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The Emancipation of Slaves
Civil War Encyclopedia >> Politics
March 2, 1861 The U. S. Congress passes a proposed 13th Amendment stating that the Congress will not abolish or interfer with slavery where it exists. The amendment is never ratified.
August 30, 1861 John C. Fremont declares martial law in Missouri and frees slaves of Missouri Confederates. Missouri
  John C. Fremont
September 11, 1861 President Lincoln orders John C. Fremont to rescind his order freeing some slaves in Missouri and issue a new order conforming to the Confiscation Act passed by Congress Missouri
  Abraham Lincoln
  John C. Fremont
  Committee on the Conduct of the War
May 9, 1862 General David Hunter [US] frees the slaves in South Carolina, Georgia and Florida
May 19, 1862 Lincoln rescinds David Hunter's emancipation of the slaves in his department and uses the opportunity to call for a gradual emancipation
  Abraham Lincoln
July 12, 1862 Abraham Lincoln writes a letter to the Congressmen from the border states, warning them of his upcoming Emancipation Proclaimation. In it he states, "I do not speak of emancipation at once, but of a decision at once to emancipate gradually."
  Emancipation Proclamation
July 13, 1862 Abraham Lincoln reads a draft of the Emancipation Proclaimation to Secretary of State William Seward and Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, both strong abolitionists. Seward begins talking about the problems it will cause. Welles sits there dumbfounded
  Emancipation Proclamation
  William Seward
July 17, 1862 Congress passes the Second Confiscation Act, or The Confiscation Act of 1862. This allows for confiscation of property from people who participate in the war
July 22, 1862 President Lincoln presents his Emancipation Proclaimation to his Cabinet. William Seward recommends waiting until a victory to present it to the public.
  Abraham Lincoln
  William Seward
  Emancipation Proclamation
  Salmon P. Chase
September 22, 1862 Following the preemptive strike at Antietam President Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing slaves in states or portions of states still in rebellion on January 1, 1863
  Abraham Lincoln
  Emancipation Proclamation
January 1, 1863 The Emancipation Proclamation goes into effect
  Emancipation Proclamation
  Emancipation Proclamation (Full Text)
January 11, 1864 The 13th Amendment (ending slavery) to the Constitution is proposed by Senator John B. Henderson of Missouri. Missouri
April 8, 1864 By a vote of 38 to 6, the U. S. Senate approves the 13th Amendment and sends it to the states for ratification
January 31, 1865 The 13th Amendment is passed by the U. S. House
December 2, 1865 Alabama ratifies the 13th Amendment, the 27th state to do so Alabama
December 18, 1865 The 13th Amendment, which abolishes slavery except as a form of punishment, is proclaimed
December 29, 1865 William Lloyd Garrison publishes the last issue of The Liberator. His goal of the "extermination of chattel slavery" had been met.

The Emancipation of Slaves

What is emancipation? Slavery was the act of one person owning another. When an owner set free his own slave, the act was known as manumission. Emancipation referred to the act of freeing slaves by a third party, a legal entity other than the owner. Emancipation and abolition are not interchangeable words. Abolition refers to the act of making slavery illegal. For example, many northern states abolished slavery but did not emancipate existing slaves.

Prior to 1760, most anti-slavery sentiment in the United States was disorganized. The Quakers became the first large group to openly object to slavery. In 1777 the state of Vermont banned slavery within the state, but allowed for gradual emancipation of slaves.

Although the word slave does not appear in the U. S. Constitution, the concept was a source of hot debate and many compromises. It is referred to in Article I, Article IV and Article V, defining representation and taxes, a rudimentary Fugitive Slave Law, and disallowing amendments to change the Constitution's pro-slavery wording before 1808. While many northern representatives were already against slavery, they accepted the document as written because the United States was rapidly moving toward anarchy under the Articles of Confederation.

Among slavery's staunchest supporters at the Constitutional Convention were John Rutledge of South Carolina and George Mason of Virginia. They fought to have the "Three Fifths" Rule embodied in the Constitution. This rule regards the apportionment of taxes and representation in the House of Representatives.

In the industrialized North, anti-slavery laws were being proposed and slowly were gaining acceptance in the state houses. When the constitutional ban on the importation of slaves began on January 1, 1808, most of the northern states outlawed new slaves but existing slaves could be held. In fact, by the start of the Civil War, slaves still existed in every state of the Union.

Early emancipation movements favored the concept of either gradual emancipation or compensated emancipation. Gradual emancipation was a wide-ranging term, but most commonly applied as current slaves would continue in servitude, but children born after a certain date would be free. Compensated emancipation had the government, in essence, buying slaves from slaveholders. The concept of immediate emancipation was set forth by William Lloyd Garrison in the Liberator. This called for the immediate freeing of the slaves with no compensation.

By the Election of 1856 the abolitionist Republican Party came close to taking the presidency, in spite of the fact that their candidate, John C. Fremont, did not appear on the ballots in southern states. James Buchanan was elected as a minority president. The Republican Party's abolitionist stance included the emancipation of existing slaves, unlike the earlier abolition stance of the northern states.

After the South seceded, Congress tried to lure them back into the United States with a proposed 13th amendment allowing states to have "domestic institutions" that could not be overruled by law. Had it been ratified, this could have seriously set back the cause of emancipation of slaves.

By July, 1862, emancipation was on every Republican mind. Lincoln had been working for weeks on a document he called the Emancipation Proclamation while Congress was hammering out the Second Confiscation Act. On July 12 Lincoln wrote a letter to the Congressmen of the border states, telling them of a plan to gradually emancipate the slaves. The Congress was nearing adjournment and Lincoln did not want these men to find out about his Emancipation Proclamation in the newspapers.

On the next day, Lincoln read his Emancipation Proclamation to two loyal abolitionists, William Seward and Gideon Welles. Seward began outlining what he saw as problems with the proposal. On July 17, Congress passed the Second Confiscation Act, which emancipated the slaves of anyone working in support of the Southern government, including the military. On July 22, Lincoln read his Emancipation Proclamation to his cabinet. This called for universal emancipation in any territory still in rebellion on January 1, 1863, but did not free slaves in territory taken by the United States prior to that date.

Lincoln used his powers as commander-in-chief to justify the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, but most legal scholars agree that the President exceeded his authority under the Constitution. Slavery was legal in the United States until the ratification of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which made the practice illegal except as a form of punishment.

Links appearing on this page:

Election of 1856
Emancipation Proclamation
January 1
January, 1863
John C. Fremont
July 12
July 17
July, 1862
South Carolina
William Seward

Civil War Encyclopedia >> Politics

The Emancipation of Slaves was last changed on - January 2, 2008
The Emancipation of Slaves was added on - December 31, 2006

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