The Decision and the Writing
T HE road that led to the issuing of thePreliminary Emancipation Proclamation was a long and difficult one. It was marked by an incredible amount of pressure on Abraham Lincoln, pressure that began theday Sumter fell and that did not relent until his decision was announced on September 22, 1862. It is not possible toweigh the effects of the pressures created by hardheaded generals who would set slaves free in order to break the back of the Confederacy. One cannot know what impressions the procession of the Charles Sumners, the Orestes Brownsons and the religious deputations made on the President as they came by day and by night to tell him what he should do about slavery. Did a Greeley editorial or a Douglass speech sway him? One cannot know the answers to these questions, for Lincoln, the only one who could do so,never gave the answers. He was doubtlessly impressed by all arguments that were advanced, and he took all of them "underadvisement." But the final decision was his.
Lincoln needed no convincing that slaverywas wrong, and he had been determined for many years to strike a blow for freedom if the opportunity ever came his way. As a young man he told a New Orleans group in 1831, "If I ever get a chance to hit that thing, I'll hit it hard."1 He