#17 on the list of 150 Most Teachable Lincoln Documents

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“In pursuance of the sixth section of the act of congress….”

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On This Date

HD Daily Report, July 22, 1862

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First draft emancipation
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How Historians Interpret

“To justify so momentous a step, Lincoln decided not to appeal to the idealism of the North by denouncing the immorality of slavery. He had already done that eloquently and repeatedly between 1854 and 1860.  Instead, he chose to rely on practical and constitutional arguments which he assumed would be more palatable to Democrats and conservative Republicans, especially in the Border States.  He knew full well that those elements would object to sudden, uncompensated emancipation, and that many men who were willing to fight for the Union would be reluctant to do so for the liberation of slaves.  To minimize their discontent, he would argue that emancipation facilitated the war effort by depriving Confederates of valuable workers.  Slaves might not be fighting in the Rebel army, but they grew the food and fiber that nourished and clothed it.  If those slaves could be induced to abandon the plantations and head for Union lines, the Confederates’ ability to wage war would be greatly undermined.  Military necessity, therefore, required the president to liberate the slaves, but not all of them.  Residents of Slave States still loyal to the Union would have to be exempted, as well as those in areas of the Confederacy which the Union army had already pacified.  Such restrictions might disappoint Radicals, but Lincoln was less worried about them than he was about Moderates and Conservatives.”

Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (2 volumes, originally published by Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008) Unedited Manuscript By Chapters, Lincoln Studies Center, Volume 2, Chapter 27 (PDF), pp. 2993-2994


“On July 22 his advisers did not immediately realize that they were present at a historic occasion.  The secretaries seemed more interested in discussing Pope’s orders to subsist his troops in hostile territory and schemes for colonizing African-Americans in Central America, and they had trouble focusing when the President read the first draft of his proposed proclamation.  The curious structure and awkward phrasing of the document showed that Lincoln was still trying to blend his earlier policy of gradual, compensated emancipation with his new program for immediate abolition.  It opened with an announcement that the Second Confiscation Act would go into effect in sixty days unless the Southerners ‘cease participating in, aiding, countenancing, or abetting the existing rebellion.’  The President then pledged to support pecuniary aid to any state—including rebel states—that ‘may voluntarily adopt, gradual abolishment of slavery . . . At the outset of the meeting the President informed the cabinet that he had ‘resolved upon this step, and had not called them together to ask their advice, but to lay the subject-matter of proclamation before them,’ and the discussion that followed was necessarily rather desultory . . . Reluctantly Lincoln put the document aside.  Shortly afterward, when Sumner on five successive days pressed the President to issue his proclamation, Lincoln responded, ‘We mustn’t issue it till after a victory.'”

—David Herbert Donald, Lincoln (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995), 365-366


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In pursuance of the sixth section of the act of congress entitled “An act to suppress insurrection and to punish treason and rebellion, to seize and confiscate property of rebels, and for other purposes” Approved July 17. 1862, and which act, and the Joint Resolution explanatory thereof, are herewith published, I, ABRAHAM LINCOLN, President of the United States, do hereby proclaim to, and warn all persons within the contemplation of said sixth section to cease participating in, aiding, countenancing, or abetting the existing rebellion, or any rebellion against the government of the United States, and to return to their proper allegiance to the United States, on pain of the forfeitures and seizures, as within and by said sixth section provided.
And I hereby make known that it is my purpose, upon the next meeting of congress, to again recommend the adoption of a practical measure for tendering pecuniary aid to the free choice or rejection, of any and all States which may then be recognizing and practically sustaining the authority of the United States, and which may then have voluntarily adopted, or thereafter may voluntarily adopt, gradual abolishment of slavery within such State or States—that the object is to practically restore, thenceforward to be maintained, the constitutional relation between the general government, and each, and all the states, wherein that relation is now suspended, or disturbed; and that, for this object, the war, as it has been, will be, prosecuted. And, as a fit and necessary military measure for effecting this object, I, as Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, do order and declare that on the first day of January in the year of Our Lord one thousand, eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any state or states, wherein the constitutional authority of the United States shall not then be practically recognized, submitted to, and maintained, shall then, thenceforward, and forever, be free.
Emancipation Proclamation as first sketched and shown to the Cabinet in July 1862.