Abraham Lincoln: Freed the Slaves by Signing the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863

Did you know that slavery took control of the lives of many innocent people? Slavery was brutal for the slaves, who were forced to work for other people. America has values for freedom and liberty, but didn’t for everyone at the start. Slaves were still kept in the early days of America until Abraham Lincoln stepped into power. Lincoln believed slavery violated the Declaration of Independence, the document that would shape America in its early days. Years later, Lincoln plays an important factor in abolishing slavery. After the traumatic events of World War Two, the United Nations came together, with the help of Eleanor Roosevelt, the First Lady at the time, to create a list of rights that all humans should be born with. This document was written in 1948 and was adopted at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris, France. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights prohibits slavery. In article four it states ‘No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.’ (Universal Declaration of Human Rights United Nations 2019). This article prohibits slavery as well as many articles in the document. Lincoln was an important leader in abolishing slavery, saving the union, and fighting for equality. To close, Lincoln later understands that slavery is inhumane and takes action.

Abraham Lincoln had a very different boyhood than he did in his famous adulthood. First, Abraham Lincoln lived a rough life as a child. Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809 near Hodgenville, Kentucky. He lived most of his childhood in a one room isolated, cabin and had many losses throughout his childhood. Also, Lincoln had little formal education and was a self educated child. Lincoln’s life goal was to escape hardship and poverty, therefore he studied a ton so he could become successful. Thru years of hard work, Lincoln’s poor life as a child turns around when he gets older.

Abraham Lincoln left his parents and went out to try and do something better than his dad. Lincoln’s dad was a farmer, but due to his poor childhood, Lincoln did not want to acquire his fathers path. According to the Abraham Lincoln historical society, ‘From very early on Abraham knew he did not want to be a farmer like his father. In 1831 he turned 21 and was no longer legally bound to his father. One day a local businessman by the name of Denton Offutt asked Abraham and John Hanks, Abraham’s first cousin, to build a float boat to transport provisions to New Orleans. The day the float boat was finished he left his family for good.’ (Lincoln Historical Society Web 2019). Lincoln living a poor boyhood was one of the main reasons Lincoln tried so much, and became one of the most important people in history.

Lincoln moved to New Salem, Illinois and lived there from 1831 until 1836. Law grew into Lincolns interest while he was there, because he would frequently attend town court hearings. In 1832, Lincoln ran for State Legislature to represent New Salem’s economic interests. While studying law, Lincoln was the manager of a general store in New Salem, where he grew popularity to run for office. After finishing law school, Lincoln became law partners with John Stuart, a person he worked with during the Blackhawk War. Later, Lincoln who was a Senator at the time, was elected President of the United States. Lincoln would later use his law knowledge to help him understand why slavery was wrong.

Since Lincoln studied law, he believed our freedom wasn’t freedom for everyone with slavery in place. For most of Lincolns adulthood he was against the expansion of slavery, but not ending it completely. An article written by the National Park Service states ‘Abraham Lincoln is often referred to as ‘The Great Emancipator’ and yet, he did not publicly call for emancipation throughout his entire life. Lincoln began his public career by claiming that he was ‘antislavery’ — against slavery’s expansion, but not calling for immediate emancipation. However, the man who began as ‘antislavery’ eventually issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed all slaves in those states that were in rebellion. He vigorously supported the thirteenth Amendment which abolished slavery throughout the United States, and, in the last speech of his life, he recommended extending the vote to African Americans.’ (National Park Service Web April 2015).

Many think that Lincoln was against slavery for most of his adulthood, but he was only against the expansion of it for most of his life. On March 3, 1837, Lincoln gave his first anti-slavery speech in front of the Illinois General Assembly. Lincolns speech then went on to Congress, but Congress believed they had no power to end it, as power was given to the states. During the beginning of the Civil War, Lincolns main goal was to preserve the Union, as many people did not support the ban of slavery at the start of the war. In 1862, when slaves fled to the North; many realized how bad slavery actually was. On January 1, 1863 Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation freeing 3.1 million of the nations 4 million slaves. On December 18, 1865 the Thirteenth Amendment is ratified, freeing all the slaves in the nation. Throughout Lincolns anti-slavery talks, he quickly gained many supporters.

