The great Sun Tzu one said that the “The Supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” Many centuries later Abraham Lincoln used this tactic to defeat the Southern States by issuing the Emancipation Proclamation. In 1860, 11 states wanted to withdraw from the union that is the United States. These seceding states came together to form the confederate states. Secession was caused by sectionalism, protectionism, territorial crisis, slavery, Lincoln’s election and states’ rights. Eventually, secession led to the civil war where the North together with President Lincoln fought against the South. Lincoln did not want the seceding states to leave the Union and he also did not want to grant the southern states the right to own and use slaves because he felt that it would give the southern states economic power and political control.
This issues of political control system and economics of slavery thus led to the civil war. As aforementioned the civil war was fought to prevent secession and for the moral issue of slavery. The Southern states wanted to take slaves to the western states. They were also using the same slaves to help them in fighting the war. The civil war continued for three years to 1863 which was a long time. The confederate states were persistent is wanting to secede so they could retain their rights tow own slaves. One of the powers of the powers of the seceding states were slaves that they used for free labor in their fields, ensuring white men were free to fight in the war. Black slaves also served in the confederate camps as servants to the militants. Realizing that slaves were a source of strength for the Southern states, and that the civil war would continue, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation to not only free slaves but also to weaken the confederate states and end the civil war and consequently secession.
One of the key issues during the civil war was state rights. Southern states wanted to use their authority over the federal in order to abolish laws they did not support. One of these laws included the right of the southern states to keep slaves and do with them what they liked (Peacock, 2003). The reason southern states did not want to lose slaves was because slaves provided free labor. Slavery was during a time when machines could not do most of the farm work. Southern plantation owners needed the slaves to work in their farms like machines. At that time, similar to this times, production equaled to profits. The more a farmer produced, the more money they made. Therefore, out of greed and the need to maximize on profit and production, Southern states wanted to keep slaves.
Apart from greed and maximizing on profits, the confederate states felt that they were bringing in more money than other states on their own, they could have had more economic power than as part of the union. According to history.com, as a separate nation, the confederacy would have ranked fourth among the richest nations at the beginning of the civil war. The slave economy had been good to the southern states and for American prosperity. At the beginning of the civil war, the slave economy in the south was responsible for 75% of the world’s cotton production, creating many millionaires in Mississippi than anywhere else in the world (Bowman, 2010). To say that slaves were the most valuable investment of southern farmers was an understatement, they were the bulk of their wealth.
Another factor for secession and the civil war was the fact that Southern states wished to expand slavery to western territories. Northern states feared that institution expansion by southern states would give them more power over the entire union. The Southern states were already commanding power in the international arena and creating more millionaires per capita than any other region in the united states. Their interest to expand slavery to the newly acquired western states would have given them more power in the United States. The south sought to increase the power it wielded on the national arena, thereby protecting its interests. On the other hand, Northern states feared that expanding slavery would neutralize their political power, and the United States would become dominated by the slaveholders in the south. They feared that if Southern states garnered more power, they would undermine the New England political beliefs forever. Eventually, this political imbalance led to the need to secede and eventually the civil war.
Apart from western expansion, nationalism and honor were also another reason for confederate states to secede. All Northerners supported the union while Southerners were torn between being loyal to the union or being loyal to the southern region. As southerners moved towards Southern Nationalism, Northerners moved towards national mindedness and were against splitting the union. Those in the North regarded secession and treason and would not tolerate it. However, Southerners dis not view secession as treason as they pursued their state rights. This different stand points on union loyalty eventually lead to the civil war.
Meanwhile, the Republican party that had just been formed and was against the expansion of slavery in the west, was gaining prominence. The election of Abraham Lincoln, a Republican was met by the disapproval of many Southern whites. At the time, Southern whites were against the Republican because of the party’s opposing views on Western expansion of slavery. Southerners therefore did not elect Lincoln and his win in 1860 proved that Southern states had lost all their influence (Peacock, 2003). Southern states felt excluded from the political system. In response to this feelings of exclusion, they turned to the best alternative left to them – secession. This political decision led to the American Civil War that would last for years as each side refused to give up on its course. Northern States did not want to lose and give more political power to Southern States. On the other hand, Southern States did not want to win and lose their political and economic power. The civil war was a battle for power and the Emancipation Proclamation was the game changer that ended it.
The Civil War
When Abraham Lincoln won the election in 1860, he took a platform pledging to keep slavery out of southern states. Following Lincoln’s speech, seven southern states seceded from the union and formed a new state – the confederate states. Lincoln together with Northern states refused to recognize the secession legally. They feared that secession would discredit democracy and set a disastrous precedent that would eventually divide the United States into many smaller states, killing the Union.
The American Civil war began at Fort Sumter in 1861 when the Confederate States claimed it as their own and eve opened fire on the federal troops, causing them to lower the American Flag (Bowman, 2003). The events that followed involved the President retaliating together with the Northern States. On the other hand, four more states in the South Joined the Confederation. Nearly one million men had become involved in the war by the end of 1861 (Bowman, 2003). Apart from the battle at Sumter, several other battles had taken place in Virginia, Missouri, at cape Hatteras and at Port Royal. Tactics by the union involved the Union blocking the Confederacy from the outside world through blockade.
