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From: "Oakes, James" <JOakes@gc.cuny.edu> I'm sympathetic to Mr. Bickers' general argument. But rather than see the Emancipation Proclamation as a military order I prefer to think of it as a legal document that reflected a significant shift in military policy. By the time Lincoln issued the proclamation Congress had already passed, and Lincoln had signed, a law prohibiting Union soldiers from returning escaped slaves to their owners. The significance of the proclamation, both militarily and politically, lies elsewhere. The proclamation did three important things: First, it made emancipation rather than confiscation the policy of the federal government. To implement that policy the War Department swiftly appointed a cadre of commanders charged with moving through the South to emancipate slaves and gather them into the custody of the Union armies. General Lorenzo Thomas was the most prominent of these officers. Their efforts resulted directly, albeit over time, in the emancipation of tens of thousands of slaves during the war. This is one of the reasons James McPherson has said that the proclamation transformed the Union Army into an army of liberation. Second, once the Republicans accepted the constitutionality of requiring a state (in the immediate case, West Virginia) to abolish slavery as a condition for entering the Union, Lincoln used that precedent to require Florida and more importantly Louisiana to endorse the terms of the Emancipation Proclamation as a condition for re-admission to the Union. In May 1865 Andrew Johnson, following Lincoln's precedent, similarly required the defeated confederate states to endorse the proclamation as a condition for readmission to the Union. This resulted in the largest single wave of emancipations, in the summer of 1865. It was the second and most important means by which the Emancipation proclamation was implemented. Finally--as the late John Hope Franklin demonstrated in his underappreciated 1963 book on "The Emancipation Proclamation"-- Lincoln's order immediately led thousands of slaves to declare their freedom on January 1, 1863, in complete disregard for the geographical restrictions of the document. The Union did nothing to stop them. Notwithstanding the oft-repeated claim that the Emancipation Proclamation "did not free a single slave," the evidence suggests that it immediately freed thousands of slaves, eventually hundreds of thousands, and ultimately millions. That said, the Emancipation Proclamation was only one part of a much larger process of emancipation that began shortly after the Civil War started and ended months after the war ended and the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified. Lincoln was a critical part of that process, but so were runaway slaves, abolitionists, northern churches, Republican politicians, and of course, union soldiers. James Oakes Ph.D. Program in History CUNY Graduate Center 365 Fifth Avenue New York, NY 10016 Tel. (212) 817 8430 email: email@example.com