Almost everyone agrees that Abraham Lincolnís Emancipation Proclamation is a fundamental document of American freedom.  Nonetheless, the Proclamation, first announced on September 22, 1862 and effective January 1, 1863, has been the subject of historical debate ever since.  Some of the debate focuses on the circumstances that led Lincoln to issue the document.  Historians ask what he hoped to accomplish, why the policy took the format of a presidential proclamation, why it was issued at that particular time, why its application was limited, and what it accomplished, if anything.

Step 1:  For this exercise, we will focus on the circumstances leading Lincoln to announce the Emancipation Proclamation.  Students will be divided into five teams, which will each focus on one of the following answers to that question.

Control of the Border States allowed emancipation to be used as a tool against the Confederacy through "property" confiscation, the use of freedmen in the armed forces and, ultimately through the demoralization of Johnny Reb and his Confederate supporters.

The fact that slaves were already emancipating themselves presented an opportunity for the Lincoln administration to use for the Unionís benefit by issuing a presidential proclamation ending slavery in those areas of rebellion.

Pressure from abolitionists and Lincoln's own convictions to bring the slave states in line with the principle in the Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal.

Since emancipation was popular with the British working class, the policy helped convince the British government not to recognize the Confederacy diplomatically.

The Lincoln administration and the Republican-controlled Congress had been chipping away at the institution of slavery since the beginning of the war, and the Emancipation Proclamation was a logical next step in that process.

Step 2:  After doing the assigned readings, each student will write a two-page paper defending the point of view of his or her group.  The paper must be cited (in the format assigned by the teacher) and must rely solely on the primary source material provided for this activity from the Lincoln and Civil War collection.

Step 3:  After the papers have been written, graded, and returned, the five groups will meet as a team for one period.  Together, students in each group will decide on the evidence that most strongly makes their case.

Step 4:  The teacher will then assign each student in every group a number from 1 through 5.  Then, all the 1ís, all the 2ís, all the 3ís, all the 4ís, and all the 5's will meet.  The result will be five groups, each of which has students representing the Military Necessity, Revolution from Below, Higher Law, Diplomatic Considerations, and Long-Term Process perspectives.  These new groups will meet for one period or, if necessary, a period and a half.  The teacher may choose for the students to (a) simply argue from their differing viewpoints or (b) agree on the most valid of the five viewpoints.

Step 5:  Each student will write a final report (the length determined by the teacher), which declares, explains, and supports with evidence and logic the studentís judgment about why President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.







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