Lincoln had been working on his proclamation during the summer of 1862. And on September 22, 1862, Lincoln announced that slaves in the rebellious states would be declared free as of January 1, 1863.
Even after Lincoln signed his executive order on New Year's Day, the proclamation would be something of a symbolic gesture, in the sense that it would only take effect in territory conquered by the Union Army. But it was still a monumental shift in government policy, and while newspapers were heavily dominated by the news of Antietam, September's preliminary proclamation received notable coverage.
- New York Tribune, September 23, 1862: At the end of a story explaining the new proclamation, Horace Greeley's newspaper proclaimed, "God Bless Abraham Lincoln!"
- New York Tribune, September 24, 1862: An eloquent editorial, most likely written by Horace Greeley himself, lauded the proclamation. The president "re-creates a nation" said the Tribune. "Slavery is the root of the rebellion; he digs it up by the roots."
- The National Republican, September 24, 1862: A Washington, D.C., newspaper collected reaction from the various anti-Lincoln New York City papers, which were dismissive of the president's proclamation.
- Cleveland Plain Dealer, September 25, 1862: A leading paper in Ohio reprinted an editorial from the New York Times, which spoke of the wisdom of the proclamation while also hopefully speculating that the war itself would be concluded by the end of the year.
Note: After visiting the newspaper excerpt links above, click on the "persistent link" at the Chronicling America site to see the entire newspaper page.
Illustration: Horace Greeley/Library of Congress
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