September 22, 1862: Lincoln Issues Notice of Emancipation Proclamation

Something for the weekend.  Give us a Flag, the unofficial anthem of the United States Colored Troops during the Civil War, written by a private serving in the 54th Massachusetts.

Today is the 150th anniversary of the issuance of the notice by Lincoln of the Emancipation Proclamation, to take effect on January 1, 1863, Lincoln doing so after the Union victory at Antietam on September 17, 1862.  Reaction was, to say the least, mixed.  In the North the abolitionists were enraptured.  Most Northern opinion was favorable, although there was a substantial minority, embodied almost entirely in the Democrat party, that completely opposed this move.  Opinion in the Border States was resoundingly negative.  In the Confederacy the Confederate government denounced the proposed Emancipation Proclamation as a call for a race war.  Today, almost all Americans view the Emancipation Proclamation as a long overdue ending of slavery.  At the time it was very much a step into the unknown, and the consequences impossible to determine.  Lincoln had converted the War for the Union into a War for the Union and against Slavery.  It remained to be seen as to whether the War, whatever its objectives, could be won.  Here is the text of Lincoln’s announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation:

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States of America, and Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy thereof, do hereby proclaim and declare that hereafter, as heretofore, the war will be prosecuted for the object of practically restoring the constitutional relation between the United States, and each of the States, and the people thereof, in which States that relation is, or may be, suspended or disturbed.

That it is my purpose, upon the next meeting of Congress to again recommend the adoption of a practical measure tendering pecuniary aid to the free acceptance or rejection of all slave States, so called, the people whereof may not then be in rebellion against the United States and which States may then have voluntarily adopted, or thereafter may voluntarily adopt, immediate or gradual abolishment of slavery within their respective limits; and that the effort to colonize persons of African descent, with their consent, upon this continent, or elsewhere, with the previously obtained consent of the Governments existing there, will be continued.

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 part 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 United States.

That attention is hereby called to an Act of Congress entitled “An Act to make an additional Article of War” approved March 13, 1862, and which act is in the words and figure following:

“Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That hereafter the following shall be promulgated as an additional article of war for the government of the army of the United States, and shall be obeyed and observed as such:

“Article-All officers or persons in the military or naval service of the United States are prohibited from employing any of the forces under their respective commands for the purpose of returning fugitives from service or labor, who may have escaped from any persons to whom such service or labor is claimed to be due, and any officer who shall be found guilty by a court martial of violating this article shall be dismissed from the service.

“Sec.2. And be it further enacted, That this act shall take effect from and after its passage.”

Also to the ninth and tenth sections of an act entitled “An Act to suppress Insurrection, to punish Treason and Rebellion, to seize and confiscate property of rebels, and for other purposes,” approved July 17, 1862, and which sections are in the words and figures following:

“Sec.9. And be it further enacted, That all slaves of persons who shall hereafter be engaged in rebellion against the government of the United States, or who shall in any way give aid or comfort thereto, escaping from such persons and taking refuge within the lines of the army; and all slaves captured from such persons or deserted by them and coming under the control of the government of the United States; and all slaves of such persons found on (or) being within any place occupied by rebel forces and afterwards occupied by the forces of the United States, shall be deemed captives of war, and shall be forever free of their servitude and not again held as slaves.

“Sec.10. And be it further enacted, That no slave escaping into any State, Territory, or the District of Columbia, from any other State, shall be delivered up, or in any way impeded or hindered of his liberty, except for crime, or some offence against the laws, unless the person claiming said fugitive shall first make oath that the person to whom the labor or service of such fugitive is alleged to be due is his lawful owner, and has not borne arms against the United States in the present rebellion, nor in any way given aid and comfort thereto; and no person engaged in the military or naval service of the United States shall, under any pretence whatever, assume to decide on the validity of the claim of any person to the service or labor of any other person, or surrender up any such person to the claimant, on pain of being dismissed from the service.”

And I do hereby enjoin upon and order all persons engaged in the military and naval service of the United States to observe, obey, and enforce, within their respective spheres of service, the act, and sections above recited.

And the executive will in due time recommend that all citizens of the United States who shall have remained loyal thereto throughout the rebellion, shall (upon the restoration of the constitutional relation between the United States, and their respective States, and people, if that relation shall have been suspended or disturbed) be compensated for all losses by acts of the United States, including the loss of slaves.

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 twenty-second day of September, in the year of our Lord, one thousand, eight hundred and sixty-two, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty seventh.

[Signed:] Abraham Lincoln By the President

[Signed:] William H. Seward Secretary of State

7 Responses to September 22, 1862: Lincoln Issues Notice of Emancipation Proclamation

  • Replace “slave” with “Catholic taxpayer”, “religious believer” and “Catholic Church” and teach respect for freedom.

