The Emancipation Proclamation

The Emancipation Proclamation was issued by US President Abraham Lincoln on the 1st of January, 1863. This was when the nation was close to its third year of a bloody civil war.

The proclamation declared “that everyone held as a slave in and around the 10 rebellious states are to be henceforth set free.” Despite this declaration, the Emancipation Proclamation was not implemented in so many ways.

It only applied to states that had separated from the United States, leaving the loyal border states still in the hands of slavery. Parts of the Southern secessionist states under the Northern hold were also left out of this act of freedom.

The promised freedom depended upon Union (United States) military victory. The Proclamation made emancipation a goal of the Civil War. During the war, it weakened the efforts of England and France to officially honor the Confederacy.

As Union troops came closer to the Rebel region and territory, they released thousands of people from slavery, each day. A lot of these slaves could not wait, as they escaped from their owners to gain their freedom.

The Proclamation

The Proclamation was issued and partitioned in two. On September 22, 1862, Lincoln declared towards the next 100 days that he would free all slaves in other locations that were not under Union control.

On January 1, 1863, he made a list of the ten different states in which the proclamation would then apply. These states include North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Texas, Arkansas, Alabama, Virginia, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Kentucky. 

The five border states where slavery was still legal were not included, so they were not named. They had also remained committed to the Union and were not in rebellion.

Tennessee was also not named and this was because the Union forces had already gotten control of that area. Several counties of Virginia that were in the process of separating from that state to form the new state of West Virginia were specifically named as exemptions, as were several parishes around New Orleans in Louisiana.

At first, only a few slaves under the Union lines were immediately freed, but as Union forces advanced, about a million slaves were effectively freed. Out of the former slaves, a few joined the Union army.

The Original Copy

The original copy of the Emancipation Proclamation issued on January 1, 1863, is currently in the National Archives in Washington, DC. The text covers five different pages in the document that were originally tied with narrow red and blue ribbons.

The Emancipation Proclamation
The Emancipation Proclamtion

They were each attached to the page that carries the signature and the impression of the seal of the United States. Today, the ribbons and parts of the seal remain and are still very much decipherable. The rest of the parts are completely worn off.

The original document was bound with other proclamations in a large volume that has been kept for a long time in the State Department. During the period of preparation for binding, the document was strengthened with strips along the center folds before it was attached on a larger sheet of heavy paper. 

On the upper right-hand corner of this sheet, a number of the proclamation, 95, which was given by the State Department, was written and signed in red ink. Along with other records, the volume containing the Emancipation Proclamation was moved from the Department of State to the National Archives of the United States in 1936.

The Amendment

Exactly two months before the war ended in February, 865, some of the left-out border states ended slavery within their borders. Lincoln told the portrait painter, Francis B. Carpenter, that the Emancipation Proclamation was the major act of his administration, and probably the greatest mark made in the nineteenth century.

He later sponsored a constitutional amendment to ban slavery as it became an illegal practice all over the United States. This was officially sealed by the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment in December 1865. A few months later, Lincoln was killed.

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