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Abraham Lincoln on slavery

Abraham Lincoln on slavery
In 1842, Lincoln married Mary Todd, daughter of a prominent slave-owning family from Kentucky.[1] His brother-in-law, Ben Hardin Helm would later serve as a Brig. General in the Confederacy, leading the 1st Kentucky Cavalry of the Orphan Brigade. Lincoln returned to the political stage as a result of the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act and soon became a leading opponent of the Slave Power--that is the political power of the southern slave owners. The 1854 KansasNebraska Act, written to form the territories of Kansas and Nebraska, included language, designed by Stephen A. Douglas,[2] which allowed the settlers to decide whether they would or would not accept slavery in their region. Lincoln saw this as a repeal of the 1820 Missouri Compromise which had outlawed slavery above the 36-30’ parallel. During the American Civil War, Lincoln used the war powers of the presidency to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared "all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free" but exempted border states and those areas of slave states already under Union control. As a practical matter, at first the Proclamation could only be enforced to free those slaves that had already escaped to the Union side. However, millions more were freed as more areas of the South came under Union control.

Reproduction of Emancipation Proclamation at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center Abraham Lincoln’s position on freeing the slaves was one of the central issues in American history. Though Abraham Lincoln has been one of the people identified as most responsible for the abolition of slavery, he maintained that the Constitution prohibited the federal government from abolishing slavery in states where it already existed. Initially, Lincoln expected to bring about the eventual extinction of slavery by stopping its further expansion into any U.S. territory, and by offering compensated emancipation (an offer accepted only by Washington, D.C). Lincoln stood by the Republican Party platform in 1860, which stated that slavery should not be allowed to expand into any more territories. Most Americans agreed that if all future states admitted to the Union were to be free states, that slavery would eventually become extinct.

19th century national politics
All the Northern states had passed slavery emancipation acts between 1780 and 1804, though, as Alexis de Toqueville noted in Democracy in America (1835), the prohibition did not always mean that all the slaves were freed. The economic value of plantation slavery had become magnified after the 1793 invention of the cotton gin by Eli Whitney, increasing fiftyfold the quantity of cotton that could be processed in a day and greatly increasing the demand for slave labor in the


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South.[3] Just as demand for slaves was increasing, the supply was restricted. The United States Constitution, adopted in 1787, prevented Congress from banning the importation of slaves until 1808. On January 1, 1808, Congress banned further imports. Though there were certainly violations of this law, slavery in America became, more or less, self-sustaining. With the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, the size of the United States had roughly doubled, opening up new lands which could become states. After the War of 1812, concern was increasing to balance the number of slave states and free states. Because of larger population growth in the North, the free states came to hold the majority of seats in the House of Representatives. To keep a balance in the Senate, there was a strong movement to admit new states in pairs, one slave state for every free state. The Compromise of 1820 admittted Maine as a free state and Missouri as a slave state, and also banned slavery above the 36° 30’ parallel except in the new state of Missouri. With the application by Texas to become a state of the Union, and the ceding of lands to the U.S. after the Mexican American War, new territories were added in which, by the Missouri Compromise, slavery could be legal. Efforts were also made to acquire Cuba and to annex Nicaragua, both to be slave states. Members of Congress enforced an informal gag rule which prevented debates on slavery issues. Meanwhile representatives from slave states were able to pass stronger federal laws such as the Fugitive Slave Acts, which obliged Northerners to assist in the return of blacks who might have escaped from the South. Northern opposition to slavery in the South grew as people objected to being made agents of slavery. Lincoln, the leader most associated with the end of slavery in the United States, came to national prominence with the advent of the Republican Party in the 1850s. The party was determined to stop the expansion of slavery and put it on a course to eventual extinction. The party opposed what it called the Slave Power--that is the group of Southern slaveowners they thought had control of the government and that some thought was attempting to expand slavery throughout the United States and the rest of the Americas. Lincoln had left politics until he was drawn back into it by the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, which

Abraham Lincoln on slavery
allowed territories to decide for themselves whether they would allow slavery. Lincoln was opposed to the expansion of slavery into more territories, but held that the federal government was prevented by the Constitution from banning slavery in states where it already existed. His plan was to halt the spread of slavery and to offer monetary compensation to slave-owners in states that agreed to end slavery. He was considered a moderate within his party, as there were some who wanted the immediate abolition of slavery.

