President Abraham Lincoln’s declaration of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 earned him the title the “Great Emancipator.” The Emancipation Proclamation was a dry, legalistic document that was limited in nature but took on enormous symbolic importance.
Lincoln proposed the Emancipation Proclamation in July of 1862 to his cabinet, offering a preliminary version to the public in September. The September proclamation warned Confederates that he would free their slaves if they did not end their rebellion. On January 1, 1863, Lincoln did just that-the Emancipation Proclamation declared that on January 1,” all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.”
Lincoln actually issued the Emancipation Proclamation twice. Abraham Lincoln issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation on September 22nd, 1862. It stipulated that if the Southern states did not cease their rebellion by January 1st, 1863, then Proclamation would go into effect. When the Confederacy did not yield, Lincoln issued the final Emancipation Proclamation on January 1st, 1863.
The Emancipation Proclamation led the way to total abolition of slavery in the United States. With the Emancipation Proclamation, the aim of the war changed to include the freeing of slaves in addition to preserving the Union. Although the Proclamation initially freed only the slaves in the rebellious states, by the end of the war the Proclamation had influenced and prepared citizens to advocate and accept abolition for all slaves in both the North and South. The 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery in the United States, was passed on December 6th, 1865.
The effect of the Emancipation Proclamation was to free only slaves in states still in rebellion. Slaves in states that had not seceded or that had been brought under Union control (Tennessee and parts of Louisiana and Virginia) were not affected. The move was politically risky for Lincoln, who knew he might lose the 1864 election by alienating Northern Democrats who wanted to save the Union but did not necessarily support abolition.