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Civil War Era Studies

Department 2



On more than one occasion, the historical record has implied that Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation was a hastily composed document: an impulsive reaction to military events surrounding the Civil War. In fact, it was an evolving idea that began to take shape long before Lincoln had read the initial draft of the Proclamation to his cabinet on July 22, 1862. A closer look at the role of Vice-President Hannibal Hamlin of Maine during the most divisive presidency in American history sheds new light on the consideration and deliberation that went into drafting a document that, on January 1, 1863, essentially freed four million slaves. During the preceding months, the Proclamation was so frequently edited, criticized, and transformed by so many different people that it is almost necessary to talk about the Emancipation Proclamations, rather than the a solitary Emancipation Proclamation. Hamlin was among those who shared in the president's confidence during these formative months.

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