The Martin Pollins Blog

History, economics, business, politics…and Sussex

What was it?
The anti-slavery movement originated during a period called the Age of Enlightenment[1], and focused on ending the trans-Atlantic slave trade. In Colonial America, a few German Quakers issued the 1688 Germantown Quaker Petition Against Slavery, which marked the beginning of the American abolitionist movement. Before the Revolutionary War, evangelical colonists were the primary advocates for the opposition to slavery and the slave trade, doing so on humanitarian grounds. James Oglethorpe, the founder of the colony of Georgia, originally tried to prohibit slavery upon its founding, a decision that was eventually reversed.

President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on New Year’s Day 1863, announcing: “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious areas “are, and henceforward shall be free.” It was in the 2nd year of the Civil War, which had been raging for 17 months, with the third year looming. Officially, the document’s title is Proclamation 95.[2]

On 22nd September 1862, partly in response to the heavy losses inflicted at the Battle of Antietam, President Abraham Lincoln issued a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, threatening to free all the enslaved people in the states in rebellion if those states did not return to the Union by 1st January 1863. The extent of the Proclamation’s practical effect has been debated, as it was legally binding only in territory not under Union control. In the short term, it amounted to no more than a statement of policy for the federal army as it moved into Southern territory[3].

Francis Bicknell Carpenter’s painting of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863.
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Why did the Emancipation Proclamation not end slavery?
The Proclamation didn’t end slavery because it was a military measure and was limited in many ways. It applied only to states that had seceded from the Union, leaving slavery untouched in the loyal border states. It also expressly exempted parts of the Confederacy that had already come under Union control[4].

The Proclamation changed the legal status of more than 3.5 million enslaved African Americans in the secessionist Confederate states from enslaved to free. As soon as the slaves escaped the control of their enslavers, either by fleeing to Union lines or through the advance of federal troops, they were permanently free.[5]

Ironically, under the Emancipation Proclamation, Abraham Lincoln only tried to free slaves where the Union had no control – and, depending on one’s perspective – no legal authority while leaving slavery untouched where the Union had control and unquestioned legal authority.[6]

Proclamation Text
The opening words are:
“Whereas, on the twenty-second day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two, a proclamation was issued by the President of the United States, containing, among other things, the following, to wit:

“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 designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.

“That the Executive will, on the first day of January aforesaid, by proclamation, designate the States and parts of States, if any, in which the people thereof, respectively, shall then be in rebellion against the United States; and the fact that any State, or the people thereof, shall on that day be, in good faith, represented in the Congress of the United States by members chosen thereto at elections wherein a majority of the qualified voters of such State shall have participated, shall, in the absence of strong countervailing testimony, be deemed conclusive evidence that such State, and the people thereof, are not then in rebellion against the United States.”

Picture Credit:The Proclamation of Emancipation by the President of the United States, to take effect January 1st, 1863” by President Abraham Lincoln, American, 1809 – 1865 is marked with CC0 1.0.

The full text of the Emancipation Proclamation (preliminary dated 22nd September 1862, and final dated 1st January 1863), issued by President Abraham Lincoln, president of the United States of America, can be found at: It also includes information and articles about the Emancipation Proclamation during the American Civil War. The Proclamation included the abolition of slavery as one of the purposes of the Civil War, freeing slaves in rebel states, allowing them to join the Union Army and provided an enduring Symbol of Equality.

The five-page original document[7] was held in the National Archives Building. Until 1936, it had been bound with other proclamations in a large volume held by the Department of State.

The Proclamation was directed to all of the areas in rebellion and all segments of the executive branch (including the Army and Navy) of the United States[8]. It proclaimed the freedom of enslaved people in the ten states in rebellion[9]. Even though it excluded areas that were not in rebellion, it still applied to more than 3.5 million of the 4 million enslaved people in the country.

Around 25,000 to 75,000 slaves were immediately emancipated in those regions of the Confederacy where the US Army was already in place. Naturally, it could not be enforced in the areas still in rebellion, but gradually as the Union army took control of Confederate regions, the Proclamation provided the legal framework for the liberation of more than three and a half million enslaved people in those regions by the end of the war.

The Emancipation Proclamation outraged white Southerners and their sympathisers, who saw it as the beginning of an out-of-control ethnic conflict. It energised abolitionists and undermined those Europeans who wanted to intervene to help the Confederacy.[10]

The Proclamation lifted the spirits of African Americans both free and enslaved; it led many to escape from their masters and get to Union lines to obtain their freedom and join the Union Army.[11]/[12] The Emancipation Proclamation became an historic document because it “would redefine the Civil War, turning it from a struggle to preserve the Union to one focused on ending slavery, and set a decisive course for how the nation would be reshaped after that historic conflict.”[13]

The 13th Amendment
The Emancipation Proclamation was never challenged in court. To ensure the abolition of slavery in all of the US, President Lincoln also insisted that Reconstruction plans for Southern states require them to enact laws abolishing slavery (which occurred during the war in Tennessee, Arkansas, and Louisiana).

