On September 22nd, 1862, Abraham Lincoln announced a new policy that would come to define his presidency.
Per his Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, he made it known to the states in rebellion 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 states, wherein the constitutional authority of the United States shall not then be practically recognized, submitted to, and maintained, shall then, thenceforward, and forever, be free.”
One-hundred days later, on New Year’s Day, Lincoln made good on his word. In the years since Lincoln’s momentous decree, some have criticized it, claiming that it only declared freedom for slaves in areas where the Union couldn’t free any slaves. In truth, on the very day it went into effect, the Proclamation freed as many as 50,000 slaves in regions that, despite being under Union control, Lincoln had “forgotten” to exempt. What’s more, with a stroke of his pen, Lincoln transformed the Union Army into an army of liberation. Wherever the United States flag went, freedom would follow in its wake.
– P. Sicher