What Led to the Emancipation Proclamation & 13th Amendment?

American Minute with Bill Federer

During the 1787 Constitutional Convention, the pro-slavery South wanted to count slaves so as to have a higher population so that they could have more representatives in Congress and more Presidential electoral votes, so they could expand slavery.

The anti-slavery North pushed through a compromise of only counting slaves as three-fifths of a person, thereby reducing the number of pro-slavery Congressman and pro-slavery electoral votes, and thereby limit slavery.

New lands were added to the U.S.:

-1803, Louisiana Territory, 827,987 square miles;
-1819, Florida, 72,101 sq. mi.;
-1845, Texas, 389,166 sq. mi.;
-1846, Oregon Territory, 286,541 sq. mi.;
-1848, Mexican Cession, 529,189 sq. mi.; and
-1853, Gadsden Purchase, 29,670 sq. mi.

Democrats wanted slavery in these new territories.

Democrat Senator Stephen A. Douglas pressured President Franklin Pierce to sign the Kansas-Nebraska Act on 1854.

This invalidated the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and made a way for new territories to come into the Union as slave states.

Opposition to Douglas’ Kansas-Nebraska Act launched a new political party – the Republican Party, and the political career of Abraham Lincoln.

Pro-slavery Democrats began flooding into the Kansas Territory in order to have it come into the Union as a slave state. Tensions broke out into bloody battles, giving rise to the name “Bleeding Kansas.”

Prior to the Civil War, America was divided into 5 categories:

1. Radical Northern Republicans: whose attitude was slavery is wrong–end it now.

They believed all human lives mattered, whether on or off a plantation, and all were equal, created in the image of God.

This group included abolitionists, the Underground Railroad, anti-slavery preachers, and, unfortunately, the fringe John Brown who shot at slave owners.

2. Moderate Republicans: whose attitude was that slavery is wrong but the country should transition out of it gradually over time.

3 Practical Neutral Voters: who cared little about the value of human life. They were more concerned about their pocketbook, jobs, wages, economy and tax-tariff issues.

4. Moderate Southern Democrats: whose attitude was slavery is wrong, but it was settled law and the nation should just live with it.

People should have the choice whether or not to own a slave–just treat your slaves nice.

5. Extreme Southern Democrats: whose attitude was slavery is good and should be expanded into new Territories and States.

They wanted Northerners who were morally opposed to slavery to be forced to participate in supporting it through the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.

Interestingly, these categories regarding the value of human life are similar to categories America is divided into today:

1. Pro-Life Republicans: whose attitude is abortion is wrong–end it now. They believe all human lives matter, whether in or out of a womb, and that all are equal, created in the image of God. There are also fringe “John Brown types” who shoot at abortion clinics.

2. Establishment Republicans: whose attitude is to reluctantly agree to a gradual limitation of abortions.

3. Practical Neutral Voters: who care little about human life. They avoid social issues, being concerned only about their pocketbook–“It’s the economy, stupid.”

4. Pro-Choice Democrats: whose attitude is that abortion is “settled law” and the nation should just live with it, just have it be “safe, legal, and rare.”

5. Extreme Democrats: whose attitude is that abortion is good and that it should be expanded though nationalized healthcare and global U.N. initiatives.

They support the harvesting and selling of aborted baby body parts, and insist on forcing those who are morally opposed to abortion to participate in supporting it, even suing Hobby Lobby and the Little Sisters of the Poor.

Ronald Reagan wrote in his article, “Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation,” The Human Life Review, 1983:

“Lincoln recognized that we could not survive as a free land when some men could decide that others were not fit to be free and should be slaves …

“Likewise, we cannot survive as a free nation when some men decide that others are not fit to live and should be abandoned to abortion.”

The Civil War started initially as a States’ Rights controversy, largely over tariff taxes on imports collected at Southern ports, over-burdening the southern economy — which unfortunately was dependent on slavery.

At the beginning of the Civil War, it appeared that the Confederate South would quickly win.

The North was in disarray. Lincoln faced draft riots, ruled by decree, enacted martial law and suspended the writ of habeas corpus — which allowed the Federal government to arrest anyone without a warrant.

Lincoln proclaimed his first Day of National Humiliation, Prayer, and Fasting, August 12, 1861:

“It is fit and becoming in all people at all times to acknowledge and revere the supreme government of God, to bow in humble submission to His chastisements, to confess and deplore their sins and transgressions

“in the full conviction that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and to pray with all fervency and contrition for the pardon of their past offenses … to humble ourselves before Him and to pray for His mercy — to pray that we may be spared further punishment, though most justly deserved …

“I do earnestly recommend to all the people … that the united prayer of the nation may ascend to the Throne of Grace.”

In 1862, Confederate forces defeated Union troops at the Second Battle of Bull Run, then crossed the Potomac River into Maryland.

On September 15, 1862, Confederates captured Harpers Ferry, taking over 12,000 Union prisoners.

The impressive Confederate drive was suddenly halted when Lee’s “Lost” Order No. 191 was inadvertently misplaced and found by Union troops on September 13, 1862.

This “Lost Order” revealed the Confederate plans, allowing the Union forces to gain an advantage at the Battle of Sharpsburg, Maryland.

The ensuing Battle of Antietam, September 17, 1862, was the bloodiest day of fighting in American history with over 23,000 casualties.

The North was able to quickly replace its ranks by drafting immigrants from the crowded northern cities, but the South was agricultural and did not have the population from which to draw new recruits.

The war became one of attrition.

