Emancipation Proclamation - Essay Sample

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Vanderbilt University
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Emancipation Proclamation document was issued by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863 as America entered the third year of civil war. Therefore, it became one of the most interesting documents in American history for what it did and what it did not do. While issuing the document, the president claimed that the government was committed to liberating the slaves in the rebel states as an act of justice to the enslaved persons. However, the questions that have emerged from the document include what the document was trying to achieve and whether it actually achieved its aim? These questions are going to be answered in the preceding section of this paper.

The Emancipation Proclamation aimed at freeing the slaves who were enslaved within the rebellious states as a strategy to help the Union win the civil war which was in its third year (National Archives, 2017). Although people have argued over the genuineness of the documents content regarding freeing the slaves it is important to note that it actually fulfilled its promise though not perfectly. For instance, when it took effect in January 1863, the documents directives that all the persons held as slaves within the rebellious states should be freed managed to free over 500,000 slaves (Franklin, 1965). Although freeing the slaves was also one of the strategies to winning the war, the documents directive managed to free many slaves which opened the door to the slaves volunteering to fight on the Unions side. The Emancipation Proclamation did not free slaves as directed but those slaves who escaped from the rebellious states were held as contraband within the Union with no guarantee that they would return to their masters; thus, henceforward freed (National Archives, 2017).

The Emancipation Proclamation was also limited in various ways; for instance, it applied only to the rebellious states, leaving slavery untouched in the states that fell within the Union (Franklin, 1965). Further, it did not apply in the Confederate states that had already joined the Union. Generally, the freedom of slaves documented in the Emancipation Proclamation depended solely on the success or victory of the Unions army. Although it did not end slavery in America it transformed the nature of war because after its effect in 1863 most of the Federal troops began to expand their domain of freedom.

Although the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 aimed at freeing the slaves held in slavery within the rebellious states, it was used as a war strategy to win over the civil war (National Archives, 2017). However, it did not achieve or accomplish the goal as by the end of the civil war over 3 million slaves were still enslaved. The reason behind the failure is the approach that exempted the states that fell within the Union to continue with slavery. The five-page document only managed to free runaway slaves that were provided under the national Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 (National Archives, 2017). The runaway slaves were provided with the support from the U.S government and declared that they would be paid wages for the labor they do.

To sum it up, though the Emancipation Proclamation issued in 1863 did not manage to free all the slaves in America it laid the groundwork for the abolition of slavery that took few more years after its effect. The few slaves that were freed helped others to fight for their freedom with the help of the 13th Amendment that later ensured that slavery was abolished in the United States.


Franklin, J. H. (1965). The emancipation proclamation. Edinburgh: University Press.

National Archives (2017). The Emancipation Proclamation. Online Exhibits. Retrieved from https://www.archives.gov/exhibits/featured-documents/emancipation-proclamation

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