Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, is well known as one of the Great Emancipator in United States history and The Emancipation Proclamation is one of the most highly criticized and analyzed documents of his Presidency. On the surface the proclamation granted the freedom of every slave in the Confederate States of America, ending its longstanding peculiar institution of slavery. In fact President Lincoln’s proclamation had more to do with garnering the continued support of the Republican congress and swiftly ending the Civil war than actually freeing the slaves.
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Additionally, President Lincoln was not legally capable of freeing any enslaved person of the Southern states without Southern contrition to the directive. It is important to focus on the events that led to the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, the immediate effects, and the legal enforceability.
Tensions between Northern and Southern states were already high as Abraham Lincoln was sworn into office in March of 1862; addressing the slave-owning states directly Lincoln told them he would not interfere with the legal rights of the states. Lincoln, however, was very much against the spread of slavery into the newly forming states of the Union. By this time, seven slave holding states had seceded from the Union forming the Confederate States of America. Lincolns’ inaugural address was a plea for the secessionists to come back to the Union before all-out war began and to settle their issues in Congress with Constitutional laws. The Civil War begins with the Confederate attack on Union forces at Fort Sumner, South Carolina in April 1861. Almost immediately, Union commanders on the frontlines begin issuing their own proclamations that any local slave is property that can be confiscated from a rebellious faction under the laws of war. When Union Generals John C. Fremont and David Hunter proclaimed the slaves of Missouri and the Department of the South to be free; their orders were revoked by President Lincoln as being outside of the commander’s legal authority of the First Confiscation Act as to confiscation of property, and the liberation of slaves, is purely political, and not within the range of military law or necessity.”
Immediately, the President began to receive pressure from the Republican Party and the slave holding border states of the Union. The radical members of the Republican party wanted an immediate end to slavery. Meanwhile, the neutral states were holding to the guarantee of state’s rights under the Constitution. It was not a secret that President Lincoln was against slavery, however, he was against the use of federal force to remove the institution of slavery from the United States. He was very mindful to the fact that Kentucky, Missouri, West Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware were neutral in the war. These states held ground along the major arteries of the country and driving them to the Confederacy would hand over those access routes to the South.
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