Emancipation Proclamation One Step in Lincoln’s Evolving Ideas on Ending Slavery (New York Times)

The Emancipation Proclamation didn’t just free slaves, it also freed President Lincoln from his previous ideas on how to abolish slavery and on the role blacks would play in post-emancipation America, argues Columbia history professor Eric Foner, in a recent New York Times op-ed.

Prior to Lincoln’s signing the proclamation, the president had sought to win the cooperation of slave holders. He wanted slave owners to receive monetary compensation for their human property and for freed slaves to find a homeland outside the United States.

But when immediate emancipation became imperative due to wartime pressures, Lincoln dramatically shifted his thinking. The Emancipation Proclamation that Lincoln signed did not gradually phase out slavery, did not seek the consent of slave owners, offered them no money and made no reference to colonizing freed slaves outside the United States.

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