Abraham Lincoln and the abolition of Slavery
Abraham Lincoln was a staunch abolitionist although he was not free of prejudice. In order to win over the majority of the public, Lincoln, at his inaugural address in 1861, vowed not to interfere with the institution of slavery. Contrary to present belief, the general public in the North approved of this attitude. However, at the same time, Lincoln set forth an idea to purchase all 4 million slaves (at a cost of between one-half billion to 2 billion dollars) and also to colonize them abroad. Such an economically unreasonable suggestion was unnecessary as events paved the way for true emancipation without financial compensation.
On the outbreak of the Civil War, it was recognized that the slaves represented a military support advantage to the South. Lincoln reasoned that, if given a chance, these slaves may be willing to join the Northern armies, giving the advantage to the North. In addition, some action against the continuation of slavery would cause England and France to reevaluate their sympathies more in favor of the North.
Lincoln broke his vow and determined to issue a proclamation on January 1, 1863 freeing those slaves in areas of the South which were in active rebellion with the North. In all other areas of the South, the slaves were not freed by the Proclamation.
Although Lincoln had no legal right to issue such a proclamation and indeed the affected states ignored it, nearly 180,000 slaves responded and joined the Northern armies! Jefferson Davis's Counter Emancipation Proclamation**, answers Lincoln by calling for increased men, supplies, patriotism and devotion to meet the new threat.
The military success of the Emancipation Proclamation fueled the abolitionist movement and the proclamation, almost in spite of itself, became a fresh expression of one of man's loftiest aspirations -- the quest for freedom.
The advance toward full emancipation was now inexorable, much to Lincoln's delight. The "death blow to human bondage was sealed" two years later "by the ratification of the 13th Amendment" *---- The Emancipation Proclamation Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
The fight to extend and legalize Lincoln's Proclamation was not easy. In fact, a resolution proposing it as an Amendment to the Constitution failed in the House of Representatives in April, 1864 by a vote of 95 to 66. Arguments against the resolution included "poor timing", "a double insult to the South", and possible "bankruptcy of the South". However after an appeal by Lincoln, the resolution was reconsidered and passed by a count of 119 to 56 on January 31, 1865.
The final passage in the House of Representatives was met with wild acclaim. Both the spectators in the galleries and the members of the House sprang to their feet and, regardless of parliamentary rules, applauded, cheered, clapped their hands and waved hats and handkerchiefs.
On February 1, 1865 Abraham Lincoln signed several copies of this Joint Resolution......much to the consternation of the Congress. Not only was the President's signature not necessary for approval but his insistence on signing it could set a precedent for future Congressional Resolutions. The Senate immediately passed a further resolution reasserting a 67-year-old Supreme Court ruling against Presidential signatures on such measures.
The Emancipation Proclamation Amendment was then sent to the States for ratification and on December 18, 1865, the great document became law.
*(Quote) Encyclopedia Britannica
**also preserved at the Karpeles Manuscript Library