Sunday, May 13, 2012

Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation

How Did the Emancipation Proclamation Effect the War?

                The ratification of the Emancipation Proclamation has put Abraham Lincoln at the top of a list of many Presidents that have truly changed America for the better.  On that cold, winter day of January 1st, 1863, Lincoln signed that document declaring the freedom of black slaves, but in the end, it truly did not free every slave.  Lincoln’s decision to only permit the freedom of slaves in the southern-occupied played a key strategic role for the Union subsequently after.  The Emancipation Proclamation did not come without a heavy price to pay from northern workers and soldiers.  At the same time, the Yankee win at Antietam did not come at a better time because Lincoln wished to implement this monumental decree after a solid Union victory to stop any foreign intervention.  Lincoln was true conservative in the ideology that he only wished to issue the freedom of slaves to preserve the United States because without it this would never be an achievable goal.  In the end, the Emancipation Proclamation changed the course of American history forever.

                Before one can truly discuss Lincoln’s decision for the freeing of African-American slaves, one must see where the discussion began.  Lincoln, as a Congressman in 1848, saw slavery as an important issue in American politics.  He wished to end slavery by slow and constitutional means.  “In the plan he put forward while a Congressman, in 1848, for emancipation in the District of Columbia, three factors were crucial: it had to be gradual, voluntary (it had to be approved by a referendum in the District), and compensated. But Lincoln's task, as war came, was to preserve the Union.”  Slavery had become a part of this nation’s past time, and so moving into the future, many political figures did not wish to approve of the idea of abolishing slavery.  During Lincoln’s presidency after the war had begun, he saw the freeing of slaves had given another initiative to fight and win the war.  It effectively tied slavery directly to the war.  The Emancipation Proclamation only brought freedom to those who were still under the control of the rebellious states of the South.  This was a politically savvy move for Lincoln who wished not to disturb the war effort of pro-slavery states that were under Northern control, but effectively confuse the Confederacy and hurt the South’s labor force.  "If the Proclamation of Emancipation was essentially a war measure, it had the desired effect of creating confusion in the South and depriving the Confederacy of much of its valuable laboring force.”(Franklin)  At the same time, it gave a new reason for northern crusaders to fight in the war effort, for many abolitionists sought out Judeo-Christian principles that came from Bible scriptures.  According to William Wolf, President Lincoln "told his callers many times that his concern was not to get God on his side, but to be quite sure that he and the nation were on God's side. An interview in June 1862 with a delegation from Iowa led by Congressman James Wilson threw more light on this point. It revealed again Lincoln's strong predestinarian conviction about God's will.”(Wolf)  At the same time, Lincoln also saw this opportunity as a way to gain more troops for the Northern cause.  By the end of the war, almost 200,000 freed blacks fought on the side of the Union army.  In the end, I saw Lincoln’s conversation with Reverend Elbert Porter as a very interesting one.  Lincoln compared the emancipation of slavery to the plan of getting rid of a cancerous tumor.  He told a story of three physicians all of which agreed that the tumor at some point needs to be removed.  “One wants to poultice it and sweat it and so evaporate it. Another is positive that it should be taken out at once, that it should be cut and pulled out, even at the risk of the patient's life. But the third doctor says, 'Gentlemen, I differ from you both as to the treatment proposed. My advice is to prepare the patient for the operation before venturing on it. He must be depleted and amount of his blood diminished.' Now, my opinion is that the third doctor is about right."(Lincoln)  The Emancipation of slavery in America, in the eyes of Lincoln, was a strategic way to increase Northern support of the war, increase the Union army,  effectively hurt the Confederate labor force and economy, and finally tie slavery to the fighting that was occurring throughout the country.