On Emancipation
Many of Lincoln’s anti-slavery sentiments were shown in the seven Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858 between Lincoln and Stephen Douglas, his opponent who defeated him in the Senate race. Douglas criticized him as being inconsistent, saying he altered his message and position on slavery and on the political rights of freed blacks in order to appeal to the audience before him, as northern Illinois was more hostile to slavery than southern Illinois. Lincoln wrote to Joshua Speed in 1855: How can any one who abhors the oppression of negroes, be in favor of degrading classes of white people? Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began by declaring that "all men are created equal." We now practically read it "all men are created equal, except negroes." When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read "all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and catholics." When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty — to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be take pure, and without the base alloy of hypocracy [sic].[4] The Republican Party was committed to restricting the growth of slavery, and its victory in the election of 1860 was the trigger for secession acts by Southern states. The debate before 1860 was mainly focused on the Western territories, especially Kansas and the popular sovereignty controversy.


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Though he thought it was essentially a reaffirmation of terms already in the Constitution, Lincoln was a driving force in 1861 for the compromise Corwin amendment. It was passed by Congress and two states, but was abandoned once the Civil War began. It would have explicitly prohibited congressional interference with slavery in states where it already existed. The Corwin amendment was a late attempt at reconciliation, but it also was a measure of reassurance to the slaveholding border states that the federal government was not intent on taking away their powers. At the beginning of the war, Lincoln prohibited his generals from freeing slaves even in captured territories. On August 30, 1861, Major General John C. Frémont, the commander of the Union Army in St. Louis, proclaimed that all slaves owned by Confederates in Missouri were free. Lincoln opposed allowing military leaders take executive actions that were not authorized by the government, and realized that such actions could induce slaveowners in border states to oppose the Union or even start supporting the enemy. Lincoln demanded Frémont modify his order and free only slaves owned by Missourians actively working for the South. When Frémont refused, he was replaced by the conservative General Henry Wager Halleck. Radical Republicans such as William P. Fessenden of Maine and Charles Sumner supported Frémont. Fessenden described Lincoln’s action as "a weak and unjustifiable concession to the Union men of the border states" and Sumner writing in a letter to Lincoln how sad it was "to have the power of a god and not use it godlike." The situation was repeated in May 1862, when General David Hunter began enlisting black soldiers in the occupied district under his control. Soon afterwards Hunter issued a statement that all slaves owned by Confederates in Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina were free. Despite the pleas of Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase, Lincoln ordered Hunter to disband the black 1st South Carolina Regiment and to retract his proclamation. At all times Lincoln insisted that he controlled the issue--only he had the war powers. Lincoln made it clear that the North was fighting the war to preserve the Union. On August 22, 1862, just a few weeks before signing the Proclamation and after he had

Abraham Lincoln on slavery
already discussed a draft of it with his cabinet in July, he wrote a letter in response to an editorial by Horace Greeley of the New York Tribune which had urged complete abolition: I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can be restored; the nearer the Union will be "the Union as it was." If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause. I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors; and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views. I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty; and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men everywhere could be free. [5] Just one month after writing this letter, Lincoln issued his first Emancipation Proclamation, which announced that at the beginning of 1863, he would use his war powers to free all slaves in states still in rebellion (as they came under Union control). Also revealing was his letter[6] a year later to James C. Conkling of August 26, 1863, which included the following excerpt: There was more than a year and a half of trial to suppress the rebellion before the proclamation issued, the last one hundred days of which passed under an explicit notice that it was coming, unless


