Today in 1863 President Lincoln signed the final draft of the Emancipation Proclamation. Interestingly the proclamation did not free all slaves. It only freed the slaves in states, or portions of states where the people were in rebellion to the United States. Talk about “political incorrectness”.
The vacant seats in congress determined the States affected at the time. The proclamation essentially freed no one since the areas still in rebellion were not under Union control. Still, it was one of the most important pieces of legislation ever enacted because it meant that the slaves in rebellious areas would be free as soon the Union regained control, a goal that was now in sight after the Battle of Antietam some months earlier.
Even more damaging to the Southern cause the Proclamation upset Confederate attempts for foreign support, especially Great Britain. The Proclamation shifted the focus of the war from re-unification of the Union to the freedom of slaves. Whereas the South had been viewed as freedom fighters against the Union they were now viewed as defenders of bondage, a concept not acceptable to foreign powers.
On New Year's Day, the president greeted a large group of diplomats at a White House reception. Shortly after noon, he slipped upstairs to his office and signed the proclamation. Lincoln commented as he signed the document, "I never felt more certain that I was doing right, than I do in signing this paper."