Lincoln, with the help of many of his supporters took inhumanity out of the lives of many innocent victims. Slaves human rights were violated day by day. Lincoln abolishing slavery was one of the first steps in creating Universal Human Rights. An article written in 2015 by Human Rights First states ‘Although at first accepting slavery as a societal norm, he came to recognize it as an evil. He later realized the need for its eradication, an appropriate first step in the goal toward universal rights for all people, regardless of race.’ (Human Rights First Web January 2015). The idea for Universal Human Rights first became a goal after Lincoln played a dynamic roll in abolishing slavery. Lincoln abolishing slavery was one of the first steps in creating Universal Human Rights. Most slaves were put into slavery because of there skin color, which is also a violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Many slaves were inhumanely beaten for not doing perfect work. One women named Harriet Tubman was a freed slave and then served as an Underground Railroad conductor helping more slaves on there path to freedom. Lincoln played a big role in freeing many slaves, and received help from others as well.

Many organizations supported Lincoln, which helped him become determined to abolish slavery. The Underground Railroad was created to help slaves escape to freedom. This path to freedom was not a real railroad, but was a journey slaves would take at night with the help of conductors, in an attempt to escape to freedom. Slaves took a huge risk by fleeing, but slavery was so awful; many slaves took this risk. Travel was never easy for the slaves. An article by PBS explains ‘For the slave, running away to the North was anything but easy. The first step was to escape from the slaveholder. For many slaves, this meant relying on his or her own resources.

Sometimes a ‘conductor,’ posing as a slave, would enter a plantation and then guide the runaways northward. The fugitives would move at night. They would generally travel between 10 and 20 miles to the next station, where they would rest and eat, hiding in barns and other out-of-the-way places. While they waited, a message would be sent to the next station to alert its stationmaster.’ (PBS Web 2019). Travel was not easy for slaves trying to escape, and this quote shows how bad slavery was, which therefore made the slaves take huge risks. Many organizations were also formed in major cities to aid slaves fleeing. Lincoln was the main influential in abolishing slavery, but it took him many years with lots of support to reach his goal.

Lincoln was involved in an approach with slavery for many years, before it was officially abolished. Lincolns first thoughts on slavery were from around 1836-1840 where one of his friends recalled Lincoln being bothered by slavery, but hoping god would stop it. The passing of the pro slavery Kansas-Nebraska act of 1854, made Lincoln get heavily involved in the case of slavery. Lincoln worried that the Kansas-Nebraska act attacked the pro human values of the Declaration of Independence. Lincoln connected slavery to how King George treated us back in colonial times. Lincoln thought the phrase ‘All men are created equal’ should be ‘All men are created equal except Negros’ with slavery existing in the country. The leader wanted to end slavery everywhere but knew he only had the power to end it within the United States. Throughout the years of Lincolns quest to end slavery, he faced many obstacles.

The Great Emancipator tried many things to end slavery, but only a few worked, it took him years to officially end it. Slavery thrived in the south, as cotton was a major industry and benefited from slave labor. Before the Thirteenth Amendment was passed, nothing in the Constitution said slavery was illegal. Lincoln was facing a Constitutional crisis until he realized something. In a 2013 article by the Los Angeles Times it says ‘Slavery existed because of state laws, and the president had no power to declare state laws invalid. The Supreme Court could declare a state law unconstitutional, but nothing in the Constitution as it existed in 1863 made slavery unconstitutional. The president instead based his legal argument for abolishing slavery on the Constitution’s grant of war powers to the president.

Claiming that slavery was enabling the rebels of the South to carry out their war, he maintained that abolition was ‘warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity’ to save the government.’ (LA Times Web January 2013). Lincoln ran into many obstacles along the way, but eventually found a way for his goal to work. Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, freeing 3.1 million of the nations 4 million slaves. After signing this, Lincoln allowed freed slaves to enlist in the Northern Army. The Northern army would be made up of ten percent freed slaves after Lincoln published the proclamation. Throughout Lincolns presidency, he gave many speeches on Emancipation, turning many pro slavery people into people against slavery. Lincoln ran into many obstacles, but in the end his plan to abolish slavery in the U.S. succeeded.

