The Emancipation Proclamation was an executive order issued by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863, as a war measure during the American Civil War, to all segments of the Executive branch (including the Army and Navy) of the United States. It proclaimed the freedom of slaves in the ten states that were still in rebellion, thus applying to 3.1 million of the 4 million slaves in the U.S. at the time. The Proclamation was based on the president's constitutional authority as commander in chief of the armed forces it was not a law passed by Congress.
Of course we now know that slavery as it was understood in the 19th century lasted up until the officiating of the Emancipation Proclamation, or slaves, or now newly pronounced African Americans were given their freedom, and their struggle assumes a new direction in attempting to gain equality for themselves. This is a struggle which continues today, and is not much less controversial. Nevertheless, for historical purposes, I should like to further attempt to dissect events as they existed at that time. Slavery was a practice which was much favored by the South. In the North, Americans were more industrial oriented, and had little use for slaves. They could afford to be more moralistic about the issue. However, when it came to the land owners and Americans who lived in the Southern part of a very young country, that was America, they were highly preoccupied with their agrarian lifestyle. It is a fact that even George Washington and Thomas Jefferson had slaves as did many of the forefathers of the new country. It is also true that many of these individuals had children with their Black slaves, and although it is similarly a matter of historical record that they did free their slaves, if not while they were alive, in their Last Will and Testament. What this means is that slavery was an issue of economics to the South, and a moral dilemma for those Americans who lived in the North. By the mid-1850 the spirit of accommodation had all but vanished. Northern interest in Emancipation pushed by abolitionists, eroded relations between families North and South. William Lloyd Garrison's liberator was the extremist voice of abolitionism, calling for immediate emancipation of the slaves by extralegal means if necessary. As the Northern anti-slave movement changed its tactics from direct political action - for example, a tax on slavery in the state legislature - to general moral condemnation of all Southerners, Southern attitudes began to set. In the early 1830's the South had claimed the largest number of anti-slavery societies; by the mid-1850 all such societies were north of Mason Dixon Line. From an uneasily mood over slavery, Southerners evolved a "positive good" philosophy and argued that slave owners provided shelter, food, care, and regulation for a race unable to compete in the modern world without proper training. To a large extent, this is what the Civil War which culminated was all about.
What was Abraham Lincoln's role in this? Mr. Lincoln is sometimes claimed as an example of a ready-made ruler. But no case would be less in point, for, besides that he was a man of such fair mindedness as is always the raw material of wisdom, he had in his possession a training precisely the opposite of that to which a partisan is subjected. His experience as a lawyer compelled him not only to see that there is a principle underlying every phenomenon in human affairs, but that there are always two side to every question, both of which must be fully understood in order to understand either and that is of greater advantage to an advocate to appreciate the strength than the weakness of his antagonist's position. No doubt slavery was the most delicate and embarrassing with which Mr. Lincoln was called upon to deal, and it was one which no man in his position, whatever his belief, could evade; for, though he may withstand the clamor of partisans, he must sooner or