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Congress abolished slavery in the federal District of Columbia on April 16 with a compensated emancipation program.This action must have been particularly satisfying to President Lincoln, who as Congressman Lincoln had in the late 1840s drafted a bill to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia.
In addition to reiterating his support for gradual emancipation in the loyal states, the draft proclamation declared that as of January 1, 1863, "all persons held as slaves within any state or states, wherein the constitutional authority of the United States shall not then be practically recognized, submitted to, and maintained, shall then, thenceforward, and forever, be free." Whereas the Confiscation Acts freed the slaves of individual owners who demonstrated disloyalty, Lincoln's proclamation freed slaves of all owners residing in geographic areas engaged in rebellion as "a fit and necessary military measure." The reaction of Lincoln's cabinet members was mixed. Stanton, correctly interpreting the proclamation as a military measure designed both to deprive the Confederacy of slave labor and bring additional men into the Union army, advocated its immediate release.
Attorney General Edward Bates, a conservative, opposed civil and political equality for blacks but gave his support.
He also remained hopeful that voluntary colonization options for former slaves would address the concerns of many white Americans about where emancipated slaves would go.
While several pieces of emancipation-related legislation included funds for colonization outside of the United States, the few actual attempts at colonization during the Civil War failed.
Butler instead appropriated the fugitives and their valuable labor as "contraband of war." The Lincoln administration approved Butler's action, and soon other fugitive slaves (often referred to as "contrabands") sought freedom behind Union lines.
The increasing number of fugitives and questions about their status eventually prompted action by the United States Congress.
Finding the measure lacking support, Lincoln never introduced it.
Congress further outlawed slavery in federal territories in June 1862.
Some Union commanders took matters into their own hands, declaring emancipation by proclamation. Frémont attempted to address the "disorganized condition" in the Department of the West by declaring martial law and proclaiming free the slaves of active Confederate sympathizers in Missouri.
Frémont failed to inform first President Lincoln, who requested Frémont amend his proclamation to conform to the 1861 Confiscation Act.