Lead Story

22-09-1862

Lincoln issues his first Emancipation Proclamation

On this day in 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issues his first Emancipation Proclamation, which sets a date for the freedom of more than 3 million black slaves in the Confederated States and recasts the Civil War as a fight against slavery. When the Civil War broke out in 1861, shortly after Lincoln's inauguration as America's 16th president, he maintained that the war was about restoring the Union and not about slavery. He avoided issuing an anti-slavery proclamation immediately, despite the urgings of abolitionists and radical Republicans, as well as his personal belief that slavery was morally repugnant. Instead, Lincoln chose to move cautiously until he could gain wide support from the public for such a measure.

In July 1862, Lincoln informed his cabinet that he would issue an emancipation proclamation but that it would exempt the so-called border states, which had slaveholders but remained loyal to the Union. His cabinet persuaded him not to make the announcement until after a Union victory. Lincoln's opportunity came following the Union win at the Battle of Antietam in September 1862. On 22 September, the president announced that slaves in areas still in rebellion within 100 days would be free. On 1 January, 1863, Lincoln issued the second and final Emancipation Proclamation, which declared "that all persons held as slaves" within the rebel states "are, and henceforward shall be free."

The proclamation also called for the recruitment and establishment of black military units among the Union forces. An estimated 180,000 African Americans went on to serve in the army, while another 18,000 served in the navy. After the Emancipation Proclamation, backing the Confederacy was seen as favouring slavery. It became impossible for anti-slavery nations such as Great Britain and France, who had been friendly to the Confederacy, to get involved on behalf of the South.

The proclamation also unified and strengthened Lincoln's party, the Republicans, helping them stay in power for the next two decades. The proclamation was a presidential order and not a law passed by Congress, so Lincoln then pushed for an antislavery amendment to the U.S. Constitution to ensure its permanence. With the passage of the 13th Amendment in 1865, slavery was eliminated throughout America (although blacks would face another century of struggle before they truly began to gain equal rights). Lincoln's handwritten draft of the final Emancipation Proclamation was destroyed in the Chicago Fire of 1871. Today, the original official version of the document is housed in the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

Also on this Day

< Full Calendar

1955

ITV launches in London

It’s TV With an Extra I

If you’re anything like me (and I sincerely hope you are) then you will get unduly excited when you think of Brian the Robot, that talking meerkat thing or that monkey that sells tea. Yes, I love commercials. And commercials (and their fantastic mascots) became a reality on this day in 1955 when ITV (or ITA as it was known back then) was born.... Read more >

< Full Calendar

1980

Iran-Iraq War

Long-standing border disputes and political turmoil in Iran prompt Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to launch an invasion of Iran's oil-producing province of Khuzestan. After initial advances, the Iraqi offense was repulsed. In 1982, Iraq voluntarily withdrew and sought a peace agreement, but the Ayatollah Khomeini renewed fighting. Stalemates and the deaths of thousands of young Iranian conscrip... Read more >

< Full Calendar

1945

Battle of Okinawa ends

During World War II, the U.S. 10th Army overcomes the last major pockets of Japanese resistance on Okinawa Island, ending one of the bloodiest battles of World War II. The same day, Japanese Lieutenant General Mitsuru Ushijima, the commander of Okinawa's defense, committed suicide with a number of Japanese officers and troops rather than surrender. On April 1, 1945, the 10th Army, under Lieuten... Read more >

< Full Calendar

1828

Shaka Zulu assassinated

Shaka, founder of the Zulu Kingdom of southern Africa, is murdered by his two half-brothers, Dingane and Mhlangana, after Shaka’s mental illness threatened to destroy the Zulu tribe. When Shaka became chief of the Zulus in 1816, the tribe numbered fewer than 1,500 and was among the smaller of the hundreds of other tribes in southern Africa. However, Shaka proved a brilliant military organizer... Read more >