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1850-1865: We are a house divided, a nation torn by bloody civil war

January 1, 1863
The “Emancipation Proclamation” frees the slaves in rebel states

Abraham Lincoln

“I never, in my life, felt more certain that I was doing right, than I do in signing this paper.”
—Abraham Lincoln

We’re nearly two years into this Civil War. Union armies have faced one defeat after another and abolitionists are pushing to make emancipation a war goal.

Lincoln knows that freeing slaves in Confederate states will weaken the South’s labor force. He also knows it will strengthen the war effort, by encouraging free blacks to fight for the Union. He’s finally convinced that emancipation is “a military necessity.”

His opponents in Congress are calling emancipation a “high crime against the Constitution.” But Lincoln is sure that as wartime commander, he can take this step he couldn’t take as a peacetime president.

Today, as the White House bustled with guests at a New Year’s Day reception, Lincoln slipped upstairs and signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

Slaves in the rebel states are free.

Read about it in the New York times

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