Abraham Lincoln Signed The Emancipation Proclamation 154 Years Ago Today

Abraham Lincoln's monument in Washington D.C.

Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. The details behind this decree are actually little more nuanced than one might think. Lincoln did not initially aim his fight towards southern slavery, but rather stated his intent for the preservation of the Union.

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. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause.

This particular angle from Lincoln was designed to unite people behind his cause, as he knew the abolition of slavery wouldn’t carry a lot of weight as a catalyst for war. This is not to say Abraham Lincoln’s intentions were not as we remember. He just understood what politicians and the general population were willing to support so that he could move forward with his actions. Lincoln very obviously found slavery as a disgusting act.

Whenever I hear any one arguing for slavery I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.

Lincoln’s political stance changed as the dynamics of the Civil War changed. Slaves were fleeing the south in masses to join Union forces, which caused Lincoln to question his political and military strategies. Connecting himself to the abolition of slavery now seemed like a viable and noble option.

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Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, contrary to popular belief, actually did not free any slaves. It was more so a change in the mentality of the war approach from preservation of the Union to fighting for the freedom of America’s millions of slaves. A movement was now created behind Lincoln’s message.

Abraham Lincoln had to be clever with his strategy, as initially bringing the abolition of slavery to the table could have lost him northern Democrats and the border states. Lincoln’s comments sound contradictory, but it has been observed countless times in modern politics that someone will express themselves in such a way that is more palatable to the consumer. Unfortunately, this is the way many things get accomplished.

I have always thought that all men should be free; but if any should be slaves it should be first those who desire it for themselves, and secondly those who desire it for others.

Additionally, Abraham Lincoln was smart about issuing the proclamation by only applying it to the rebelling states. He was careful not to overstep his political boundaries and made sure to keep his relationships with Union officials on good terms. The Emancipation Proclamation was merely a measure to cripple the enemy to the south.

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Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation is a defining moment in United States History. It is something that is heavily focused on within our school systems. Although, it may not have officially freed individuals from slavery, it shifted the focus of the war to the travesty of slavery and allowed African Americans to fight for their freedom. Although it may not have been the official end to slavery, Lincoln clearly paved the way to the 13th amendment and the end to the suffering of millions of people.

[Featured Image by William J. Smith/AP Images]