Abraham Lincoln - The Un-Emancipator?

Status
Not open for further replies.
Joined
Mar 24, 2016
Location
Missouri
"If Lincoln loved the Union, he was responsible, more than any other man, for its destruction, for he consciously violated the constitution ... The war was not a war of slavery versus freedom; it was a war between those who preferred a federated nation to those who preferred a confederation of sovereign states. Slavery was the ink thrown into the pool to confuse the issue."

Andrew Nelson Lytle, The Virginia Quarterly Review, October 1931

The purpose of this thread is to discuss specific actions taken by Lincoln, before and during his presidency, as they relate to the issue of slavery in the United States to separate the actual facts from the variety of myths that were fabricated after his death.

For starters, let's examine the actual language of his Emancipation Proclamation and consider how many slaves would have been "freed" under it if the CSA had laid down its arms on or before 12/31/1862 ... and then ask, "Was this document written with the intention to "free slaves" or to end hostilities between the warring factions?"


By the President of the United States of America:

A Proclamation.

Whereas, on the twenty-second day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two, a proclamation was issued by the President of the United States, containing, among other things, the following, to wit:

"That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, 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; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.

"That the Executive will, on the first day of January aforesaid, by proclamation, designate the States and parts of States, if any, in which the people thereof, respectively, shall then be in rebellion against the United States; and the fact that any State, or the people thereof, shall on that day be, in good faith, represented in the Congress of the United States by members chosen thereto at elections wherein a majority of the qualified voters of such State shall have participated, shall, in the absence of strong countervailing testimony, be deemed conclusive evidence that such State, and the people thereof, are not then in rebellion against the United States."

Now, therefore I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, by virtue of the power in me vested as Commander-in-Chief, of the Army and Navy of the United States in time of actual armed rebellion against the authority and government of the United States, and as a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing said rebellion, do, on this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and in accordance with my purpose so to do publicly proclaimed for the full period of one hundred days, from the day first above mentioned, order and designate as the States and parts of States wherein the people thereof respectively, are this day in rebellion against the United States, the following, to wit:
Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, (except the Parishes of St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Jefferson, St. John, St. Charles, St. James Ascension, Assumption, Terrebonne, Lafourche, St. Mary, St. Martin, and Orleans, including the City of New Orleans) Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia, (except the forty-eight counties designated as West Virginia, and also the counties of Berkley, Accomac, Northampton, Elizabeth City, York, Princess Ann, and Norfolk, including the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth[)], and which excepted parts, are for the present, left precisely as if this proclamation were not issued.

And by virtue of the power, and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free; and that the Executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons.

And I hereby enjoin upon the people so declared to be free to abstain from all violence, unless in necessary self-defence; and I recommend to them that, in all cases when allowed, they labor faithfully for reasonable wages.

And I further declare and make known, that such persons of suitable condition, will be received into the armed service of the United States to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service.

And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God.

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty three, and of the Independence of the United States of America the eighty-seventh.

By the President: ABRAHAM LINCOLN
WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.
 
Last edited:
Joined
Mar 24, 2016
Location
Missouri
I submit that Lincoln told Horace Greeley the truth in his letter to him weeks prior to issuing his Emancipation Proclamation. The intelligence of Lincoln being as it was, it is unfathomable to think that he did not have the proclamation he had already written in mind when he wrote and sent this letter.


Executive Mansion,
Washington, August 22, 1862.

Hon. Horace Greeley:
Dear Sir.

I have just read yours of the 19th. addressed to myself through the New-York Tribune. If there be in it any statements, or assumptions of fact, which I may know to be erroneous, I do not, now and here, controvert them. If there be in it any inferences which I may believe to be falsely drawn, I do not now and here, argue against them. If there be perceptable in it an impatient and dictatorial tone, I waive it in deference to an old friend, whose heart I have always supposed to be right.

As to the policy I "seem to be pursuing" as you say, I have not meant to leave any one in doubt.

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 lesswhenever 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 every where could be free.

Yours,
A. Lincoln.
 

Northern Light

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Jul 21, 2014
Lincoln was a consummate politician, and he had more than one purpose in proposing the Proclamation. He was well aware that it was unconstitutional to free the slaves unilaterally, so he only freed the slaves in the Confederacy.

He had several reasons for wanting to make the Proclamation.

1. As the Union soldiers moved into and controlled Confederate territory, the slaves that were emancipated could no longer help the Confederate war effort, thus weakening it by denying that labour.

2. He understood that by bringing slavery into the equation of the war, Britain, and possibly France, would be less likely to support the Confederate cause, thereby denying the Confederacy potential allies from Europe.

3. The Proclamation placated the Radical Republicans, who were impatient to see slavery end.
I think that he had both objectives in mind when he wrote the Proclamation; both to free what slaves he could, legally, and to hasten the end of the war.
 
