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Abraham Lincoln



History: Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States of America


The Emancipation Proclamation (3 min) TV-PG

Issued after the Union victory at Antietam, the Emancipation Proclamation had both moral and strategic implications for the ongoing Civil War. Authors: History.com Staff.

Congress in July 1862 moved to free the slaves by passing the Second Confiscation Act. The goal was to weaken the rebellion, which was led and controlled by slave owners. This did not abolish the legal institution of slavery (the 13th Amendment did that), but it shows Lincoln had the support of Congress in liberating the slaves owned by rebels. Lincoln implemented the new law by his "Emancipation Proclamation."

Lincoln is well known for ending slavery in the United States. However, throughout 1861–62, Lincoln made it clear that the North was fighting the war to preserve the Union. Freeing the slaves became, in late 1862, a war measure to weaken the rebellion by destroying the economic base of its leadership class. Abolitionists criticized Lincoln for his slowness, but on August 22, 1862, Lincoln explained:
I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can be restored; the nearer the Union will be "the Union as it was". ... My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that.

The Emancipation Proclamation, announced on September 22 and put in effect January 1, 1863, freed slaves in territories not under Union control. As Union armies advanced south, more slaves were liberated until all of them in Confederate hands were freed (over three million). Lincoln later said: "I never, in my life, felt more certain that I was doing right, than I do in signing this paper". The proclamation made abolishing slavery in the rebel states an official war goal. Lincoln then threw his energies into passage of the 13th Amendment to permanently abolish slavery throughout the nation.

Lincoln had for some time been working on plans to set up colonies for the newly freed slaves. He remarked upon colonization favorably in the Emancipation Proclamation, but all attempts at such a massive undertaking failed. As Frederick Douglass observed, Lincoln was, "The first great man that I talked with in the United States freely who in no single instance reminded me of the difference between himself and myself, of the difference of color".

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