A Collaborative Project
Library of Congress Manuscript Division
Studies Center, Knox College
Almost from the beginning of his administration, Lincoln was pressured by
abolitionists and radical Republicans to issue an Emancipation Proclamation. In
principle, Lincoln approved, but he postponed action
against slavery until he believed he had wider support from the American Public.
The passage of the Second Confiscation Act by Congress on July 17, 1862, which freed the slaves
of everyone in rebellion against the government, provided the desired signal.
Not only had Congress relieved the Administration of considerable strain with
its limited initiative on emancipation, it demonstrated an increasing public
abhorrence toward slavery.
already drafted what he termed his "Preliminary Proclamation." He read his
initial draft of the Emancipation Proclamation to Secretaries William H. Seward
and Gideon Welles on July 13, 1862. For a moment, both Secretaries were
speechless. Quickly collecting his thoughts, Seward said something about anarchy
in the South and possible foreign intervention, but with Welles apparently too confused to respond, Lincoln let the matter
Brett (A.) & Co. Abraham Lincoln.
N.Y. Jones & Clark [186?].
Congress, Stern Collection, Rare Book and Special Collections
Nine days later, on July 22, Lincoln raised the issue in a regularly
scheduled Cabinet meeting. The reaction was mixed. Secretary of War Edwin M.
Stanton, correctly interpreting the Proclamation as a military measure designed
both to deprive the Confederacy of slave labor and bring additional men into the
Union Army, advocated its immediate release. Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase
was equally supportive, but Montgomery Blair, the Postmaster General, foresaw
defeat in the fall elections. Attorney General Edward Bates, a conservative,
opposed civil and political equality for Blacks but gave his qualified support.
Fortunately, President Lincoln only wanted the advice of his Cabinet on the
style of the Proclamation, not its substance. The course was set.
The Cabinet meeting of September 22, 1862, resulted in the political and literary
refinement of the July draft, and on January 1, 1863, Lincoln composed the final Emancipation
Proclamation. It was the crowning achievement of his administration.
The original autograph was lost in the Chicago fire of 1871. Surviving photographs of
the document show it primarily in Lincoln's own hand. The superscription and
ending are in the hand of a clerk, and the printed insertions are from the