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averted by those in revolt, returning to their allegiance. The war has certainly progressed as favorably for us, since the issue of proclamation as before. I know, as fully as one can know the opinions of others, that some of the commanders of our armies in the field who have given us our most important successes believe the emancipation policy and the use of the colored troops constitute the heaviest blow yet dealt to the Rebellion, and that at least one of these important successes could not have been achieved when it was but for the aid of black soldiers. Among the commanders holding these views are some who have never had any affinity with what is called abolitionism or with the Republican party policies but who held them purely as military opinions. I submit these opinions as being entitled to some weight against the objections often urged that emancipation and arming the blacks are unwise as military measures and were not adopted as such in good faith. You say you will not fight to free negroes. Some of them seem willing to fight for you; but, no matter. Fight you, then exclusively to save the Union. I issued the proclamation on purpose to aid you in saving the Union. Whenever you shall have conquered all resistance to the Union, if I shall urge you to continue fighting, it will be an apt time, then, for you to declare you will not fight to free negroes. I thought that in your struggle for the Union, to whatever extent the negroes should cease helping the enemy, to that extent it weakened the enemy in his resistance to you. Do you think differently? I thought that whatever negroes can be got to do as soldiers, leaves just so much less for white soldiers to do, in saving the Union. Does it appear otherwise to you? But negroes, like other people, act upon motives. Why should they do any thing for us, if we will do nothing for them? If they stake their lives for us, they must be prompted by the strongest motive—even the promise of freedom. And the promise being made, must be kept.

Abraham Lincoln on slavery
Lincoln addresses the issue of his consistency (or lack thereof) between his earlier position and his later position of emancipation in an 1864 letter to Albert G. Hodges.[7]

Since the 1840s Lincoln had been an advocate of the American Colonization Society program of colonizing blacks in Liberia. In an October 16, 1854[8]:a speech at Peoria, Illinois[9] (transcribed after the fact by Lincoln himself),[8]:b Lincoln points out the immense difficulties of such a task are an obstacle to finding an easy way to quickly end slavery.[10] [8]:c My first impulse would be to free all the slaves, and send them to Liberia,—to their own native land. But a moment’s reflection would convince me that whatever of high hope (as I think there is) there may be in this, in the long run, its sudden execution is impossible.[11] Lincoln mentioned colonization favorably in his first Emancipation Proclamation, and continued to support efforts at colonization throughout his presidency.[12] He appointed James Mitchell as his Commissioner of Emigration to oversee colonization projects from 1861 through 1865. In 1862, Lincoln convened a colonization conference at the White House where he addressed a group of freedmen and attempted to convince them to support his policy. Between 1861 and 1862 Lincoln actively negotiated contracts with businessmen to colonize freed blacks to Panama and to a small island off the coast of Haiti. The Haiti plan collapsed in 1862 and 1863 after swindling by the business agents responsible for the plan, prompting Lincoln to send ships to retrieve the colonists. The much larger Panama contract fell through in 1863 after the government of Colombia backed away from the deal and expressed hostility to colonization schemes.

On citizenship and on voting rights for blacks
Lincoln stated that Negroes had the rights to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" in the first of the Lincoln-Douglas debates.[13]. Lincoln said he was against Negro suffrage in


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his speech in Columbus, Ohio on September 16, 1859.[8]:d Total equality was another matter. He did not say they had a right to complete equality with white American citizens. In the September 18, 1858 debate, Lincoln said: I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races - that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And in as much as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.[14] However, this may have been a strategy speech used to gain voters too, as Douglas had accused Lincoln of favoring negroes too much as well. [15] In his second term as president, on April 11, 1865, Lincoln gave a speech supporting a form of limited suffrage extended to what Lincoln described as the more "intelligent" blacks and those blacks who had rendered special services to the nation.[16] In analyzing Lincoln’s position historian Eugene H. Berwanger notes: During his presidency, Lincoln took a reasoned course which helped the federal government both destroy slavery and advance the cause of black suffrage. For a man who had denied both reforms four years earlier, Lincoln’s change in attitude was rapid and decisive. He was both open-minded and perceptive to the needs of his nation in a postwar era. Once committed to a principle, Lincoln moved toward it with steady, determined progress. [17]

