Emancipation Proclamation

Purpose of the Proclamation

The proclamation did not reflect Lincoln's desired solution for the slavery problem. He continued to favor gradual emancipation, to be undertaken voluntarily by the states, with federal compensation to slaveholders, a plan he considered eminently just in view of the common responsibility of North and South for the existence of slavery. The Emancipation Proclamation was chiefly a declaration of policy, which, it was hoped, would serve as an opening wedge in depleting the South's great manpower reserve in slaves and, equally important, would enhance the Union cause in the eyes of Europeans, especially the British.

At home it was duly hailed by the radical abolitionists, but it cost Lincoln the support of many conservatives and undoubtedly figured in the Republican setback in the congressional elections of 1862. This was more than offset by the boost it gave the Union abroad, where, on the whole, it was warmly received; in combination with subsequent Union victories, it ended all hopes of the Confederacy for recognition from Britain and France. Doubts as to its constitutionality were later removed by the adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment.

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