Introduction - Emancipation ProclamationOn January 1st of 1863 the Emancipation Proclamation, issued by President Abraham Lincoln on September 22nd of 1862, went into effect changing the legal status of three million slaves from "slave" to "free." The issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation is considered a great event in black history; however this is a complicated issue and there are many who have thought its importance was minimal and that it was a half-measure at best in addressing slavery in America. It is important to realize that the proclamation only declared slaves in the Confederacy free, and the Confederacy was not about to comply with a Union proclamation to free its slaves. However most historians agree the Emancipation Proclamation was an important step towards the total abolition of slavery in the United States. On this page is a list of interesting facts about this document written for both kids, who may be writing Black History Month reports, and adults. Information on this page includes how the Emancipation Proclamation affected the Civil War, what slaves it freed, and why President Lincoln decided to issue it.
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List of Emancipation Proclamation Facts
- The Emancipation Proclamation was a presidential proclamation. A presidential proclamation is a statement issued by a U.S. President in regards to a matter of public policy. However the Emancipation Proclamation was more than a statement it was a presidential action taken without the approval of Congress; it was a demonstration of the President's executive war powers.
- President Lincoln had been waiting for an opportunity to issue a proclamation freeing the slaves. The early years of the war had not gone well for the Union and he feared a proclamation freeing Confederate slaves would seem like a desperate move. The important Union victory at the Battle of Antietam on September 17th of 1862 gave Lincoln the opportunity he had been waiting for; he announced the proclamation four days later.
- President Lincoln hated slavery, and this hatred certainly played into his reasons for issuing the Emancipation Proclamation. However, he had an important political motive as well. Britain and France had been considered aiding the Confederacy in their quest to be a separate country; by including the abolition of slavery as one of the Union's goals influenced these two countries to not get involved because they too were against slavery.
- One reason Lincoln did not declare all slaves free in his proclamation was he did not want to anger the Border States which were on the Union's side but still maintained many slaves. If the Emancipation Proclamation declared all slaves free these crucial Border States may have gone over to the Confederate side.
- The proclamation did not make slavery illegal. Not until the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified in December of 1865 was slavery abolished.
- The Emancipation Proclamation immediately affected about 3 million slaves in the Confederacy; changing their legal status from "slave" to "free."
- This proclamation raised the Unions goal in the American Civil War to a higher level. No longer were Union soldiers just fighting to preserve the Union but now they were also fighting to free the slaves.
- The famous black abolitionist Frederick Douglass was disappointed with the Emancipation Proclamation as is apparent in this quote; "It was not a proclamation of liberty throughout all the land, unto all the inhabitants thereof such as we had hoped it would be".
- After the proclamation slaves held in captivity realized if they could escape they would automatically be declared free.
- Abraham Lincoln stated the Emancipation Proclamation the crowning achievement of his presidency. He is quoted as saying, "If my name ever goes into history it will be for this act, and my whole soul is in it."