereof, respectively, are this day in rebellion against the United States the following, to wit:

Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana (except the parishes of St. Bernard, Palquemines, Jefferson, St. John, St. Charles, St. James, Ascension, Assumption, Terrebone, Lafourche, St. Mary, St. Martin, and Orleans, including the city of New Orleans), Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia (except the forty-eight counties designated as West Virginia, and also the counties of Berkeley, Accomac, Morthhampton, Elizabeth City, York, Princess Anne, and Norfolk, including the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth), and which excepted parts are for the present left precisely as if this proclamation were not issued.

And by virtue of the power and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States and parts of States are, and henceforward shall be, free; and that the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons.

And I hereby enjoin upon the people so declared to be free to abstain from all violence, unless in necessary self-defence; and I recommend to them that, in all case when allowed, they labor faithfully for reasonable wages.

And I further declare and make known that such persons of suitable condition will be received into the armed service of the United States to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service.

And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind and the gracious favor of Almighty God.

[note: the following text was found on the final version of the Proclamation, issued officially on 1 Jan 63]

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this first day of January,
in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty three,
and of the Independence of the United States of America the eighty-seventh.

Lincoln's signature

By the President: ABRAHAM LINCOLN

"In giving freedom to the slave we assure freedom to the free -- honorable alike in what we give and what we preserve".

- A. Lincoln, Second Annual Message to Congress,
December 1, 1862.