Almost as soon as Lincoln took office, abolitionists and radical Republicans began pressuring the president to issue an emancipation proclamation. Lincoln hesitated for fear of jeopardizing the fragile Union coalition that included slave-owning, border states. Nearly two years after taking the oath of office, on January 1, 1863, he issued the final Emancipation Proclamation that declared that all slaves within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.” Tying emancipation directly to military victory, this crucially important document marked the expansion of Northern war aims to include emancipation along with preservation of the Union, thus altering the nature of the war. Lincoln considered the document his greatest achievement.
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