The Passing Of The Emancipation Proclamation As The Result Of Lincoln’s Desire To Undermine The Southern Economy

1738 words - 7 pages

The Passing of the Emancipation Proclamation as the Result of Lincoln’s Desire to Undermine the Southern Economy

Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation completed the most
significant u-turn in American history. Months before, in the
Crittendon Resolution, Lincoln had explicitly stated that Union forces
would not target Southern plantations, and that the South would be
welcomed back into the Union with or without the slave system. At this
point, Lincoln regarded slavery as a potentially divisive issue and,
as noted by the historians Johansson and Hofstatder, aimed to avoid
anything that would associate him as being either for or against its
abolition. However, by 1863, Northern forces had discovered the
impracticality of defeating the Confederates whilst essentially
upholding the slave trade in the Southern land they occupied. It
became imperative that the slave trade collapsed. However, while this
factor would have influenced President Lincoln considerably, a more
pressing concern was to prevent European intervention. Any such
interference would have evened out the enormous disparity between
North and South, dragging the North into a lengthier and costlier
conflict. More significant than this, though, was Lincoln’s need to
justify the sacrifices already incurred by the Union forces. To do
this, Lincoln used the Emancipation Proclamation to turn the Civil War
into a crusade: both for America, and for God. It is this final factor
that proved the most influential.

The economy of America’s Southern states had been utterly dependent on
slavery for decades before Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Proclamation.
However, it was at this point that the South relied upon slavery most.
In this period of war, it was vital that the South was able to produce
huge amounts of arms in a short amount of time, and to do this they
needed a great number of workers. The highly industrialised Northern
economy was perfectly adapted to the extra demand, and was able to
facilitate the production of all the equipment needed. Conversely, the
Southern economy was sluggish in its attempts to update its primitive
economy, and because of this remained reliant on the slave trade.
Thus, in depriving the South of a big proportion of its workforce,
Lincoln was able to significantly reduce their production
capabilities. More directly, the North benefited by being able to
acquire the slaves for themselves. This had the advantage of
increasing the number gap twice: the Northern soldiers occupying
Southern plantations would be free to fight again, and the released
blacks themselves could become Northern fighters. Thus, the
Emancipation Proclamation was seen not only as a way of weakening the
South, but of strengthening the North. In such a way, Lincoln was able
to widen the disparity between North and South. From a popular
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