1 to 5 p.m.
Past, Present, and Future Significance
Free to the Public
Eric Foner - Author The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery (2010), winner
of the Pulitzer Prize, the Bancroft Prize, and the Lincoln Prize. Previous works include Slavery
and Freedon in Nineteenth-Century America (1994); Reconstruction: America's Unfinished
Revolution, 1863-1877 (1988); and Nothing but Freedom: Emancipation and Its Legacy (1983).
Foner is DeWitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia University and has served as president
of the Organization of American Historians, the American Historical Association, and the
Society of American Historians.
Edna Greene Medford - Co-author of The Emancipation Proclamation: Three Views (2007);
edited and introduced the two-volume The Price of Freedom: Slavery and the Civil War (2000);
directed New York’s African Burial Ground project. Medford is Professor of History and Chair
of the Department of History at Howard University and serves as a member of the Board of the
Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation and the Lincoln Forum Board of Advisors.
Lucas Morel - Author of Lincoln's Sacred Effort: Defining Religion's Role in American Self-
Government (2000) and Ralph Ellison and the Raft of Hope: A Political Companion to "Invisible
Man" (2004). Morel is Lewis G. John Term Professor of Politics at Washington & Lee
University and serves as Chair of the Abraham Lincoln Institute Executive Committee and
member of the Board of the Abraham Lincoln Association.
Special Appearance by Frederick Douglass
Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, September 22, 1862.
The Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation was signed by President Lincoln on September 22, 1862. It declared that on January 1, 1863, “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; and the executive government of the United States, will, including the military and naval authority thereof, recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.” President Lincoln stated that he made this proclamation as “President of the United States, and Commander-in-chief of the Army and Navy thereof….” He believed that the constitutional authority of the President as Commander-in-chief gave him the lawful power to free the slaves in rebel territory when the action was “an indispensable necessity.” Explaining his decision later, Lincoln said, “I felt that measures, otherwise unconstitutional, might become lawful, by becoming indispensable to the preservation of the constitution, through the preservation of the nation.” The Preliminary Proclamation “called attention” to recent Acts of Congress that had paved the way for the President’s action under his authority as Commander-in-chief. A change in the articles of war governing the conduct of Union military and naval personnel had prohibited the returning of fugitive slaves to their owners. The Second Confiscation Act had freed “all slaves of persons who shall hereafter be engaged in rebellion…or who shall in any way give aid or comfort thereto.” However, the “lawful owner” of a fugitive slave could retain ownership by making an oath in a civilian court that the owner “has not borne arms against the United States in the present rebellion, nor in any way given aid and comfort thereto….” By emancipating all slaves in rebel territory, President Lincoln sought to eliminate the possibility left open by Congress that slave owners in Confederate-controlled territory could keep their slaves by claiming loyalty to the Union. He did, however, promise to recommend that citizens who “remained loyal” should, after victory and national reunion, “be compensated for all losses by acts of the United States, including the loss of slaves.” The Preliminary Proclamation did not apply to “slave-states, so called, the people whereof may not then be in rebellion against the United States.” These included any Confederate states that would re-join the Union before January 1, the four states that had remained within the Union (Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, Delaware) and one new state that had been formed to join the Union (West Virginia). For these states the Preliminary Proclamation pledged that the President would recommend to Congress the monetary compensation of states which “may voluntarily adopt, immediate, or gradual abolishment of slavery within their respective limits.” President Lincoln also promised “that the effort to colonize persons of African descent with their consent upon this continent, or elsewhere, with the previously obtained consent of the Governments existing there, will be continued.” President Lincoln did not repeat these commitments on
compensation and colonization in his final Emancipation Proclamation.
Emancipation Proclamation, January 1, 1863
As promised, President Lincoln signed the final Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. It began with a more specific statement of his authority as Commander-in-chief “in time of actual armed rebellion against authority and government of the United States, and as a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing said rebellion….” It next defined the states and portions of states then under rebel control to which the Proclamation applied.
President Lincoln then declared, “And by virtue of the power, and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and Parts of States, are, and henceforth shall be free; and that the Executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons.”
The final Proclamation added a provision intended to allay concern about the statement in the Preliminary Proclamation that Union military would “do no act to repress” emancipated slaves “in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.” Critics feared the possibility of unrestrained violence against civilian slaveholders. In response the final Proclamation stated, “And I hereby enjoin upon the people so declared to be free to abstain from all violence,
unless in necessary self-defence; and I recommend to them that, in all cases when allowed, they labor faithfully for reasonable wages.”
An important addition in the final Proclamation addressed the role of freed slaves in the military. President Lincoln announced, “And I further declare and make known, that such persons of suitable condition, will be received into the armed service of the United States to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service.”
The final sentence was added after President Lincoln discussed the draft Proclamation with his Cabinet. Lincoln concluded, “And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God.