The Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 was a bold move by President Abraham Lincoln, but not necessarily based in good intentions. On this day in 1861, the first of the Confiscation Acts was passed which directed the Confederacy to relinquish its property – which included slaves – to the Union.
Lincoln was initially against signing the act into law as he didn’t want to risk border states like Kentucky and Missouri seceding from the Union to join the Confederate forces. The law was first written to force Confederate military members to give up their weapons to Union officials. In July 1862, a second Confiscation Act was signed. Confederate states were given 60 days to both surrender their weapons and their slaves or they would essentially go free, but only for states already occupied by the Union.
While Lincoln’s intentions have been framed as some act of benevolence, the truth was he faced pressure from abolitionists and others who felt slavery was unjust. But many who advocated for slavery’s end wanted freed slaves returned to Africa. Further, the law also served as a call to fugitive slaves to join the fighting forces of the North and rally against their former owners in the name of the Union.
As Union forces were winning the Civil War, slavery was officially stamped out and the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect as planned. With the ending of slavery, it was estimated that former slaveholders lost what would be approximately $2 billion in modern times as slavery was a main economic driver in the south.
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