From Ohio History Central
During the American Civil War, the Emancipation Proclamation made slavery's demise one of the North's principal war aims.
At the beginning of the American Civil War, few Northerners or Southerners believed that the conflict was about slavery. Southerners contended that the war resulted from the federal government's refusal to respect the rights of the states. Northerners argued that the federal government had to protect the rights of the majority. While the conflict continued during 1861 and 1862, an increasing number of Northerners joined with the abolitionists to demand the end of slavery in America.
Among the Northerners who eventually agreed that slavery had to end was President Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln initially sought only the reunification of America, but he came to believe that any resolution of the conflict had to include slavery's termination. Lincoln believed that the nation could be reunited with slavery still in existence. Nevertheless, he felt that this issue would continue to divide Northerners and Southerners.
Lincoln refused to end slavery during 1861 and the first half of 1862 for several reasons. First, he believed that the United States Constitution prevented the president from seizing the
property -- slaves -- of the country's citizens without due process. Second, Lincoln feared alienating the residents of the Border States -- slave states that had remained in the Union. These people included residents of Kentucky, Missouri, Delaware, and Maryland. If these people joined with the South, hundreds of thousands of more men could join the Confederate armies. Lincoln wanted to solidify the North's control over these slaveholding states before acting against slavery. Third, Lincoln realized that many Southerners and Northerners would not support slavery's termination, because it might result in the equality of African Americans with white people. Lincoln hoped to persuade prominent African-American leaders that the black population should move from the United States if slavery ended. The president also had to negotiate with other nations, to convince these countries to accept African-American immigrants. Finally, Lincoln worried that ending slavery would alienate any Unionist sympathizers currently in the South, further strengthening the Confederate war effort.
By the summer of 1862, Lincoln had become convinced that slavery had to end. Many of his concerns about ending the institution had been alleviated. Northern troops now had firm control over the Border States and they would be able to prevent these states from seceding from the United States. Southerners remained committed to the war effort. Lincoln was convinced that any Unionist support in the Confederacy could not succeed in persuading secessionists to rejoin the United States. A growing number of Northerners began to believe that slavery was morally wrong. As Northern soldiers marched into the South, many of these men saw the true brutality of slavery for the first time. Many of these men informed their loved ones in the North about the injustice of the institution, prompting calls for slavery's demise. Finally, Lincoln believed that the federal government did have the right to hamper its enemy's ability to wage war. Slaves grew crops and produced other supplies for the Confederate military. The United States Constitution allowed the president to adopt measures during times of war to help guarantee a military victory. Lincoln decided that ending slavery would hamper the Confederate war effort and was legal under the United States Constitution.
In the elections of November 1862, the Union Party in Ohio experienced major setbacks. Only five of their nineteen congressional candidates were elected to office. The Unionists also lost the election for attorney-general. A major reason for the Union Party's lack of success was Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. Despite the political backlash, the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect on January 1, 1863, ending slavery in areas in rebellion.