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American Civil War

The Emancipation Proclamation

Emancipation Proclamation engraving
by W. Roberts
History >> Civil War

The Emancipation Proclamation was an order given on January 1, 1863 by Abraham Lincoln to free the enslaved.

Were all the enslaved immediately free?

No. Only about 50,000 of the 4 million enslaved people were immediately set free. The Emancipation Proclamation had some limitations. First, it only freed the enslaved in the Confederate States that were not under Union control. There were some areas and border states where slavery was still legal, but were part of the Union. The enslaved in these states were not immediately freed. For the rest of the Southern states, the enslaved would not be free until the Union was able to defeat the Confederacy.

However, the Emancipation Proclamation did eventually set millions of the enslaved free. It also made clear that in the near future all of the enslaved should and would be set free.

The Emancipation also allowed for Black men to fight in the Union Army. Around 200,000 black soldiers fought on the side of the Union Army helping the North win the war and also helping to expand the area of freedom as they marched through the South.

Why did Lincoln wait until 1863?

First Reading of the Emancipation
Proclamation of President Lincoln

by Francis Bicknell Carpenter

Lincoln felt like he needed a major victory in order to have the full support behind the Emancipation. If he issued the order without public support, it might fail and he wanted to be sure that it was successful and seen as a major moral victory for the North. When the Union Army turned back Robert E. Lee and the Confederates in the Battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862 Lincoln knew it was time. The initial announcement that the Emancipation Proclamation order was coming was given a few days later on September 22, 1862.

The Thirteenth Amendment

The Emancipation Proclamation was an executive order. It wasn't fully law per the Constitution yet. However, it did pave the way for the Thirteenth Amendment. The advantage of the Proclamation was that it could happen quickly. The Thirteenth Amendment took a few more years to get passed by congress and implemented, but on December 6, 1865 the Thirteenth Amendment was adopted and became part of the United States Constitution.

Here is the wording of the Thirteenth Amendment: Other Interesting Facts
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