President Lincoln encouraged border states to adopt abolition (which occurred during the war in Maryland, Missouri, and West Virginia) and pushed for the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment. The Senate passed that Amendment by the necessary two-thirds vote on 8th April 1864; the House of Representatives did so on 31st January 1865, and the required three-fourths of the states ratified it on 6th December 1865. The Amendment made slavery and involuntary servitude unconstitutional, “except as a punishment for crime.”[14]

Freedom Day
In the mid-20th century, Major Richard Robert Wright Sr., born into slavery and freed after the Civil War, believed that there should be a day when freedom for all Americans is celebrated. Wright invited national and local leaders to meet in Philadelphia to make plans to designate 1st February as an annual memorial to the signing of the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution by President Abraham Lincoln on this date. The Amendment freed all US slaves.[15] One year after Wright’s death in 1947, both houses of the US Congress passed a bill to make 1st February National Freedom Day. The holiday proclamation was signed into law on 30th June 1948 by President Harry Truman.

Freedom day is held on the 1st of February every year and commemorates the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which ended slavery in the United States. The day is marked with a ceremony at the Liberty Bell. The Liberty Bell gained iconic importance when abolitionists, in their efforts to end slavery throughout America, adopted it as a symbol.

A picture containing bell, object, outdoor, music

Description automatically generated
Attribution: Tony the Misfit on Flickr, CC BY 2.0 <;, via Wikimedia Commons
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The Liberty Bell
The location of the Bell is Liberty Bell Center, Market Street & 6th, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was originally Cast at Whitechapel Foundry, London, in 1752. The Liberty Bell is mostly copper and tin. It is 3 feet (91 centimetres) high and 12 feet (3.7 metres) around the base. It weighs about 2,080 pounds (943 kilograms).

On July 8, 1776, popular legend says the Liberty Bell rang to symbolise America’s independence from Great Britain[16]. The Pennsylvania Assembly had the Liberty Bell made in 1751 to mark the 50-year anniversary of William Penn’s 1701 Charter of Privileges, which served as Pennsylvania’s original Constitution. The Bible verse on the Bell says: “Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.”[17]

The bell was originally known as the State House Bell. In the late 1830s, it acquired the name of the Liberty Bell when it became a symbol of the anti-slavery movement.

Sources and Further Reading

Picture Credit: 13th Amendment” by is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Picture Credit:Photograph of Abraham Lincoln, colorized” by is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

  1. The ‘Age of Enlightenment’ was an intellectual and philosophical movement that dominated Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries with global influences and effects. The Enlightenment included a range of ideas centered on the value of human happiness, the pursuit of knowledge obtained by means of reason and the evidence of the senses, and ideals such as liberty, progress, toleration, fraternity, constitutional government, and separation of church and state. Sources: (1) The Age of Enlightenment: A History From Beginning to End: Chapter 3″., and (2) Conrad, Sebastian (1 October 2012). “Enlightenment in Global History: A Historiographical Critique”. The American Historical Review. 117 (4): 999–1027. doi:10.1093/ahr/117.4.999. ISSN 0002-8762.
  2. Source:
  3. Source:
  4. Source:
  5. Source:
  6. Source:
  7. See:
  8. Source: Brian R. Dirck (2007). The Executive Branch of Federal Government: People, Process, and Politics. ABC-CLIO. p. 102. ISBN 978-1851097913. The Emancipation Proclamation was an executive order, itself a rather unusual thing in those days. Executive orders are simply presidential directives issued to agents of the executive department by its boss.
  9. Source: The Emancipation Proclamation”. United States National Archives and Records Administration. 6th October 2015.
  10. Source: Allan Nevins, Ordeal of the Union, vol. 6: War Becomes Revolution, 1862–1863 (1960) pp. 231–41, 273
  11. Source: Jones, Howard (1999). Abraham Lincoln and a New Birth of Freedom: The Union and Slavery in the Diplomacy of the Civil War, p. 151. University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 0-8032-2582-2.
  12. During the American Civil War, the Union Army, also known as the Federal Army and the Northern Army, referring to the United States Army, was the land force that fought to preserve the Union of the collective states. It proved essential to the preservation of the United States as a working, viable republic. The Union Army was made up of the permanent regular army of the United States, but further fortified, augmented, and strengthened by the many temporary units of dedicated volunteers as well as including those who were drafted in to service as conscripts. To this end, the Union Army fought and ultimately triumphed over the efforts of the Confederate States Army in the American Civil War. Source:
  13. Source: Emancipation Proclamation”. January 6, 2020.
  14. Source: The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution”. The Library of Congress.
  15. Sources: (1) Pennsylvania: Life and Times of Major Richard Robert Wright, Sr. and the National Freedom Day Association”, and (2) “125 Influential People and Ideas: Richard Robert Wright Sr”. Wharton Alumni Magazine.
  16. Source:
  17. Taken from Leviticus 25:10

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