Painting of a Union soldier reading Lincoln's
Emancipation Proclamation to a slave family. The
January 1, 1863 President Lincoln
issued his Emancipation Proclamation. There are several
aspects which should be noted.
First, it was issued by Lincoln in his capacity as
Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy as a
"necessary war measure".
Secondly, when issued it did not immediately free a
single slave. This is because its application was
limited to those parts of North America which were still
under the control of the armed forces of the Confederate
States of America. It did not apply to those Slave
States, such as Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland and
Missouri which had not seceded from the Union, nor did
it apply to those parts of the Confederate States of
America (such parts of Virginia (which was later
admitted to the Union as West Virginia) and Florida)
which had been occupied by and remained under the
control of US forces at that date.
who come from countries with are ruled by tyrants,
dictators or despotic kings or sultans are unfamiliar
with our democratic system of government which is
governed by the rule of law. They wonder why
President Lincoln did not simply issue a decree (like
some tyrant, dictator, despotic king or sultan) freeing
the slaves in Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland and Missouri
which had not seceded from the USA.
limitations were necessary for constitutional
reasons. The President had no power to issue a
proclamation to emancipate slaves generally. Such
a measure would have been unconstitutional and at his
inauguration he had taken an oath to uphold the
Constitution. A decree purporting to free slaves
generally would have had no effect as the USA was, and
still is, governed by the rule of law. He could
only do so insofar as it could be categorized as a
"necessary war measure".
the previous year, Congress, on the initiative of the
President, passed legislation prohibiting slavery in the
US Territories (which, in due course, became States of
the Union) and provided for compensation of $300 a slave
for slave owners in the District of Columbia.
Because of the earlier Dred Scott decision of the US
Supreme Court, Congress had no power to abolish slavery
in the States.
its limited application, the Emancipation Proclamation
had two effects.
it disrupted the agricultural economies of those States
forming the Confederate States of America as slaves fled
second effect was even more important in effecting the
collapse of the Confederate States of America.
British government and the government of the Emperor
Louis Napolean in France had been very sympathetic to
the Confederate States of America, as it was in their
interests to have a weak USA.
Emancipation Proclamation and the emancipation of slaves
in the US Territories, however, cast the USA in
the role of the emancipator of slaves against the
pro-slavery Confederate States of America.
Jefferson Davis of the Confederate States of America
considered issuing an emancipation proclamation freeing
the slaves in the constituent States in order to woo the
British government and the French Empire whose support
was critical to its survival. This was, however,
opposed by the slave owners and their allies, who were
more concerned about the maintenance of slavery (and, if
possible, its extension to the new US Territories in the
West) than in preserving the fledging Confederate States
pursuing their own narrow sectional interests, the slave
owners delivered the fatal stab in the back to the
Confederate States of America and to the Army of North
Virginia, commanded by General Robert E Lee.
Lee, although personally opposed to slavery, had
relinquished a promising career in the US Army to fight
for his native Virginia.
USA, on the other hand, was able to portray itself as
the opponent of slavery and the Confederate States of
America as the supporter of the institution.
Public opinion in Great Britain and France sided with
the USA, and the British government, and the government
of the Emperor Louis Napolean followed suit.
had the consequence that the anticipated support from
the British Empire and the French Empire was not
forthcoming, and the Confederate States of America found
itself unable import or manufacture sufficient ships,
artillery and other heavy military equipment.
Demand for its exports (principally cotton)
declined. Its currency collapsed and it found it
difficult to obtain credit.
the support of the British Empire and the French Empire,
the two great maritime powers and industrial economies
at that time, it was only a matter of time before the
Confederate States of America collapsed, which it did on
9 April 1865 when General Robert E Lee surrendered to
General Ulysses S Grant at Appomattox. The
remaining Confederate armies surrendered later in that
14 April 1865 John Wilkes Booth shot President Lincoln
at Ford's Theatre. The President died from his
injuries early next day.