However, the tactic by the Union did not bear any fruit. The civil war continued into 1862 with huge battles occurring during that year. Huge battles like the battle of Shiloh, Second Manassas and Antietam. These battles foreshadowed even bigger battles and campaigns in the following years, from Vicksburg in Mississippi to Gettysburg in Pennsylvania. By 1863, the goal of President Lincoln to restore the Union using limited force had given way to a strategy involving total war to destroy the South and its slavery institution.
Three years into the war it is important to note that President Lincoln was only concerned with preserving the Union and not helping the slaves acquire freedom. Although Lincoln found the practice of slavery abhorrent, he was aware that neither Northerners or the neighboring slave states would support abolition of slaves. However, by mid-1862, as many slaves fled to join the invading Northern armies, it became clear that slavery was not only a moral reason to abolish slavery but also a military strategy. Northerners who were not on board about the abolishment of slavery saw this as an opportunity to expand their army while weakening the Southern army at the same time. Following this revelation, Lincoln issued the first preliminary Emancipation Proclamation that declared slaves in the seceding states free as of 1st January, 1863 (Martin, 2003). While the Emancipation Proclamation only freed slaves in the Confederate States, it was a game changer in the war because it transformed the fight to preserve the union into a war for human freedom.
Lincoln’s position on Abolishment of Slavery
In the 1850s, Lincoln referred to slavery as “an unqualified evil to the negro” (Holzer et al., 2006). However, in his first inaugural speech, Lincoln declared that no purpose to interfere with the institution of slavery in the United States (Holzer et al., 2006). Lincoln’s inconsistency about his stand on slavery lies in the constitution, his personal ideals and the course of the civil war. Lincoln hated the Civil War as an individual. Similarly, as a Republic, a political party that was bent on putting the institution of slavery into extinction, Lincoln was against slavery. However, as the President of the United States, he was bound by the constitution that allowed slavery in states where citizens wanted it. As the commander of the armed forced during the civil war, Lincoln was afraid that by abolishing slavery, the union would lose the support of Northern democrats and the four border slave states. Upon abolishment of slavery, these state would probably have joined the Union. However, as the war continued, and things started going badly for the Union, emancipation became a military necessity.
Effects of Emancipation Proclamation
When the Emancipation Proclamation was put into effect in 1863, it not only proclaimed slaves free in the confederate states, but it also allowed for freed slaves to be enlisted in the Union army. For the white man, the ability of freed slaves to join the Union Army increased the Union’s available man power. For the civil war, the Emancipation Proclamation weakened the Southern States, subsequently leading to the end of the Civil War. As aforementioned, the Emancipation Proclamation also widened the scope of the Civil War, making eradication of slavery a major union goal. The Emancipation Proclamation also prevented European forces from intervening in the Civil war because the supporting the Confederacy was equal to supporting slavery (Holzer et al., 2006). In the end, the Emancipation Proclamation garnered foreign support for the Union. Many European nations had outlawed slavery did not want to be associated with the Confederacy States. For the African Americans, the Emancipation Proclamation was the beginning of freedom in the coming years. African Americans were no longer bound by the law to work in Southern States for free. Many fled to the North to join the Union army.
By the end of the Civil War, approximately 179,000 black men served as soldiers in the Union army. They made up 10% of the Union army. In the Navy, there were approximately 19,000 blacks. These black soldiers served in infantry and artillery, and performed all noncombat functions to sustain the army. Other forms of black support included working as cooks, guards, laborers, nurses, chaplains, teamsters, spies and scouts. The difference between working for the Union army and working in the south was that in the north they were remunerated.
It is evident that President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation to not only free slaves but also to weaken the confederate states and end the civil war and consequently secession. The Union that is the United States was at the risk of disintegrating following secession from Southern States. At the beginning Lincoln wished to not use force to restore the Union. However, force from the Southern States that initiated war at Fort Sumter prompted Lincoln and the Union to join in on the war. Though Lincoln was against the institution of slavery, at the beginning of the war he had no intentions of fleeing slaves. This is because he feared that some Northern states and the four border states that practiced slavery might have joined the Confederacy if slavery was banned.
However, when the Civil war continued for three years and continued to get bigger, the Union states together with Lincoln began to view emancipation as a war strategy. After it was put into effect in 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in the Confederacy States to join the Union Army. In the army, African Americans served as militants and support staff, strengthening the Union Army. For slaves who fled the South to work in the North, conditions were better because they were paid for their work. The Emancipation Proclamation did not only change the circumstance of the slaves from Confederate states, it also increased support for the Union from European countries that were against slavery. In the end, the Emancipation Proclamation became a multifunctioning document that served to only free slaves in confederacy states but it also served to weaken the confederacy and garner international support for the union.
Bowman, S. D. (2010). At the precipice: Americans north and south during the secession crisis. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
Holzer, H., Medford, E. G., Williams, F. J., & Frank and Virginia Williams Collection of Lincolniana (Mississippi State University. Libraries). (2006). The Emancipation Proclamation: Three views (social, political, iconographic). Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press.
Martin, M. (2003). Emancipation Proclamation: Hope of freedom for the slaves. Mankato, Minn: Bridgestone Books.
Peacock, J. (2003). Secession: The Southern States leave the Union. Mankato, Minn: Capstone.