Tuesday, September 21, 2010

"Free at Last"

I have been on an almost month long hiatus, and for that I’m sorry. There really is no excuse except to say I’ve been busy and a bit lazy and become a bit more selective about the history I wish to select. This is probably something I should work on, but for now I’m breaking my silence with a post.

Initially I searched and found nothing of interest this week. But I think that was my lack of motivation talking, because when I went back I found something very interesting and very relevant to post about.

September 22, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln submitted his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.

Lets back up to the beginning of the war. Originally, the South seceded from the Union based on States Rights, not on Slavery like many think. Yes, the states rights ultimately linked back to slavery, but that was not the original argument.

Ultimately, it was the decision to secede from the Union to preserve slavery that killed slavery.

At the beginning of the war, President Lincoln emphasized the need to preserve the Union. Although he was against slavery, he knew his view was not widely shared. Many would think he was abusing his power as the president.

However, as the war continued, Lincoln was forced to consider several factors regarding slavery. First, as the Union moved into the South, the armies were bombarded by an increasing number of runaway slaves. This meant there needed to be a solution of what to do with the vast number of people. Also, slaves grew the majority of food supplying the Southern army. If the slaves were freed it would hurt the Southern Army.

For these reason, Lincoln’s policy on slavery shifted. Over time the issue of slavery expanded. In April 1862, slavery was prohibited in Washington D.C. In June of the same year slavery was prohibited in the western territories of the country.

And so, all these steps led to the Preliminary Emancipation announced on September 22, 1862. Lincoln announced that January 1, 1863 all areas controlled by the Confederate States of America were free. This meant if states surrendered to the Union, they would not have to give up their slaves.

Lincoln thought if he threatened slavery he could convince the Southern states to surrender, ending the war. This Emancipation did not free the slaves, since it did not go into effect until January 1, 1863. It also did not free the slaves in areas controlled by the Union, so all the northern and western states, and areas reclaimed by the Union in the south, like Tennessee and New Orleans. It wasn’t until the 15th Amendment was passed after the conclusion of the war that was slavery abolished universally across the United States.

The United States is the only country in history to fight to free its slaves. While the Emancipation Proclamation did not free all the slaves in the U.S., it did set the stage for the passing of the 15th Amendment. For this reason, it is an important event in United States history.

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