The Emancipation Proclamation Freed the Slaves

The Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves.

Don’t Believe That!

Abraham Lincoln’s exact views on slavery and are still much debated. The Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 was an executive order from Lincoln that enabled a large number of slaves to escape their captors but it did not make slavery illegal, and did not even apply to the entire United States!

Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. This proclamation is generally remembered today as the end of slavery in the U.S. but its wording and purpose is more complex. As it was issued as a war measure, it only applied to the Southern states that were in rebellion during the Civil War – another myth is that only Southerner’s held slaves but in fact many Union civilians and military officers were slave owners. The proclamation did not change the status of Northern slaves whatsoever.

What the Emancipation Proclamation said was that any enslaved person in the South would become legally free if they were able to escape the confederate government and make it to the North. The real reason for this executive order may be much less noble than history remembers – it was quite possibly intended solely to cripple the South’s economy. As Lincoln said in his 1858 debate with Stephen Douglas: “I have no purpose directly or indirectly to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists…”

The horrible practice of slavery did not officially end in the U.S. until the thirteenth amendment was passed in 1865.


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