Why is the Emancipation Proclamation Important?

emancipation-proclamation-1The importance of the Emancipation Proclamation was such that a lot of people consider it the most critical that President Abraham Lincoln made. First issued in 1862, it marked the beginning of the end of slavery in United States.

What the Proclamation Meant

The directive is usually taken to mean that all the slaves were set free. The truth is that it is a bit more complex. The first one was released on September 22 1862. It stated that all the slaves in the Southern states that didn’t go back to the Union would be freed. On January 1 1863, Lincoln issued another one. This time he specified the states that were covered by the decree.

Effect on the Civil War

The importance of the Emancipation Proclamation is that it altered the cause and reasons for the Civil War. At the onset, it was about the Union’s attempt to bring the Confederates back into the fold.

With the proclamation, things changed. The directive meant that the slaves in the South had the legal basis to leave. Many left the South and headed to the North. The Confederates ignored the order. They argued that they were no longer part of the Union. Therefore it follows that Lincoln’s decree no longer had any effect. Because the South refused to follow orders, the objective for the Union was to free the slaves.

Weakening the South

The importance of the Emancipation Proclamation was also felt in the battlefield. The slaves didn’t actually fight for the South, but they helped in factory work, preparing the uniforms and food. When word came out that they were free, they deserted en masse.

This weakened the South’s war efforts considerably. While it demoralized the South, it had the opposite effect on the North. Not only were they fighting for the preservation of the Union, but for liberty. It gave the soldiers a noble cause to fight for.

Politically it also made a huge impact. At the onset, European countries were supportive of the South’s move for independence. However the proclamation changed all that. Both France and the UK had declared slavery illegal. The importance of the Emancipation Proclamation is that it became impossible for them to go against the Union that wanted slavery outlawed.

Freeing All the Slaves

At the end of the war, President Lincoln moved for the freedom of slaves in all states. In 1865, this amendment was ratified by Congress. In the years following the declaration, it became a time of celebration among the blacks.

Through the years the decree has become the subject of debate. Some have argued that it was nothing more than a hollow decree meant to win support. Real racial reforms were never implemented and that racial intolerance was still widespread.

However, most historians still believe in the importance of the Emancipation Proclamation. It was not perfect, and it didn’t free all of the slaves at once. However it was a vital step that eventually led to their acceptance into mainstream society.

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