Text of Lincoln's Proclamation

[Issued January 1, 1863]

By the President of the United States of America:

A PROCLAMATION.

Whereas on the 22nd day of September, A.D. 1862, a proclamation was issued by the President of the United States, containing, among other things, the following, to wit:

"That on the 1st day of January, A.D. 1863, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.

"That the executive will on the 1st day of January aforesaid, by proclamation, designate the States and parts of States, if any, in which the people thereof, respectively, shall then be in rebellion against the United States; and the fact that any State or the people thereof shall on that day be in good faith represented in the Congress of the United States by members chosen thereto at elections wherein a majority of the qualified voters of such States shall have participated shall, in the absence of strong countervailing testimony, be deemed conclusive evidence that such State and the people thereof are not then in rebellion against the United States."

Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, by virtue of the power in me vested as Commander-In-Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States in time of actual armed rebellion against the authority and government of the United States, and as a fit and necessary war measure for supressing said rebellion, do, on this 1st day of January, A.D. 1863, and in accordance with my purpose so to do, publicly proclaimed for the full period of one hundred days from the first day above mentioned, order and designate as the States and parts of States wherein the people thereof, respectively, are this day in rebellion against the United States the following, to wit:

Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana (except the parishes of St. Bernard, Palquemines, Jefferson, St. John, St. Charles, St. James, Ascension, Assumption, Terrebone, Lafourche, St. Mary, St. Martin, and Orleans, including the city of New Orleans), Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia (except the forty-eight counties designated as West Virginia, and also the counties of Berkeley, Accomac, Morthhampton, Elizabeth City, York, Princess Anne, and Norfolk, including the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth), and which excepted parts are for the present left precisely as if this proclamation were not issued.

And by virtue of the power and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States and parts of States are, and henceforward shall be, free; and that the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons.

And I hereby enjoin upon the people so declared to be free to abstain from all violence, unless in necessary self-defence; and I recommend to them that, in all case when allowed, they labor faithfully for reasonable wages.

And I further declare and make known that such persons of suitable condition will be received into the armed service of the United States to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service.

And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind and the gracious favor of Almighty God.

Footnotes

  1. After Lincoln’s monumental announcement, slaves in the South reacted to the news of emancipation in a variety of ways. Despite the hope inspired by the Emancipation Proclamation, it was not yet obvious that the North would win the war. Still, many slaves took action. Some rebelled against their masters; others ceased their labor. Some fled North to safety or to join the Union Army. Some slaves were worried about these enormous shifts; it was not certain that they would find security as free citizens, given their lack of education and training. All in all, the effects of the Emancipation Proclamation decidedly favored the North. With large numbers of slaves abandoning their labors and joining the Union efforts, the balance of power leaned further toward the North.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  2. In this paragraph, Lincoln states his plan to enlist freed slaves in the Union Army. This plan would have a twofold effect: the newly freed slaves would receive employment; and the Union Army would receive a much-needed replenishment of soldiers and workers. At the time, the idea of allowing black Americans to serve in the military was unprecedented. This paragraph thus extends the range of rights granted to slaves beyond mere freedom.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  3. With the widespread freeing of Southern slaves, there arose the threat of violent rebellions among slaves. In the wake of the Emancipation Proclamation, some Southerners even accused Lincoln of trying to incite violence. In some cases, these accusations were well founded, and certain slaves did rebel against their owners. However, Lincoln foresaw such violence and attempted to prevent it in this paragraph by “enjoin[ing] upon the people so declared to be free to abstain from all violence, unless in necessary self-defense.”