                Not only did the Emancipation Proclamation have a significant effect on America, but it played a significant role in foreign relations.  During the war, the South wished to obtain recognition from foreign powers such as England and France.  At the same time, Europe wished to prove that the American experiment in democracy would not last.  After the Trent Affair, tensions were high between the Union and foreign power England.  England was a key part of the southern economy because of the production of cotton on southern plantations was important to the textile industry in England.  Before the Battle at Antietam, the South as well as England saw one more Confederate victory as way of obtaining foreign recognition.  After the battle was won and Lee moved his troops back into Virginia, Lincoln saw this time as perfect opportunity to pass the Emancipation Proclamation.  Lincoln hoped that the decree would stop any foreign intervention, and in the end it did.  Before the Proclamation, most of England was split in half over the American Civil War as some sided with the Union while others were pro-slavery.  Henry Adams, the son of the U.S. Minister to London, wrote: "The Emancipation Proclamation has done more for us here than all our former victories and all our diplomacy. It is creating an almost convulsive reaction in our favor all over this country....Public opinion is very deeply stirred and finds expression in meetings, addresses to President Lincoln, deputations to us, standing committees to agitate the subject and to affect opinion, and all the other symptoms of a great popular movement peculiarly unpleasant to the upper classes here because it rests on the spontaneous action of the laboring classes."  At the same time though, some foreigners argued that the Emancipation Proclamation was merely and political action.  Much of Europe was upset over the fact that Lincoln did not abolish slavery completely, but only in a place where he had no power or jurisdiction over.  They saw that document merely as a way to sway public opinion in Europe, as well as increase the likelihood of a slave rebellion.  Looking back this move in hindsight, Lincoln’s move to implement the Emancipation Proclamation was a gutsy move on his part because England had strong economic ties to the South that could be hurt by the freeing of Southern black slaves, but in the end, it effectively stopped any foreign intervention during the war especially after Union victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg that only strengthened the notion that the Emancipation Proclamation was made only implemented to preserve the Union.

                Even though the Proclamation was seen as a ploy to stop foreign intervention, and way to tie the slavery to the war effort, much of the North saw the implementation of this document as a negative connotation.  Many northerners saw the freeing of Southern black slaves as a threat to jobs and way of life.  They feared that as blacks were freed from the grips of slavery, they would travel north and take the jobs of many new immigrants, who came to America for better work opportunities.  Northerners were increasingly put on edge because blacks could now take their jobs, but they were not subject to the same draft laws.  Many infuriated northerners took their opposition to the streets where many Colored Orphan Asylums and black neighborhoods were burned down killing over a hundred blacks, and injuring 300 more in the New York Riots of 1863.  In the end though, Lincoln was praised more than he was frowned upon by Northerners as a whole.  The Emancipation Proclamation brought new life to a war that was seen as merely brutal and bloody, especially after the pain and bloodshed that Antietam brought. 

                On that cold, first day of the year of 1863, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation could not have come at a more perfect time.  The tactic of tying slavery to the war proved to be a significant victory.  The document did more for the North than any previous military victory had done.  It effectively stopped any foreign intervention in the war because of the fact that slavery had been abolished in foreign countries such as England.  Foreign laborers sympathized for the Union effort to bring freedom to the enslaved blacks of the Confederacy even though the Union embargo of the South had really brought English textile mills to a screeching halt.  Even though many northerners saw the freeing of slaves as a threat to their job opportunities, Lincoln saw it as a way to preserve the nation, bring new life to this bloody engagement, prove that under the Constitution all men are created equal under God, and that the bloodshed lost during this war would make up for 200 years of bloodshed lost because of the ruthless evils of slavery. 


Works Cited
“Emancipation Proclamation.” PBS.  May 9 2012.
Jones, Shannon. “The Enduring Significance of the Emancipation Proclamation.”  2 June 2004. May 9 2012.
Guelzo, Allen C. “Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America.” Simon & Schuster. 2004
“Mr. Lincoln and Freedom.”  The Lincoln Institute. 2002-2012. May 9, 2012.
 “Emancipation Proclamation.” PBS.

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