The Emancipation Proclamation was a presidential proclamation and executive order
issued by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863, as a war measure during the American
Civil War, directed to all of the areas in rebellion and all segments of the executive branch
(including the Army and Navy) of the United States. It proclaimed the freedom of slaves in the
ten states that were still in rebellion.
Because it was issued under the President’s war powers, it
necessarily excluded areas not in rebellion – it applied to more than 3 million of the 4 million
slaves in the U.S. at the time. The Proclamation was based on the president’s constitutional
authority as commander in chief of the armed forces; it was not a law passed by Congress. The
Proclamation also ordered that suitable persons among those freed could be enrolled into the paid
service of United States’ forces, and ordered the Union Army (and all segments of the Executive
branch) to “recognize and maintain the freedom of” the ex-slaves. The Proclamation did not
compensate the owners, did not outlaw slavery, and did not grant citizenship to the ex-slaves
(called freedmen). It made the eradication of slavery an explicit war goal, in addition to the goal
of reuniting the Union.