The New International Encyclopædia/Emancipation, Proclamation of
EMANCIPATION, Proclamation of. The document issued by Abraham Lincoln, as Commander-in-Chief of the Armies of the United States, January 1, 1863, declaring the immediate freedom of the great majority of the slaves in the United States. For a long time President Lincoln had resisted the appeals of the radical Republicans for such a proclamation. He waited until he thought public opinion was ready for it, and until it might follow a victory and not seem the desperate measure of a defeated combatant. After McClellan's unsuccessful campaign against Richmond he felt that the emancipation of the slaves was a moral and a military necessity, for its effect upon both South and North. Antietam furnished the victory he awaited, and on September 22, 1862, a preliminary proclamation was issued, decreeing the emancipation on January 1, 1863, of all slaves in the States which should till then continue in a state of rebellion. In this he also stated that thenceforth, as before, the restoration of the Union should be the object of the prosecution of the war. The final proclamation, in view of its purposes and effects, must ever hold an important place in American history.
By the President of the United States of America.
Whereas, on the 22d of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred sixty-two, a proclamation was issued by the President of the United States, containing, among other things, the following, to wit:
“That on the 1st day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred 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 Slates 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.”
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 and as a fit and necessary war measure for repressing said rebellion, do, on this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred sixty-three, and in accordance with my purpose so to do, publicly proclaimed for the full period of 100 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 Saint Bernard, Plaquemines, Jefferson, Saint John, Saint Charles, Saint James, Ascension, Assumption, Terre Bonne, Lafourche, Saint Mary, Saint 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 Berkeley, 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-defense; 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 of our Lord [L.S.] one thousand eight hundred 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.
The effect of the proclamation on the legal status of the slaves gave rise to some discussion, but a solution of that problem became unnecessary, inasmuch as the work of emancipation in the United States was completed by the adoption of Article XIII. of the amendments to the Constitution; and the reconstruction of the States in insurrection proceeded upon that basis. Consult Whiting, War Powers of the President (Boston, 1862). See Slavery; Reconstruction.