Joined
Mar 24, 2016
Location
Missouri
In August of 1858, two years before his election as president, Lincoln made the following statement:

Before proceeding, let me say I think I have no prejudice against the Southern people. They are just what we would be in their situation. If slavery did not now exist among them, they would not introduce it. If it did now exist among us, we should not instantly give it up. This I believe of the masses North and South.

Doubtless there are individuals on both sides who would gladly introduce slavery anew, if it were out of existence. We know that some Southern men do free their slaves, go North, and become tip-top Abolitionists; while some Northern ones go South, and become most cruel slave-masters.

When Southern people tell us they are no more responsible for the origin of slavery than we, I acknowledge the fact. When it is said that the institution exists, and that it is very difficult to get rid of in any satisfactory way, I can understand and appreciate that saying. I surely will not blame them for not doing what I should not know how to do myself.

If all earthly power were given to me, I should not know what to do as to the existing institution. My first impulse would be to free all of 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. If they were all landed there in a day, they would all perish in the next ten days; and there are not surplus shipping and surplus money enough in the world to carry them there in many times ten days.

What then? Free them all, and keep them among us as underlings? Is it quite certain that this betters their condition? I think I would not hold one in slavery at any rate; yet the point is not clear enough to me to denounce people upon.

What next? Free them, and make them politically and socially our equals? My own feeling will not admit of this; and if mine would, we well know that those of the great mass of white people will not. Whether this feeling accords with justice and sound judgment is not the sole question, if, indeed, it is any part of it. A universal feeling, whether well or ill-founded, cannot be safely disregarded. We cannot make them equals. It does seem to me that systems of gradual emancipation might be adopted; but for their tardiness in this, I will not undertake to judge our brethren in the South.

When they remind us of their constitutional rights, I acknowledge them, not grudgingly, but fully and fairly; and I would give them any legislation for the reclaiming of their fugitives, which should not, in its stringency, be more likely to carry a free man into slavery, than our ordinary criminal laws are to hang an innocent one.


Abraham Lincoln From His Own Words and Contemporary Accounts, Roy E Appleman, ed. (National Park Service Source Book Two, Washington DC: 1956) p. 19.
 
Last edited:

James B White

Captain
Honored Fallen Comrade
Joined
Dec 4, 2011
I thought this was going to be about Lincoln rescinding General Fremont's and General Hunter 's emancipation proclamations. That would fit, though. I was reading a period southern newspaper, and they said it was because Lincoln wanted all the glory himself. Haven't looked into the situation enough to see what was even presented in the north as a reason, let alone the "real" reasons.
 
Joined
Mar 24, 2016
Location
Missouri
I thought this was going to be about Lincoln rescinding General Fremont's and General Hunter 's emancipation proclamations. That would fit, though. I was reading a period southern newspaper, and they said it was because Lincoln wanted all the glory himself. Haven't looked into the situation enough to see what was even presented in the north as a reason, let alone the "real" reasons.

I am not sure about Hunter, but Lincoln's secretary wrote that Lincoln reversed Fremont's declaration freeing slaves in Missouri (and fired him) to keep from losing what little Union support existed in that state. Freeing slaves was certainly not his objective at this point in the war.
 
Last edited:

StephenColbert27

First Sergeant
I thought this was going to be about Lincoln rescinding General Fremont's and General Hunter 's emancipation proclamations. That would fit, though. I was reading a period southern newspaper, and they said it was because Lincoln wanted all the glory himself. Haven't looked into the situation enough to see what was even presented in the north as a reason, let alone the "real" reasons.
Both cases, I believe, were because Lincoln wanted to avoid spooking Unionists, especially those in the Border States of Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouri, which at that point looked like they could go either way.
 
Joined
Mar 24, 2016
Location
Missouri
Lincoln was a consummate politician, and he had more than one purpose in proposing the Proclamation. He was well aware that it was unconstitutional to free the slaves unilaterally, so he only freed the slaves in the Confederacy.

He had several reasons for wanting to make the Proclamation.

1. As the Union soldiers moved into and controlled Confederate territory, the slaves that were emancipated could no longer help the Confederate war effort, thus weakening it by denying that labour.

2. He understood that by bringing slavery into the equation of the war, Britain, and possibly France, would be less likely to support the Confederate cause, thereby denying the Confederacy potential allies from Europe.

3. The Proclamation placated the Radical Republicans, who were impatient to see slavery end.
I think that he had both objectives in mind when he wrote the Proclamation; both to free what slaves he could, legally, and to hasten the end of the war.

I also agree that there were three purposes for the EP: (1) to be used as a propaganda ploy to prevent abolitionist England and France from recognizing the CSA, (2) to create or encourage slave revolts in the south and weaken their armies, and (3) to appease the more radical element within the Republican party (which had taken a beating in the mid-term election).
 
Last edited:
Joined
Oct 3, 2005
Is there any more impatient and demanding abolitionist than the latter day Southern apologist?

When Lincoln wrote his famous letter to Horace Greeley, he already had written the EP and was waiting for a victory to announce it. The letter isn't expressing an indifference to slavery. It was signaling that slavery was now on the chopping block.

