Learn the history and politics surrounding this document
The Emancipation Proclamation is arguably one of the top ten most important documents in the history of the United States; however, it is also one of the most misunderstood. Here are ten facts providing the basics on the proclamation and the history surrounding it.
Fact #1: Lincoln actually issued the Emancipation Proclamation twice.
Abraham Lincoln issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation on September 22nd, 1862. It stipulated that if the Southern states did not cease their rebellion by January 1st, 1863, then Proclamation would go into effect. When the Confederacy did not yield, Lincoln issued the final Emancipation Proclamation on January 1st, 1863.
Fact #2: The Emancipation Proclamation only applied to the states in rebellion.
President Lincoln justified the Emancipation Proclamation as a war measure intended to cripple the Confederacy. Being careful to respect the limits of his authority, Lincoln applied the Emancipation Proclamation only to the Southern states in rebellion.
Fact #3: Lincoln’s advisors did not initially support the Emancipation Proclamation.
When President Lincoln first proposed the Emancipation Proclamation to his cabinet in the summer of 1862, many of the cabinet secretaries were apathetic, or worse, worried that the Proclamation was too radical. It was only Lincoln’s firm commitment to the necessity and justice of the Proclamation, along with the victory at Antietam, which finally persuaded his cabinet members to support him.
Fact #4: The Battle of Antietam (also known as Sharpsburg) provided the necessary Union victory to issue the Emancipation Proclamation.
President Lincoln had first proposed the Emancipation Proclamation to his Cabinet in July 1862, but Secretary of State William Seward suggested waiting for a Union victory so that the government could prove that it could enforce the Proclamation. Although the Battle of Antietam resulted in a draw, the Union army was able to drive the Confederates out of Maryland – enough of a “victory, ” that Lincoln felt comfortable issuing the Emancipation just five days later.
Fact #5: The Emancipation Proclamation was a firm demonstration of the President’s executive war powers.