Five days after the Battle of Antietam, September 22, 1862, Lincoln met with his cabinet to draft the Emancipation Proclamation.

Secretary of the Treasury Salmon Portland Chase recorded Lincoln as stating:

“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 last statement, Lincoln replied:

“I made a solemn vow before God, that if General Lee were driven back from Pennsylvania, I would crown the result by the declaration of freedom to the slaves.”

The Emancipation Proclamation stated:

“I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, by virtue of the power in me vested as Commander-in-Chief …

“do, on the FIRST DAY OF JANUARY, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three … publicly proclaim … that … persons held as slaves … are, and henceforward shall be, free …

“And I hereby enjoin upon the people so declared to be free to abstain from all violence … and … labor faithfully for reasonable wages …

“And upon this act … I invoke … the gracious favor of Almighty God.”

Nine-year-old Booker T. Washington remembered:

“There was more singing in the slave quarters than usual … Most of the verses of the plantation songs had some reference to freedom …

“Some man who seemed to be a stranger (a United States officer, I presume) made a little speech and then read a rather long paper — the Emancipation Proclamation …

“… After the reading we were told that we were all free, and could go when and where we pleased. My mother, who was standing by my side, leaned over and kissed her children, while tears of joy ran down her cheeks.

“She explained to us what it all meant, that this was the day for which she had been so long praying, but fearing that she would never live to see.”

Freedom was proclaimed to slaves in many Southern States on June 19, 1865, resulting in that date being celebrated annually as “Juneteenth.”

Internationally, the Emancipation Proclamation had the effect of giving the North the “moral high ground,” causing European support of the Confederacy to evaporate — as no country wanted to be perceived as supporting slavery.

Lincoln stated in his Second Annual Message, December 1, 1862.

“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 Emancipation Proclamation did not attempt to free slaves in Northern States as the North was not in rebellion. Lincoln had no legal ground to overrule the legitimate governments in those States.

With his skill as a lawyer, Lincoln was attempting a legal maneuver.

If the South was declared a “war-zone,” the President, acting in his war-time role as “Commander-in-Chief,” could issue an executive order in the states at war, and thus, his order would have the force of law in those states.

Congress saw the Emancipation Proclamation as an unconstitutional usurpation of power.

In fact, President Washington, in his Farewell Address, specifically warned against the executive usurping power in times of crisis:

“But let there be no change by usurpation; for though this, in one instance, may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed.

“The precedent (of usurpation) must always greatly overbalance in permanent evil any partial or transient benefit which the use can at any time yield.”

Though Lincoln considered his executive proclamation an “instrument of good,” it was deemed unconstitutional by Congress, so he worked another route.

Rather than ruling through executive orders and proclamations, Lincoln undertook to free the slaves using the proper constitutional means of passing the 13th Amendment.

An amendment required an enormous amount political effort, as 2/3’s of Congress needed to approve it. This was portrayed in Steven Spielberg’s movie, Lincoln (2012).

Lincoln proclaimed a second National Day of Fasting to be observed on April 30, 1863:

“We have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious Hand which preserved us … and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.

“Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us …

“Let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the Divine teachings, that the united cry of the nation will be heard on high and answered with blessings, no less than the pardon of our national sins and the restoration of our now divided and suffering country. “

Two days later, on May 2, 1863, Confederate soldiers shot one of their own best generals — Stonewall Jackson, as he was returning at twilight during the Battle of Chancellorsville.

Most Civil War historians hold that if Jackson had not been shot and was present at the Battle of Gettysburg two months later, the South may have won.

Lincoln then helped push through the Coinage Act of 1864, which placed the phrase “In God We Trust” on a two-cent coin.

The 13th Amendment to abolish slavery was passed in the U.S. Senate on April 8, 1864. All 30 Republican Senators voted in favor of it, joined by only 4 Democrats.

The U.S. House passed the 13th Amendment on January 31, 1865, with all 86 Republicans voting in favor, joined by 15 Democrats, 14 Unconditional Unionists, and 4 Union men.

Voting against the 13th Amendment were 50 Democrat Congressmen, joined by 6 Union men.

Though not necessary, Lincoln — the first Republican President — added his signature to the 13th Amendment after the words “Approved February 1, 1865.”

On March 2, 1865, Confederate General Robert E. Lee sent a message to Union General Ulysses S. Grant asking for a meeting.

On March 3, 1865, Lincoln established the Freedmen’s Bureau and signed the Act placing “In God We Trust” on all gold and silver coins.

Though Republicans were successful in their efforts to officially abolish slavery with the 13th Amendment, Democrats in Southern States passed Black Codes, Jim Crow Laws, and created racist vigilante organizations.

Republicans responded by enlarging the Federal Government’s power with the 14th Amendment in 1868 to ensure civil rights for freed slaves in the Southern States.

When Democrats enacted racial voting restrictions, Republicans countered by enacting the 15th Amendment in 1870, ensuring the right of freed slaves to vote.

These Amendments were “instruments of good,” nevertheless, they did have the unanticipated consequence of enlarging the Federal Government’s control over the States to an unprecedented degree.

Earlier in his career, at Independence Hall, Philadelphia, February 22, 1861, Lincoln shared his hopes that America would help inspire freedom in other countries of the world:

“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.”

Self-Educated American Contributing Editor, William J. Federer, is the bestselling author of “Backfired: A Nation Born for Religious Tolerance no Longer Tolerates Religion,” and numerous other books. A frequent radio and television guest, his daily American Minute is broadcast nationally via radio, television, and Internet. Check out all of Bill’s books here.