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The Emacipation Proclamation

The Emacipation Proclamation

Medium: Print On Paper

Shelfmark: C_160_c_4_(1)_f001r

Scale: Millimetres

Genre: Printed Text


While Lincoln had stood for election as an opponent of slavery, he believed that early emancipation could risk the secession of Border States. However, by 1862 he came to the view that the abolition of slavery was vital to the preservation of the Union. Wanting to issue an abolition order from a position of strength, he waited until Union victory at the Battle of Antietam before announcing the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation on 22 September.

Appealing to strategic necessity, the final Emancipation Proclamation, issued on 1 January 1863, freed all enslaved peoples in the Confederate territories and allowed Union officers to enlist them. This applied to over three million slaves. Approximately 800,000 slaves in Union-held territory and the Northern states were only freed by the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865.

A draft copy of the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation survives in manuscript and is kept at the New York State Library in Albany, NY. No draft copy of the final Proclamation survives.

Above is a detail of an edition of the Emancipation Proclamation signed by Lincoln and his two secretaries, William Seward and John George Nicolay. It was printed and sold in aid of the Philadelphia Great Central Sanitary Fair in June 1864, a soldiers’ relief charity. Known as the Leland-Boker proclamation, only 48 were printed, and are now mostly in institutional hands, including the British Library. They are treasured as the only surviving signed copies of the Proclamation.

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