On September 22, 1862, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, issued the first, or preliminary, Emancipation Proclamation. In this document he warned that unless the states of the Confederacy returned to the Union by January 1, 1863, he would declare their slaves to be “forever free.” During the Civil War, he was fighting to save the Union and trying not to free the slaves. Lincoln was quoted to say, “I am not, nor have ever been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races.” The Emancipation Proclamation illustrated this view.
Lincoln had been unenthusiastic to come to this position. Not only did he believe he had no legal right to free slaves, but he also had no aspiration to do so. In 1858, during the Lincoln-Douglas debates, as a believer in white supremacy, Lincoln had stated that he did not intend to interfere with slavery where it existed. After war broke out on April 12, 1861, Lincoln declared that he would wage war to restore the Union and not destroy slavery. Lincoln feared that the freedom of slaves might lead to the secession of one or all of the “border states” where slavery was legal.
On January 1, 1963, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared all slaves in Confederate controlled areas liberated. The document contained specific details regarding freedom for slaves. Lincoln was quoted saying to the Secretary of State, “If I could save the Union without freeing any slaves, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it; and if I could do it by freeing some slaves, I would also do that.” The latter is what was attained. While it declared slaves free in most Southern states, some...