Abraham Lincoln on slavery


[1] "Mary Todd Lincoln". [2] "Mr. Lincoln’s White House: an examination of Washington DC during Abraham Lincoln’s Presidency". inside_search.asp?ID=156&subjectID=2&searchWor Retrieved on 2008-08-31. [3] The People’s Chronology, 1994 by James Trager [4] lincoln/speeches/speed.htm 1855 Lincoln letter to Joshua Fry Speed addressing slavery [5] "Abraham Lincoln’s Letter to Horace Greeley". Showcase. lincoln/speeches/greeley.htm. Retrieved on 2008-08-31. [6] "Abraham Lincoln’s Letter to James Conkling". Showcase. lincoln/speeches/conkling.htm. Retrieved on 2008-08-31. [7] "1864 letter to Albert G. Hodges, in which Lincoln explains how he came to change his position on abolition". lincoln/speeches/hodges.htm. [8] ^ "Mr. Lincoln and Freedom". Lincoln Institute. a. "Speech at Peoria, October 16, 1854" (html). inside.asp?ID=11&subjectID=2. Retrieved on 2008-09-15. b. "Preface by Lewis Lehrman" (html). inside.asp?ID=1&subjectID=1. Retrieved on 2008-08-31. c. "1854". inside.asp?ID=10&subjectID=2. Retrieved on 2008-08-31. d. "The progress of Abraham Lincoln’s opposition to slavery" (html).


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia inside.asp?ID=81&subjectID=2. Retrieved on 2008-08-31.

Abraham Lincoln on slavery journals/jala/5/berwanger.html. Retrieved on 2008-08-31. • Herman Belz; Abraham Lincoln, [9] "Abraham Lincoln at Peoria: The Turning Constitutionalism, and Equal Rights in the Point: Getting Right with the Declaration Civil War Era 1998 of Independence". • David Donald, Lincoln (1995), • William E. Gienapp; Abraham Lincoln and Retrieved on 2008-08-31. Civil War America: A Biography (2002) [10] "Lincoln on Slavery". • Guelzo, Allen C.: • Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President. 02rights/slave07.htm#Free%20them. 1999. Retrieved on 2008-08-31. • Defending Emancipation: Abraham [11] Lincoln, Abraham. "Mr. Lincoln’s Reply" Lincoln and the Conkling Letter, 1863. (html). First Joint Debate at Ottawa. 2002. • "How Abe Lincoln Lost the Black Vote: 251/12.html. Retrieved on 2008-09-15. Lincoln and Emancipation in the [12] Staples, Brent (November 17, 2001). African American Mind" (html). Journal "Editorial Observer; Abraham Lincoln of the Abraham Lincoln Association. 15 Speaks to Us of Slavery -- and Freedom -September 2008. in 2001" (html). journals/jala/25.1/guelzo.html. fullpage.html?res=9C03E0D9123BF934A25752C1A9679C8B63. Retrieved on 2008-09-15. Retrieved on 2008-09-15. • William C. Harris. With Charity for All: [13] "U S Constitution - The Lincoln-Douglas Lincoln and the Restoration of the Union Debates, First Joint Debate". 1997. • Howard Jones; Abraham Lincoln and a Birth of Freedom: The Union and douglasdebates1.htm. Retrieved on Slavery in the Diplomacy of the Civil War 2008-08-31. 1999 [14] "Fourth Joint Debate at Charleston. Mr. • William K. Klingaman. Final Freedom: The Lincoln’s Speech. Lincoln, Abraham. Civil War, Abraham Lincoln and the Road 1897. Political Debates Between Lincoln to Emancipation, 1861-1865 (2001)* and Douglas". James M. McPherson; Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution 1992 Retrieved on 2008-08-31. • James A. Rawley, Abraham Lincoln and a [15] "Vespasian Warner’s recount of events Nation Worth Fighting For (Harlanleading up to the Lincoln-Douglas Davidson, 1996), Debate". Moore-Warner Farm • Michael Vorenberg. Final Freedom: The Management. http://www.mooreCivil War, the Abolition of Slavery, and the Retrieved on Thirteenth Amendment (2001) January 21 2009. • PBS quotes showing that Lincoln always [16] "Last Public Address" (html). Speeches opposed slavery and Writings. Abraham Lincoln Online. • Lincoln’s First Inauguration Address April 11, 1865. • Abraham Lincoln: A Resource Guide from the Library of Congress lincoln/speeches/last.htm. Retrieved on 2008-09-15. [17] "Lincoln’s Constitutional Dilemma: Emancipation and Black Suffrage". Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association. Retrieved from "" Categories: Abraham Lincoln, Slavery in the United States, Anti-racism


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Abraham Lincoln on slavery

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