When the American Civil War began in 1861, the conflict was ignited to end the Confederate rebellion and restore the integrity of the Union. While slavery was a part of this disagreement, the issue was not the motivating factor in the North. In 1863, however, Abraham Lincoln's issuing of the Emancipation Proclamation changed the war's purpose by making it about ending slavery. This was met with mixed reactions by both sides and abroad.
Border State Slave Owners
When Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, the document only freed slaves held in the Confederate states. Lincoln and the Republicans were already less popular in the Union states that bordered the Confederacy and allowed slavery. These included states like Kentucky and Missouri. In Kentucky, for example, Union troops had previously thrown down their arms when a Union officer unilaterally freed slaves after a major victory. In the year after the Emancipation Proclamation, the state did not vote for Lincoln's reelection, an indication of its dissatisfaction with Emancipation.
Copperheads were Northerners who opposed the Civil War. They were predominantly members of the Democratic Party, were often recent immigrants, and tended to support slavery. Many Copperheads feared that free slaves would come north and compete with them economically. Since the war's beginning, the Copperheads were suspicious that Lincoln was not only fighting the war to save the Union, but that he wanted to free the slaves. The Emancipation Proclamation confirmed their suspicions, and only heightened their opposition to Lincoln, the Republicans and the war.
While the Emancipation Proclamation only applied to the Confederate states, no slaves were actually freed in the South because those states were in rebellion and not obeying Abraham Lincoln's proclamations. For Confederate slave owners, however, the Emancipation nonetheless heightened the purpose of the war: if the South were to lose, it would also lose its slaves. Confederate newspapers labeled Abraham Lincoln a devil, and accused him of trying to destroy the South's way of life.
Before Lincoln's issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, Britain had considered supporting the Confederacy in the war because Britain relied heavily on Southern cotton for its industry. Many Britons, however, opposed slavery, and had moral qualms about supporting a country that relied on the institution. The Emancipation Proclamation thus partly convinced Britain not to intervene in the war.
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