How the Emancipation Proclamation Affected Attitudes Toward the Civil War

The Emancipation Proclamation was issued on January 1, 1863.
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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 alone was not the motivating factor in the North. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln's issuing of the Emancipation Proclamation changed the war's purpose by making it about ending slavery. A strong European reaction to the Emancipation Proclamation was equaled only by the differing American responses.

1 Effects of the Emancipation Proclamation

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 following, the state did not vote for Lincoln's reelection as direct effects of the Emancipation Proclamation as an indication of its dissatisfaction with the document.

2 Copperheads' Reactions in the North

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 also wanted to free the slaves. The Emancipation Proclamation confirmed their suspicions and only heightened their opposition to Lincoln, the Republicans and the war.

3 Reactions in the Southern States

While the effects of 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, 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.

4 Effects Of the Proclamation Abroad

Before Lincoln's issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, the response to the Civil War in Europe was in part Britain considered offering support to the Confederate side in the war. This reaction was due to Great Britain relying heavily on Southern cotton for its industry. However, may Britons opposed slavery and had moral qualms about supporting a country that relied on the institution. The European reaction to the Emancipation Proclamation was indicated by Britain not intervening in the Civil War.

Kevin Wandrei has written extensively on higher education. His work has been published with Kaplan,, and Shmoop, Inc., among others. He is currently pursuing a Master of Public Administration at Cornell University.