  • Reaction to the proclamation remains mixed even today, because from a practical, on the ground standpoint, it didn’t free ANY slaves, at least not immediately. It didn’t apply to border slave states still loyal to the Union, nor (in its final form) to Union-occupied areas of the Confederate states. The only areas that it applied to were areas where it wasn’t going to be enforced immediately. Some abolitionists were disappointed in it for that reason. It was a carefully crafted political move — but still a brilliant one. Also, what happened to the part about compensating slave owners who remained loyal to the Union?

  • Lincoln tried for compensated emancipation throughout the War in loyal slave states like Delaware and Kentucky and in offers to the Confederates in exchange for peace and Union. The slaveholders were never interested. By the end of the War slavery was dead, and after all the blood and treasure expended to accomplish that feat, Congress was in no mood to give to slaveowners what they had rejected during the war.

    Lincoln limited the Emancipation Proclamation to areas under Confederate control for several reasons. First, he believed he had no authority to abolish slavery except as a war measure. That is why he successfully pushed for the thirteenth amendment abolishing slavery. Second, he did not wish to alienate the loyal slave states.

    In regard to the Emancipation Proclamation it gave Union military commanders in Confederate areas the authority to abolish slavery, something a few of them had already attempted. Wherever the Union armies established control slavery ended. The Confederates understood this, which is why they reacted with such outrage to the Proclamation,

  • It was another in a string of unconstitutional acts by Lincoln. Just because we might like the object of the abuse of power does not make the abuse of power legitimate.

    And yes of course it was an entirely cynical ploy by Lincoln to buttress up flagging support for the war by throwing a moral patina on the business that “preserving the glorious union” did not have.

    Lincoln’s person view was expressed early on when he verified that the war was not about slavery and that he would use that issue only insofar as it would aid in his effort forcibly to unite the country, but that he had no interest in slavery per se as a war aim. After Antietam, to buck up failing domestic support and to ensure non-intervention by European powers, he made the calculated decision that he could indeed use the issue of slavery to advance what he considered the only aim of the war–reunion.

  • Wrong on all points Tom:
    “It was another in a string of unconstitutional acts by Lincoln”

    1. There is nothing unconstitutional about confiscating property in war time that is being used to support the enemy war effort. Slave labor was crucial for the Confederacy. The Confederates contended that slaves were property. Lincoln took them at their word and freed their “property”.

    “to buttress up flagging support for the war by throwing a moral patina on the business that “preserving the glorious union” did not have.”
    2. Incorrect Tom. Support for war for the Union was almost universal in the North except among Copperheads. In the border states it commanded at least 50% support. In the Confederacy support for war for the Union was quite popular in certain regions, especially West Virginia and East Tennessee. Lincoln was taking a big gamble in adding the war aim of the abolition of slavery.

    “Lincoln’s person view was expressed early on when he verified that the war was not about slavery and that he would use that issue only insofar as it would aid in his effort forcibly to unite the country, but that he had no interest in slavery per se as a war aim.”

    Lincoln’s personal view was always that slavery must be abolished. He separated that from his prime duty as President which was to uphold the Union. He expressed this well in his letter to Horace Greeley:

    “Washington, August 22, 1862.

    Hon. Horace Greeley:
    Dear Sir.

    I have just read yours of the 19th. addressed to myself through the New-York Tribune. If there be in it any statements, or assumptions of fact, which I may know to be erroneous, I do not, now and here, controvert them. If there be in it any inferences which I may believe to be falsely drawn, I do not now and here, argue against them. If there be perceptable in it an impatient and dictatorial tone, I waive it in deference to an old friend, whose heart I have always supposed to be right.

    As to the policy I “seem to be pursuing” as you say, I have not meant to leave any one in doubt.

    I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can be restored; the nearer the Union will be “the Union as it was.” If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause. I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors; and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views.

    I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty; and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men every where could be free.

    Yours,
    A. Lincoln.”

    Of course at the time that he wrote this Lincoln knew that he was going to Emancipate the slaves and was using this letter skillfully to help butress his argument that the abolition of slavery was necessary for the preservation of the Union

  • Oh, and this is also the 150th anniversary of that *other* unconstitutional act, suspension of habeas corpus, which Lincoln also perpetrated.

    Don, I know you love your fellow Illinois-an, but really. The Constitution is a document which gives the president only limited, *expressed* authority. Declaring the property of every owner in many states to be confiscated, whether or not that property is involved in war, is not a power granted to the president.

    Really, it’s very simple: if the constitution does not *expressly* grant the president a power, he does not have it. No constitutional provision permits the president to declare the property of people forfeited, particularly without any kind of due process.

  • “Oh, and this is also the 150th anniversary of that *other* unconstitutional act, suspension of habeas corpus, which Lincoln also perpetrated.”

    And the suspension of habeus corpus was reaffirmed by Congress when it met in December of 1862. The Constitution clearly allows for the suspension of habeas corpus in the event of invasion or rebellion. I would note that Jefferson Davis also suspended habeas corpus and declared martial law.

    Confiscation of property used against the United States in war time has been upheld time and again by the US Supreme Court. Congress ratified the action of the President by legislation and the country ratified the action of the President by approving the Thirteenth Amendment.

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