Lincoln’s Efforts to Emancipation of Slaves

In the spring of 1862, Lincoln recommended that the US government should work with any state plan to eventually emancipate slaves and look for ways to compensate slave owners. His plan was to have the emancipation efforts run for a decade, but the Border States, where slaveholding was common, were against these claims. However, with the nation at war, Lincoln had to plead for support from congressional delegations from the Border States to support his policy, but his efforts failed, with only one state, the District of Colombia, adopting a law to for the payment of utmost $300 per freed slave. Earlier in his campaign, Lincoln had suggested an appropriation of $100,000 to assist freed slaves to travel to Haiti and Liberia. He suggested that freed slaves could be colonized in different parts of the world as a way of ending slavery. During the summer of 1862 as the war continued, Lincoln contemplated the possibility of issuing an executive order for rebel states to free slaves. After going back and forth with drafts and plans for the emancipation proclamation, on September 22, 1862, five days after the Union victory at Antietam, Lincoln issued a preliminary proclamation. Ultimately, on January 1, 1863, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation requiring all slaves within any state to be freed.

When the Civil War started, most blacks from the north rushed to help, but they were rejected and barred from joining the Union army based on various baseless claims. However, a change of policy came in October 1861 when the secretary of war authorized the enlisting of fugitive slaves on a need basis. In May 1862, the services of armed blacks could not be overlooked further and General David Hunter enlisted first former slaves into the First South Carolina Volunteer Regiment, but it was disbanded immediately with the President’s order. However, in August 1862, the Union army was in great need of help from all quarters, and on the 25th day of the same month, Lincoln ordered the reconstruction of General David Hunter’s regiment, effectively marking the first group of black troops in the Civil War. By the end of the war, over 186,000 blacks had enlisted in the Union army. At the same time, blacks in the South had also been enrolled in the Confederate army. With time, black commissioners rose in the Union army ranks to head units made of black soldiers. However, black soldiers were not treated as equals with their white counterparts in the Union army, but after numerous protests, some equality started being experienced in 1864 with the War Department’s decision to grant equal pay to all soldiers.

The involvement of blacks in the war disrupted slavery in the south. Stronger patrol laws were passed to ensure that slaves were kept under check. However, despite these laws, slaves continued to escape to the Federals in North Carolina. Even those that remained under slavery continually became insolent towards their masters, by refusing to take orders and perform some duties. The Emancipation Proclamation has emboldened slaves and thus slave owners lived in constant fear of an uprising. Even the passage of impressment laws, by the Confederate Congress, did not woo slaves to remain under slavery. The victory of the Union army in 1865 was a personal victory to President Lincoln and it marked the end of slavery with the ratification of the 13the Amendment to the Constitution in December of the same year.


Franklin, H. J., & Higginbotham, E. B. (2011). From slavery to freedom: A History of African Americans (9th ed.). McGraw Hill.

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