The Emancipation Proclamation

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Why did Abraham Lincoln issue the Emancipation Proclamation?

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Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation to turn the Civil War into a moral battle, thereby discouraging European countries from supporting the South and galvanizing the North, to free slaves in rebellious states to undermine the South, and because Lincoln himself had become convinced that it was the moral thing to do.

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The Emancipation Proclamation was a wartime measure, one which only applied to those states that had seceded from the Union. For Lincoln, it was motivated by a combination of moral and pragmatic factors.

First of all, remember that Lincoln was morally opposed to slavery, a factor which has to be recognized as contributing to his decision to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. At the same time, practically speaking, it had the result of galvanizing support among abolitionists by introducing a new moral dynamic into the war effort, transforming the struggle into one against the institution of slavery. In this respect, the moral and pragmatic dimensions go hand-in-hand.

However, the Emancipation Proclamation had a diplomatic purpose as well, aiming to isolate the rebellious Southern states from attaining allies in Europe. Remember, during the Civil War, the Confederate States hoped to draw support from Britain. However, these hopes were complicated by the Confederacy's support of and reliance on slavery, given the British Empire's opposition to slavery. Thus, the Emancipation Proclamation was, at least in part, also aimed towards the British: by transforming the Civil War into a struggle against slavery, Lincoln ensured that Britain would not side with the Confederacy, keeping the Southern states diplomatically isolated throughout the struggle.

These intentions were realized, as the Emancipation Proclamation is rightly regarded as one of the critical turning points of the Civil War and an important moment in American History.

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First, Lincoln used the rhetoric of the Emancipation Proclamation to prove that he was still in charge of the United States and that the Confederacy did not exist. Throughout the war, Lincoln never used the words "Confederate States of America" because that would invite international recognition. Lincoln made the Proclamation applicable to the "states in insurrection" thus making those states aware that they were still under US governance. Another implication of this statement was that the states who rejoined the Union could keep their slaves. The Border States did not have to follow the Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln was hoping to draw support away from the Confederacy.

The Emancipation Proclamation also brought a moral tone to the war. It was now seen as a greater cause than simply binding the two warring factions together. After the Emancipation Proclamation, the British debate on whether or not to help the South subsided a little bit though Britain would continue to build privateers for the Confederacy throughout the war.

Many slaves who lived in occupied territory in the South took the Emancipation Proclamation to mean that they were free. Lincoln hoped that the possibility of all the slaves escaping would lead to Southerners leaving the battlefield and returning home to establish racial law and order.

Lincoln had many reasons for issuing the proclamation, both moral and practical. He used rhetoric to drive off foreign interlopers who would act on behalf of the rebellious states. While several people in the North disliked the idea of an abolitionist crusade, by turning the war into a higher cause he helped galvanize many in the North to see the war to its conclusion.

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The Emancipation Proclamation was issued by Lincoln during the Civil War so that slaves would be freed. The only slaves that were affected by this were the ones in rebellious states, not the ones in border states. As a result of this important document, Europe was less likely to help the South in their battle. Lincoln also chose to issue this document at a key time: after the victory at the battle of Antietam, so that the public would be in a good mood.

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There were several reasons that Lincoln announced and implemented the Emancipation Proclamation at the end of 1862,  early 1863. His basic goal was to turn the war from a political focus to a morally based focus. First, Lincoln was in a difficult situation, militarily. The North had lost most of the battles that had been fought, and many Northerners were beginning to grumble about the war. Lincoln hoped that the change to a moral focus on slavery would cement Northern support. In addition, several European countries, including England and France, were considering formal recognition of the Confederacy. Lincoln correctly believed that the shift to a moral focus on slavery would prevent that recognition. Thirdly, Lincoln hoped that the promise of freedom would cause revolts among Southern slaves and lead them to support the Northern armies. Finally, Lincoln, himself, had come to believe personally that freeing the slaves was the right thing to do. The move was risky on his part because he could have easily pushed the border states into joining the Confederate cause, which is why the Proclamation only frees the slaves in rebellious territory. However, while the Proclamation did become a campaign issue in the 1864 elections, it did exactly what Lincoln had hoped, changed the war from a political conflict into a moral struggle which needed to be fought to the end.

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Why did Lincoln issue the Emancipation Proclamation?

Lincoln decided to issue the Emancipation Proclamation for a number of reasons. First and foremost, he knew that declaring an end to slavery would keep Europe out of the war. By re-defining the Civil War as a war to preserve the Union AND end slavery, anti-slavery European countries could not come in on the side of the south on purely moral grounds. We now know that Confederate diplomats were very close to negotiating Europe’s entry into the war and that this proclamation was part of the reason these negotiations never worked out!

Also, the proclamation would deprive the south of badly needed labor since slaves would no doubt try to escape north.

He carefully worded the proclamation so that it only slaves in the Confederacy were freed. While this didn’t actually free a singles slave, it did keep the boarder states from joining the Confederacy and symbolically moved us closer to the ideals set forth in Jefferson Declaration of Independence, "All men are created equal!"

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What did Abraham Lincoln hope to achieve by issuing the Emancipation Proclamation?

It is a challenge to enter Lincoln's mind and probe to see all the different hopes and angles to his issuing of the Emancipation Proclamation.  We do know that one of the hopes of the document was to end slavery.  It was an active step in the abolition of slavery, and while the exact results of it could be debatable in terms of where it reached and where it did not measure seismic impact, one can say that the single act of a United States government actively defining slavery and slave ownership as something against the law is a powerful and compelling step.  Another hope of the document was to galvanize the war effort.  The Emancipation Proclamation was the first government produced document during the war that sought to conceive of the conflict in moral terms.  At the outset of the war, the belief was that the South had no right to secede and the war was fought to keep the nation together.  The issue of slavery had not been introduced into the discourse.  However, over time, the North had been able to create an effort that actually could materialize into victory.  With this in mind, Lincoln's Emancipation made it abundantly clear that the tactical notion of keeping the nation together had given way to a moral imperative that the war was being fought for something larger than politics or tactics.  The Emancipation Proclamation helped abolitionists galvanize behind the war effort, and also served to inspire slaves and former slaves to understand how they fit into the North's designs.  Giving hope to those who had none, the document cast the South as not merely wrong, but rather "evil."  While its impact on militaristic grounds is negligible, and probably did not result in a single batter being won, the Emancipation Proclamation played a very large role in the North winning the Civil War.

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Explain the considerations that led Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation.

There were at least three main considerations that led Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation.

First, there was his personal opposition to slavery.  Though Lincoln was not an abolitionist, he did believe that slavery was evil.  Therefore, he was not sad to find a way to get rid of it.  However, Lincoln’s first goal was to save the Union.  This means that the main considerations that led to the proclamation had to do with helping the Union to win the war.

One way that Lincoln hoped this would help was by inspiring slaves in the South to rebel or to leave their masters.  Lincoln knew that the South relied on their slaves and that the loss of those slaves would gravely reduce their economic capacity and their ability to fight.

Finally, Lincoln hoped to keep European countries out of the war.  If Lincoln issued the proclamation, the war would come to be about slavery, not simply about whether the South could secede.  England and France would be much less likely to help the Confederacy if the war were about slavery rather than about political goals.

For these reasons, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. 

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