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What is the historical significance of The Emancipation Proclamation?

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Early in the war President Lincoln was careful to stress he was fighting to preserve the Union, not for the abolition of slavery. On two occasions he overruled military commanders who had abolished slavery in areas they controlled. He treaded with great care on the matter because of the importance of preserving the loyalty of the slave-owning Border States. In early 1862, Lincoln worked on the idea of emancipation secretly before broaching the subject with his cabinet. He was cautioned by Secretary of State William H. Seward to delay any announcement until the Union’s military fortunes improved, fearing that proclaiming freedom for the slaves might appear to be a move of desperation. In September 1862, shortly after the Battle of Antietam, Lincoln issued a preliminary emancipation proclamation. As of January 1, 1863, all slaves were to be freed in those areas still in rebellion against the federal government. He repeated his oft-stated positions that he was dedicated to restoring the ... more
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