The Emancipation Proclamation, which went into effect on January 1, 1863, was a major step towards the abolition of slavery in America, helping to fulfill the promise of the Declaration of Independence and renew the nation’s founding philosophy of human liberty.
The New-York Historical Society commemorates the sesquicentennial of the Emancipation Proclamation with a display of rare documents from the Gilder Lehrman Collection, including an important 1864 printing of the Emancipation Proclamation and a congressional copy of the Thirteenth Amendment resolution, both bearing the signature of Abraham Lincoln.
While the Emancipation Proclamation stands as the most important accomplishment of Abraham Lincoln’s presidency, Lincoln realized as the Civil War raged on that that the issue of slavery could only be settled permanently by changing the Constitution itself. By the end of 1864, the Senate had approved the abolition amendment, although it was still two votes short of the two-thirds necessary for passage in the House of Representatives. At Lincoln’s urging, the amendment was re-introduced, and finally passed on January 31, 1865. Lincoln, felled by an assassin’s bullet on April 15, 1865, did not live to see the amendment become law. When it finally was ratified eight months later, the Thirteenth Amendment freed nearly one million slaves still held in bondage in the states not covered by the Emancipation Proclamation.