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  4. The Emancipation Proclamation has become a foundational text—and a foundational moment—in the American Civil Rights movement. It marked the first major victory in the continuing effort to provide equal rights to black Americans. In his seminal “I Have a Dream” speech of 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. began by referring to Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, then in its centennial year. King remarked on the importance of Lincoln’s address, but he emphasized the enormous work left to be done.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  5. In this paragraph, Lincoln lists the specific areas in which emancipation would take effect. The lists consists of the ten Confederate states which had officially seceded from the Union. Because the proclamation functioned as a war measure, however, the list excludes the parishes and counties within those ten states which were loyal to the Union or were occupied by Union troops. Those exceptions were to be left “precisely as if this proclamation were not issued,” which is to say that slavery would continue in those areas for the time being. Also excluded were the four “border” states, which Lincoln hoped to appease. All together, these various exclusions meant that 830,000 of the 4 million slaves in the South would remain slaves.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  6. While the Emancipation Proclamation was issued by unconventional means, slavery was soon fully abolished. The aims of the proclamation—namely the liberation of slaves—was eventually codified by Congress as the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution in January of 1865, shortly before the end of the Civil War.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  7. Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation through unconventional means and under unusual circumstances. Lincoln’s intent was to alter the nation’s laws on slavery. One obstacle to such change was slavery’s legality under the US Constitution, whose rulings may only be shaped by acts of Congress. Lincoln’s solution was to issue the proclamation through the powers granted to him as commander in chief during a time of war. Lincoln emphasizes his own authority in issuing the proclamation in order to strengthen its effects.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  8. Lincoln heeded Seward’s appeal to deliver the proclamation after a military victory. The president unveiled the preliminary proclamation shortly after the Union defeated the Confederacy at the Battle of Antietam in September of 1862. This initial proclamation was partly a military move: Lincoln’s intention was to frighten the Confederacy with the looming threat of emancipation. His address offered Confederate states the opportunity to rejoin the Union and thereby avoid the eventual consequences of emancipation.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  9. In July of 1862, Lincoln had completed a draft of the Emancipation Proclamation and showed in to his cabinet. William Seward, the secretary of state at the time, thought it wise to refrain from delivering the proclamation until after the Union had scored a decisive victory in battle. Seward felt that the proclamation should be announced from a position of strength rather than weakness, and that it ought to be presented as a genuine stand for American values rather than as a calculated move to assist the Union war effort.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  10. Lincoln opens the Emancipation Proclamation by quoting himself. On September 22nd, 1862, Lincoln delivered a preliminary version of the Emancipation Proclamation, announcing to the Confederacy his intention to free all Southern slaves at the start of 1863. This document, the second and final Emancipation Proclamation, represents the fulfilment of Lincoln’s intentions.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  11. The Emancipation Proclamation arrived after Lincoln and his administration had worked for two years to end slavery, passing a series of legislations which progressed the agenda of abolition. The first tangible steps occurred in August of 1861, when the US Congress—at that point the Union Congress—enacted the Confiscation Act, a law which allowed the Union Army to take any Confederate property that could be of military use. Slaves counted as Confederate property, and so Union soldiers were able to seize slaves from their Southern owners and bring them to Confederate camps, where the slaves were given work. Further laws passed in March and July of 1862 intensified the effects of the Confiscation Act. These laws protected the slaves from the threat of being returned to their former owners and granted them full freedom and the right to serve in the Union Army.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  12. The participle “warranted” refers to an act that has been approved, justified, or sanctioned by a governing body or authority. Lincoln concludes his proclamation by again emphasizing that the Constitution allows him this power. This move not only achieves his aim to emancipate the slaves but also invokes the authority of the US Constitution.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  13. Lincoln has to state specifically that the Executive Government of the United States, with the power of the military, can enforce the freedom granted to the slaves in those states. This proclamation is not enforceable unless it has been authorized by Congress; however, Lincoln uses his power to conduct the military in times of war to enforce his proclamation in the states that are actively rebelling. In stating this, he enforces his proclamation by clarifying the power that he does possess under the Constitution. By leveraging his power as commander in chief, Lincoln was able to free a significant number of slaves and pave the way for the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  14. The adjective “countervailing” derives from the verb “to countervail,” which means that something is equivalent to another in value or that one force has been balanced against another. Since it modifies the noun “testimony,” Lincoln is stating that without strong evidence against their allegiance to the Union, such states are not considered in rebellion. The inclusion here of the parenthetical phrase “in the absence of strong countervailing testimony” possibly serves as an appeal to particular audience members who would have sought evidence of treason.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  15. The noun “wit” refers to the faculty of the mind, or someone’s ability to think, reason, and understand. The verb form here introduces Lincoln’s previous proclamation in order to inform audiences that they ought to be aware of the context in which the final Emancipation Proclamation will be issued.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  16. Originally, the noun “proclamation” referred to a formal order publically issued by a legal authority. Later, it acquired a more general use, referring to an authoritative declaration. In the United States, presidents frequently make proclamations, which are either ceremonial or substantive. Notably, without the authorization of Congress, a presidential proclamation is not enforceable by law with the exception of war time and the president’s role as commander in chief. These circumstances allowed Lincoln to circumvent Congress and make this proclamation.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor