Skip to Main Content

Emancipation Proclamation Annotated

Emancipation Proclamation

January 1, 1863

Whereas, on the twenty-second day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two, a proclamation was issued by the President of the United States, containing, among other things, the following, to wit:1

“That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free …2

“Now, therefore I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, by virtue of the power in me vested as Commander-in-Chief, of the Army and Navy of the United States in time of actual armed rebellion against the authority and government of the United States, and as a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing said rebellion, do…order and designate as the States and parts of States wherein the people thereof respectively, are this day in rebellion against the United States, the following, to wit:3

Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia, (except the forty-eight counties designated as West Virginia…) and which excepted parts, are for the present, left precisely as if this proclamation were not issued.4

…I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free;5 and that the Executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons.6

And I hereby enjoin upon the people so declared to be free to abstain from all violence, unless in necessary self-defence; and I recommend to them that, in all cases when allowed, they labor faithfully for reasonable wages.7

And I further declare and make known, that such persons of suitable condition, will be received into the armed service of the United States to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service.8

And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God.9


1On September 22, 1862, the president issued a proclamation.

2The proclamation said, among other things, that on January 1, 1863 all slaves in those states still in rebellion would be free.

3President Lincoln affirms his power as President of the United States and as Commander-in-Chief during a time of armed rebellion against the authority of the U.S. government and states that he has authority to undertake certain actions during war – particularly against those states in rebellion.

4President Lincoln names the ten states still in rebellion.

5He orders that all slaves held in those states will now be free.

6President Lincoln adds that the national government will, with full military authority, uphold the freedom of slaves freed within those named states.

7The president asks the people freed from slavery to refrain from violence except in self-defense and that, if able, they find paid work.

8He then declares that people freed from slavery would be received into military service.

9The president states his belief that this proclamation is just, constitutional, and necessary. He closes by asking for people’s kind judgment and for God’s favor.