A full year into the Civil War the elimination of slavery was not yet a key objective of the North. Despite a vocal Abolitionist movement in the North, many people and many soldiers opposed slavery but did not favor emancipation. They expected slavery to die with time
By mid-1862 Lincoln had come to believe in the need to end slavery. He felt that the South could not come back into the Union after trying to destroy it. Many Republicans who backed policies that forbid black settlement in their states, were against granting blacks additional rights. When Lincoln told his cabinet in mid-1862 that he wanted to issue a proclamation of freedom, they convinced him to wait until the Union achieved significant military success.
The victory came in September at Antietam. By achieving victory, the Union demonstrated to the British that the south may lose. As a result, the British didn’t recognize the Confederate States of America, and Antietam became one of the war’s most important diplomatic battles. Five days after the battle, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, effective January 1, 1863. Unless the Confederate States returned to the Union by that day, he proclaimed their slaves "shall be then, thenceforward and forever free."
It’s sometimes said that Emancipation Proclamation freed no slaves. Lincoln emphasized emancipation as a way to shorten the war by taking Southern resources and reducing Confederate strength. Lincoln made no such offer of freedom to the border states.
The Emancipation Proclamation created a climate where the destruction of slavery was seen as one of the major objectives of the war. Overseas, the North seemed to have the greatest moral cause. Even if a foreign government wanted to intervene on behalf of the South, its population might object.
The Proclamation itself freed few slaves, but it was the death bell for slavery in the United States. Eventually, the Emancipation Proclamation led to the proposal and ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which formally abolished slavery throughout the land.
Source: Emancipation Proclamation
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