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Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation - First War Department Printing
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ABRAHAM LINCOLN. Printed Document. General Order No. 139, US War Department, September 24, 1862. (but typically printed a week or two later). Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. Signed in type by Lincoln, Secretary of State William H. Seward, and Adjutant General Lorenzo Thomas. Printed Washington DC: Government Printing Office, September 24, 1862. 3 pages, 7½ x 5 inches, on one folded sheet; stitch holes.

Inventory #23643       Price: $1,800

The original manuscript draft was written by the President on 21 September 1862, and signed by Lincoln and Seward on the 22nd. A first printed version was sent to important government figures. This edition is headed General Orders No. 139, and was issued to regimental commanders in the military.

The order to publish was given on 24 September, but Eberstadt (Emancipation Proclamation 4) surmises that it was actually printed a few days later.

Historic Background

On September 22, 1862, in a Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln warned Southern states that if they did not abandon the war, they would lose their slaves.  As he issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which took effect on January 1, 1863, slavery in the United States at last approached its demise. The Emancipation Proclamation was the most important act of Lincoln’s presidency.  Its lines reveal the major themes of the Civil War: slavery as the central issue of the war; the courting of border states; Lincoln’s hopes that the rebellious states could somehow be convinced to come back into the Union; Constitutional and popular constraints that made earlier emancipation impossible; the role of black soldiers; America’s place in the world.

In addition to its moral weight, the Proclamation’s tangible aid to the Union cause was decisive. It deprived the Confederacy of essential labor by giving millions of slaves a reason to escape to Union lines.  It encouraged the enlistment of black soldiers.  It prevented Europe from supporting the Confederacy.  Without the Proclamation, even Union victory itself might not have been the result of the war.

Frederick Douglass, speaking at The Cooper Institute in New York, on February 6, 1863, ably discussed the Proclamation and its effects:

“I congratulate you, upon what may be called the greatest event of our nation’s history, if not the greatest event of the century.  In the eye of the Constitution, the supreme law of the land, there is not now, and there has not been, since the 1st day of January, a single slave lawfully deprived of Liberty in any of the States now recognized as in Rebellion against the National Government.  In all these States Slavery is now in law, as in fact, a system of lawless violence, against which the slave may lawfully defend himself…  The change in attitude of the Government is vast and startling.  For more than sixty years the Federal Government has been little better than a stupendous engine of Slavery and oppression, through which Slavery has ruled us, as with a rod of iron… Assuming that our Government and people will sustain the President and the Proclamation, we can scarcely conceive of a more complete revolution in the position of a nation… I hail it as the doom of Slavery in all the States….  At last the out-spread wings of the American Eagle afford shelter and protection to men of all colors, all countries and climes, and the long oppressed black man may honorably fall or gloriously flourish under the star-spangled banner.

I stand here tonight not only as a colored man and an American, but by the express decision of the Attorney-General of the United States, as a colored citizen, having, in common with all other citizens, a stake in the safety, prosperity, honor, and glory of a common country.  We are all liberated by this proclamation.  Everybody is liberated.   The white man is liberated, the black man is liberated, the brave men now fighting the battles of their country against rebels and traitors are now liberated, and may strike with all their might, even if they do hurt the Rebels, at their most sensitive point.  [Applause.]  I congratulate you upon this amazing change—the amazing approximation toward the sacred truth of human liberty.”


Minor wear on top edge.

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