"Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."
Constitution of the United States
The Emancipation Proclamation together with the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights are considered to be the four greatest documents in history relating to human freedom.
The Question of Slavery had been a major difficulty for the United States since the Declaration of Independence declared that "all men were created equal with rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" . The agonizing debate to include these inalienable rights into the Constitution continued throughout the writing of the Constitution and then throughout the drafting of the Bill of Rights. The final failure to include them tempered the greatness of these momentous documents.
The political philosophy of freedom, liberty and equality as set forth by our founding fathers of our great country is certainly paradoxical, considering that by the mid 1800's we were the only major country in the world allowing 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.
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.
Lincoln had no legal right to issue such a proclamation, and indeed the affected states ignored it. However, the slaves, themselves, did not ignore it and nearly 180,000 slaves responded and found their way to join the Northern armies!
Jefferson Davis's Counter Emancipation Proclamation (Also preserved at the Karpeles Manuscript Library) answers Lincoln by calling for increased men, supplies, patriotism and devotion to meet this 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.