"That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight
hundred and sixty-three, 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;..."
The Impact of the Emancipation Proclamation
Months before the Battle of Antietam, President Abraham Lincoln had drawn up a preliminary emancipation proclamation in order to free
the slaves in the states currently in rebellion. In part a war measure, successfully freeing the slaves would mean that Southern
citizens, both men and women, would need to perform the work that the slaves had once done. The desired impact was either fewer men in
the Confederate Armies since they would be needed at home to help produce the food, weapons, and supplies necessary for the war effort
or less of that work would be completed if men continued fighting. Either way, freeing the slaves would result in a weaker South,
whichever road they took.
President Lincoln believed that he had the authority necessary
to issue his proclamation based on the president's war powers which, according to the Confiscation Act of 1861, included the
authorization to seize, confiscate, and condemn resources that benefit those in rebellion. However, in doing so, he did not "free
(all of) the slaves" in the United States. Slavery was still legal in the border states, the slave states loyal to the Union, and
in Southern regions still loyal to the North. The 13th Amendment to the US Constitution, which ultimately banned slavery from all of
the United States, was not ratified until December 6, 1865, months after the surrender of Confederate Generals Lee's and Johnston's
Armies and President Lincoln's assassination. This war had begun as, and would remain, a war between the Southern slave states and
Northern free and slave states. Paragraph five of the Proclamation identifies regions in the South not currently in Rebellion who
could still legally own slaves. Despite later describing himself as "naturally anti-slavery", President Lincoln did not
believe that his war powers authorized him to abolish slavery in states or regions loyal to the Union. Although he had on several
occasions offered the border states compensated emancipation, the efforts of their slaves were not being employed statewide to support
the Rebellion. Without this, Lincoln believed that he had no constitutional authority to directly alter slave status.
The Battle of Antietam allowed the issuing of this signal act to take place bringing with it multiple consequences. Perhaps the most
significant other than the freeing of the slaves themselves, was that England and France, who had been actively considering recognizing
the South as an independent confederacy of states, paused after the victory at Antietam, slight as it may have been. The Emancipation
Proclamation may have put the final nail in the coffin of European diplomatic recognition for the South. Without it, there existed
little likelihood of a mediated peace or of direct military aid to the Confederacy, both of which would dramatically increase the odds
for an eventual Southern independence.
The Proclamation also changed the tone and focus of the war. Once a struggle to either gain Southern independence or save the
Union, the outcome of the war would now determine the future of slavery as well. If the North won the war, they would consider the
slaves in regions in rebellion on January 1, 1863, to be free. The Proclamation spoke to its own enforcement saying, "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...". Therefore, for the emancipated slaves to remain
free, the North must win the war. If the Confederate States emerged victorious, the North could not enforce this proclamation and the
future of slavery would remain in the hands of the Southern Confederacy.
For an excellent book on the significance of the Battle of Antietam, please try
James M McPherson's
Antietam: Crossroads of Freedom.
On January 1, 1863, President Lincoln looked to Secretary of State Seward and said, "I have been shaking hands since nine o'clock
this morning, and my right arm is almost paralyzed. If my name ever goes into history, it will be for this act, and my whole soul is in
it. If my hand trembles when I sign the Proclamation, all who examine the document hereafter will say, 'He hesitated.'"
After a moment, the President put pen to paper, looked up and said, "That will do."
The Emancipation Proclamation
"By the President of the United States of America:
Whereas, on the twenty-second day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two, a proclamation was
issued by the President of the United States, containing, among other things, the following, to wit:
"That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, 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 first 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 State 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
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 suppressing said rebellion, do, on this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand
eight hundred and sixty-three, and in accordance with my purpose so to do publicly proclaimed for the full period of one hundred days,
from the day first 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, Plaquemines, Jefferson, St. John, St. Charles, St. James Ascension,
Assumption, Terrebonne, 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 Berkley, Accomac, Northampton, Elizabeth City, York, Princess Ann, 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 cases 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.
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.
By the President: ABRAHAM LINCOLN
WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State."