On January 1st 1863, President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Declaration. The emancipation of slaves and the abolition of slavery were to change the whole character of the American Civil War. Up to this point the war was still primarily being fought over states rights – the right of states in the South to govern themselves, without interference from Federal government. If, according to many Southern states, this Federal authority became too overbearing, the South argued that it had a right to leave the Union. This the government in Washington DC could not tolerate and a civil war broke out as a result of the declaration of a Confederacy. Now, with the emancipation of slaves, the South argued that Lincoln was attacking the very character of the South. They argued that it was an attempt to reduce the economic clout the South had as two bastions of the South’s economy depended on slavery to make them so lucrative – the cotton and tobacco trades. For many in the South, Lincoln’s Emancipation Declaration meant that the civil war was more than ever a war to fight for the very survival of the South’s way of life.
The Emancipation Declaration stated:
“I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves in the said and designated states and parts of states are and henceforward shall be free; and that the executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognise and maintain the freedom of said persons. And I hereby enjoin on the people so declared to be free to abstain from all violence, unless in necessary self-defence; and I recommend to them that, in all cases where allowed, they labour faithfully for reasonable wages. And I further declare and make known that such persons, of suitable condition, will be received into the armed services of the United States to garrison forts, positions, stations and other places, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service.”