Lincoln achieved many things during his presidency. Lincoln’s most famous achievement was freeing the slaves. Lincoln published the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 freeing 3.1 million of the nations 4 million slaves. After Lincolns death, the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified freeing all of the nations slaves. Lincoln had a huge voice with getting this amendment passed. Lincoln also saved the Union. Following the presidents reelection in 1865, seven southern states seceded from the Union; they formed the Confederate States of America. Thirteen total states would join the Confederacy, which rebelled against Lincoln. Due to the rebellion of the southern states, the U.S. Civil War broke out. The Confederate army was better for most of the war, until the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863, which was considered a turning point in the war.

After the Civil War ended, southern states were allowed to be readmitted back into the Union, as long as they outlawed slavery. Even though slaves were freed, they were still not treated equally. An article on the Civil Rights Movement from History Channel states ‘The Civil War had officially abolished slavery, but it didn’t end discrimination against blacks—they continued to endure the devastating effects of racism, especially in the South.’ (History Channel Web October 2009). After slavery ended in 1865, it took a hundred years for African Americans to be granted the right to vote. Lincoln accomplished many heroic things, and gained much support and reactions.

Abraham Lincoln gained more and more supporters as the war went on. In 1860, Lincoln got the majority of the vote and was elected president of the United States. An article written by History Channel states ‘Lincoln received only 40 percent of the popular vote but handily defeated the three other candidates: Southern Democrat John C. Breckinridge, Constitutional Union candidate John Bell, and Northern Democrat Stephen Douglas, a U.S. senator for Illinois.’ (History Channel Web February 2010). Following Lincolns victory, seven southern states seceded from the Union. Many Northerners supported Lincoln, as well as a few Southerners; in his mission to end slavery. Many Northerners enlisted in the Union army, to fight to end slavery and save the Union. Lincolns goal of ending slavery was partly successful when Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, freeing 3/4 of the nations 4 million slaves. The nation still had a little under 1 million slaves when Lincoln was assassinated in 1865. When Lincolns vice president, Andrew Johnson, takes over; he proposed the Thirteenth Amendment. This amendment was ratified after the Civil War ended, and completely abolished slavery in the United States. Although Lincoln was not alive when this amendment was ratified, he still played a major part in the birth of this amendment. With the support of many people, Lincoln improved the human rights of many slaves.

Lincoln used his law knowledge which helped him better understand that slavery was inhumane. Slavery became popular because it seemed like a cheap and convenient way for labor. This was the case for everyone, but the slaves who were doing the labor. Many people later realized that slavery was inhumane. Abolishing slavery in the United States was a first step for Universal Human Rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights prohibits slavery, but was not published at the time of slavery in America.

Although Lincoln abolished slavery in America, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights strongly prohibits slavery, it still happens today. An article by the organization Anti-Slavery states ‘It can be someone living in poverty and having no real prospects for a decent job, who will accept a good sounding offer of a job abroad that turns out something else that what was promised.’ (Anti Slavery Web 2019). Even though people know slavery is wrong, some get tricked into working into it. Lincoln gave human rights to many slaves, but people are still kept in slavery today.

Slavery was not completely abolished by Lincoln; today many people are still kept in slavery. It is estimated that 40.3 million people are still put into slavery today. Modern slavery most commonly happens to people who are vulnerable of being taken advantage of. Many people in poverty are tricked into slavery, thinking it’s a good job, but rather being enslaved. Victims of slavery today can also be born from a mother who is enslaved, and are put into slavery since day one. Many organizations are trying to stop slavery today. The Polaris Project is an anti-slavery organization trying to end modern day slavery, as well as many other organizations. The United Nations, who created the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, continues there fight to end slavery. Many organizations are working to prevent slavery, but this terrible issue still happens today.

The Great Emancipator knew that slavery was terrible and played a key role in ending it. Slavery is inhumane and Lincoln understood that. Lincoln freed 3.1 million of the nations 4 million slaves with the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863. The Thirteenth Amendment was ratified in 1865, which completely abolished slavery in the United States. Lincolns legacy lives on throughout the United States and around the world. The Lincoln Memorial is located in the National Mall of Washington and is dedicated to Lincolns heroic achievements. Lincoln abolishing slavery played a key role in the creation of Universal Human Rights. In conclusion, Lincoln freed many slaves, but many people are still enslaved today.

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Abraham lincoln: freed the slaves by signing the emancipation proclamation of 1863. (2021, May 28). Retrieved August 9, 2022 , from

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