The Confederates won the Second Battle of Bull Run, crossed the Potomac River into Maryland and on September 15, 1862, captured Harper’s Ferry, taking over 12,000 Union prisoners.
The Confederate drive was halted outside the town of Sharpsburg, Maryland, at the Battle of Antietam, September 17, 1862, the bloodiest day of fighting in American history with over 23,000 casualties.
Five days later, September 22, 1862, Lincoln met with his cabinet to draft the Emancipation Proclamation, commenting:
“The time for the annunciation of the emancipation policy can no longer be delayed.
Public sentiment will sustain it, many of my warmest friends and supporters demand it, and I have promised God that I will do it.”
When asked about this, Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase wrote that Lincoln replied:
“I made a solemn vow before God, that if General Lee were driven back…I would crown the result by the declaration of freedom to the slaves.”
With the President having Commander-in-Chief powers during a war, and the South being a war-zone, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation to free slaves held in the States at war.
The Emancipation Proclamation did not free slaves held in the North as those States were not part of the rebellion and therefore Lincoln had no legal justification to overrule their State governments.
Some considered the Emancipation Proclamation an unconstitutional, dictatorial usurpation of power by the President.
Lincoln, therefore, undertook to have the 13th Amendment enacted through the proper legal process.
This required two-thirds of Congress to approve it, the effort of which was portrayed in the Steven Spielberg’s movie, Lincoln.
The nation was divided into 5 categories:
1. The Radical Republican North that said slavery is wrong – end it now.
2. The Moderate Republican North that said slavery is wrong – transition out of it orderly over time.
3. The Practical Neutral that only cared about the economy – jobs, tariffs and taxes.
4. The Moderate Democrat South that said slavery is wrong, but we have to live with it – just have it be rare and few, and treat your slaves nice.
5. The Extreme Democrat South that said slavery is good – let’s expand it into new States and force those in the North who are morally against slavery to participate in enforcing it through the Fugitive Slave Act.
In his Second Annual Message, DECEMBER 1, 1862, President Lincoln had written:
“In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free…
We shall nobly save – or meanly lose – the last, best hope of earth. Other means may succeed; this could not fail.
The way is plain…a way which if followed the world will forever applaud and God must forever bless.”
The Senate passed the 13th Amendment, April 8, 1864, with all 30 Republicans voting in favor, together with 4 Democrats.
The House passed the 13th Amendment, January 31, 1865, with all 86 Republicans voting in favor, together with 15 Democrats, 14 Unconditional Unionists, and 4 Union men. Voting against were 50 Democrats and 6 Union men.
Though not required, Lincoln, the first Republican President, added his signature to the 13th Amendment after the words “Approved February 1, 1865.”
Though slavery was abolished, Democrats in the South passed Black Codes and Jim Crow Laws, and created racial vigilante organizations.
Republicans responded by pushing to enlarge the Federal Government’s power with the 14th Amendment in 1868, ensuring civil rights for freed slaves; and the 15th Amendment in 1870, banning racial voting restrictions.
At Independence Hall, Philadelphia, February 22, 1861, Lincoln had stated:
“The Declaration of Independence gave liberty not alone to the people of this country, but hope to all the world for all future time.
It was that which gave promise that in due time the weights would be lifted from the shoulders of all men, and that all should have an equal chance…
This is the sentiment embodied in the Declaration of Independence…I would rather be assassinated on this spot than surrender it.”
William J. Federer is a nationally known speaker, best-selling author, and president of Amerisearch, Inc., a publishing company dedicated to researching America’s noble heritage.
To learn more about the author please visit William Federer