There is no doubt that original texts of legislative proposals and proclamations remain the most credible sources for individuals interested in the history of their countries. Among the brightest events related to American history in the second half of the nineteenth century, it is necessary to single out the appearance of the Emancipation Proclamation that was signed by Abraham Lincoln at the beginning of 1863.
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As for the back story of the document, it is important to mention that there were two proclamations touching upon the current social status of enslaved people in the United States. Thus, three months before the discussed event, the President issued a decree that proclaimed freedom for enslaved individuals living in territories where the laws of the United States had no power (Williams, 2014). Therefore, the first Proclamation changed the lives of slaves only in those states where people did not want to find a compromise with the Union. Obviously, the initiative and the President himself were criticized due to the fact that slavery could not be eliminated even with the implementation of this decision.
The second Proclamation that was signed at the beginning of 1863 was aimed at defining other rules in accordance with which it was planned to change the social position of enslaved individuals. Nowadays, slavery is regarded as the relic of the past that presented severe violations of human rights, and it is rather difficult to imagine that slavery was a kind of the accepted norm. Having reviewed the original text of the Emancipation Proclamation dated 1863, it is possible to state that Abraham Lincoln made a few statements that fully explain the meaning of the entire document and proclaim the new order. Beginning his speech, Abraham Lincoln touches upon the background of the Proclamation, reminding citizens of the fact that the decision was made more than three months ago.
Having expressed his determination to change the lives of enslaved people in North America for the better, Abraham Lincoln provides a full list of territories in the state of insurrection. Thus, as is clear from the primary source, among the territories where the Proclamation was supposed to come into operation, there were ten states. At the same time, the government headed by Abraham Lincoln could not completely eliminate slavery on the entire territories of certain states; for instance, in the case of Virginia, more than forty counties on that territory were excluded due to the political conflicts that could not be overcome at that point.
Apart from defining the states where slaves will become independent citizens, Abraham Lincoln provides a range of recommendations aimed at stabilizing the situation in these states after the adoption of the new order. Thus, the President informs former slaves about the readiness of the government and the military establishment of the United States to protect their right to freedom. Among other things mentioned in the Emancipation Proclamation, the President warns former slaves against demonstrating deviant social behavior due to being freed. Therefore, he makes an attempt to inform the oppressed social group about the downside of freedom – a greater degree of responsibility.
In such a manner, the President recommends former slaves to avoid committing illegal acts and attacking other people. Nonetheless, the exception is made for the cases when self-protection is necessary. Importantly, the President also states that the armed forces of the United States can help those former slaves who demonstrate a willingness to have the appropriate lifestyle and serve the country. According to the statement, these people could become a part of the army. As is clear from the statements, it was an attempt of the President to integrate former slaves into the society and defuse a conflict of two cultures: the culture of oppressed people who may want to requite the wrongs and the culture of white people who have lost one of the sources of their economic stability.
To sum it up, the significance of the Emancipation Proclamation is obvious as it can be regarded as one of the key steps to meet equality and justice for people belonging to different races. In terms of the short-term consequences of the Proclamation, it needs to be noted that thousands of slaves were given the new legal status even though the Proclamation was criticized by many people. In general, the process of emancipation of black people was gradual, and the government has managed to avoid significant growth in crime rates conducted by former slaves.
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Even though the Proclamation was outlining the points of the primary significance for enslaved people, a range of modern researchers acknowledge that Abraham Lincoln was not sincere while delivering his speech. Supporting this point, Schwartz (2015) states that a lot of evidence proves Lincoln’s willingness to renege on emancipation to turn back the tide of the situation and prevent further disintegration in the country.
The author also mentions that even the allies of the President were expressing their concerns about the underlying assumptions and possible outcomes of the Proclamation. Despite the range of opinions on the real nature of the Proclamation, it is clear that it remains a special event for those Americans whose forefathers were unhappy to be slaves.
Schwartz, B. (2015). The Emancipation Proclamation: Lincoln’s many second thoughts. Society, 52(6), 590-603.
Williams, F. J. (2014). Lincoln’s hundred days: The Emancipation Proclamation and the War for the Union by Louis P. Masur. Civil War History, 60(1), 86-88.