In his inaugural address in 1861 Lincoln said, “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the states where it exists.” The Emancipation...

In his inaugural address in 1861 Lincoln said, “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the states where it exists.” The Emancipation Proclamation took effect on January 1, 1863. Explain why and how this marked change of policy took place.

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mrkirschner | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

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President Lincoln changed his approach on the issue of slavery, not because of a strong ideological awakening, but as a strategy to help the Union win the Civil War.  The Emancipation Proclamation could be considered a war strategy and not a moral crusade.  In making the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln changed the aim of the Civil War to a moral cause rather than a political one. This action was meant to change the morale of the Union soldiers and to gain further political support in the North.

The freeing of slaves was ultimately meant to injure the Confederate War efforts.  Slaves in the South were used for many military purposes including the use of slave labor to produce food and other goods for the Confederate states.  The slaves were also used by the South to dig trenches and other menial projects for the army.  By the end of the war, the Union had freed over a half a million slaves by allowing them to escape behind Union lines. This had a crippling effect on the Confederate efforts to win the War.  The Union benefited from the Emancipation Proclamation in terms of military enlistment as well because over 180,000 African-Americans joined on the side of the Union.  It is unlikely that African-Americans would have cared to serve if not for the Emancipation Proclamation, which rendered the war a moral crusade against slavery.

The Emancipation Proclamation was also delivered for a political purpose.  The Civil War was not going very well for the Union.  Lincoln was losing favor amongst one of his key political groups:  the abolitionists.  Many in the abolition movement felt that Lincoln had turned his back on their cause and grew frustrated with the pace of ending slavery.  By delivering the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln essentially guaranteed an end to chattel slavery should the Union win the War.

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