EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION LIMITATIONS (Illustration) American History Awesome Radio - Narrated Stories Civil Rights Government Law and Politics Slaves and Slave Owners Social Studies Nineteenth Century Life Ethics African American History

This political cartoon was published in the December 20, 1862 issue of Harper’s Weekly (at page 816). It was about 12 days before the Emancipation Proclamation was to take effect, and the cartoon not-so-subtly references the Proclamation’s limitations. The following words appear underneath the drawing: “Sensation among ‘Our Colored Brethren’ on ascertaining that the Grand Performance (Emancipation Proclamation) to which they had been invited on New Year's Day, was unavoidable [unavoidably] postponed until the year 1900!" Click on the image for a better view.


As President, Abraham Lincoln had the power to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. But it was an executive order, not a legislative mandate. The President declared the slaves free, but he had no power to regulate how former "masters" would treat former "possessions."

Presidents execute laws - they don't make them. And, significantly, Lincoln's Proclamation only freed slaves in the Confederate states. (Slaves in states which remained in the Union were not freed until the 13th Amendment was ratified, in December of 1865.)

What force of law would the Proclamation have in states that were no longer part of the United States? Not much, if you were a slave-owner living in a Confederate state. Not much, if your President was Jefferson Davis.

Lincoln said former slaves could fight in the Civil War, and be fully paid for it - and they did.  After the President signed the Proclamation, Union recruiters actively sought African-American men to serve as soldiers.  According to the Library of Congress, by war's end one out of every eight Northern soldiers was a black man.

But ... who would make sure those soldiers, and their families, were safe once they returned home from battle?

And ... since Congress never passed any laws to create a process by which former slaves would become fully-participating citizens, there was room - lots of room - for future problems.

0 Question or Comment?
click to read or comment
2 Questions 2 Ponder
click to read and respond
0 It's Awesome!
vote for your favorite

Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Aug 01, 2005

Updated Last Revision: Jun 26, 2019

To cite this story (For MLA citation guidance see easybib or OWL ):

"EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION LIMITATIONS" AwesomeStories.com. Aug 01, 2005. Jan 18, 2020.
Awesome Stories Silver or Gold Membership Required
Awesome Stories Silver or Gold Membership Required
Show tooltips