Let's not kid ourselves. American slavery had hummed along for over two centuries. Every decade there were more slaves, more territory open to slavery, more dollar value for the individual slave. In 1860, the United States was the greatest slave owning nation on the face of the earth. Then Lincoln was elected president and in five years it was a memory.
 
Joined
Oct 3, 2005
Is there anyone more of an abolitionist purist than the latter day Confederate apologist, complaining that the EP didn't go far enough or fast enough?

The EP was a key part of the greatest expansion of human freedom in US history. Lincoln, like other actual political figures dealing with reality, has to actually get things done. Within the limitations of his constitutional role, and the political realities of his day, Dr. Lincoln told slavery, that yes, its fatal.

Once the Confederacy was defeated, the millions of people that had enslaved were free. The islands of bondage left could not, and in fact, did not, survive.
 

brass napoleon

Colonel
Retired Moderator
Member of the Year
Honored Fallen Comrade
Joined
Feb 6, 2010
Location
Ohio
Is there anyone more of an abolitionist purist than the latter day Confederate apologist, complaining that the EP didn't go far enough or fast enough?

Amazing, isn't it? On one thread they'll wail and gnash their teeth about how the Republicans forced emancipation on the poor slaveholding states too quickly, and how they bear all the responsibility for all the racial problems that have occurred since then. Then on another thread, they thump their chests and blow their horn about how SLOW the Republicans were to emancipate. :spin:
 
Joined
Oct 3, 2005
I can understand why someone like Frederick Douglass demanded more and faster action. That's his role, and we can thank providence he was there to speed the work. Thank you Douglass, and the tens of thousands of nameless people who quit slavery. But government officials work within the framework of laws, policies, regulations and competing interests. As Douglass would write later, he was often frustrated at the slow rate of progress, but Lincoln went as fast as any white man was going to.
 
Joined
Mar 24, 2016
Location
Missouri
When Lincoln wrote his famous letter to Horace Greeley, he already had written the EP and was waiting for a victory to announce it. The letter isn't expressing an indifference to slavery. It was signaling that slavery was now on the chopping block.

To the contrary ...

If the southern army had taken him up on his offer and laid down their arms, Lincoln would have to explain to Greeley and to his army why tens of thousands of Union soldiers died ... and slavery in the states where it existed were still in bondage.

Lincoln would have told them the truth ... as he stated in his letter to Greeley ... it was never about slaves. It was about restoring the Union.
 
Joined
Mar 24, 2016
Location
Missouri
Once the Confederacy was defeated, the millions of people that had enslaved were free.

Not true. The revised 13th amendment was not passed until the war had ended ... when, in fact, it could have been the first thing that the new Congress did after the 1862 elections. THEN it would have simply been a matter of defeating the South and letting THEIR slaves go free. Tens of thousands of slaves in Union states were not released until several months after the war had ended.
 

StephenColbert27

First Sergeant
Not true. The revised 13th amendment was not passed until the war had ended ... when, in fact, it could have been the first thing that the new Congress did after the 1862 elections. THEN it would have simply been a matter of defeating the South and letting THEIR slaves go free. Tens of thousands of slaves in Union states were not released until several months after the war had ended.
Except that there was no public support for such a measure at that time, and the only way that it passed was when they were able to convince Lame Duck Democrats to vote for it. Yet again, you're ignoring historical events to fit your own interpretation, something I've come to expect from you.
 
Joined
Oct 3, 2005
Why does the latter day confederate apologist become so incensed and speculate so wildly about the base motives of emancipators?

I can understand the actual confederates of the 1860s. They were viciously exploiting people for profit and had created an elaborate racial mythology to justify it. They were believers. When their increasingly minority world view was challenged, when it was described as cruel, unchristian, etc., they were going to fling mud back. I get that.

The EP was crossing a Rubicon. And you can complain that the water is dirty and the bridge was crooked and your feet hurt, but aren't you glad we're finally on the other side?
 

Eric Calistri

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
May 31, 2012
Location
Austin Texas
Not true. The revised 13th amendment was not passed until the war had ended ... when, in fact, it could have been the first thing that the new Congress did after the 1862 elections. THEN it would have simply been a matter of defeating the South and letting THEIR slaves go free. Tens of thousands of slaves in Union states were not released until several months after the war had ended.

I find your math here very questionable.
 
Joined
Oct 3, 2005
Not true. The revised 13th amendment was not passed until the war had ended ... when, in fact, it could have been the first thing that the new Congress did after the 1862 elections. THEN it would have simply been a matter of defeating the South and letting THEIR slaves go free. Tens of thousands of slaves in Union states were not released until several months after the war had ended.

I'll use shorter words. The Confederacy held millions of people in bondage. They had most of the slaves. The EP said no more slavery, forever. Those people were free. I understand it would take the defeat of the Confederate army to make that effective, but that would be true of any antislavery measure. The EP gave slavery cancer.

Once the Confederacy had thrown in the towel, some islands of bondage remained. Some areas were busily working on their own emancipation programs. But it would take the 13th amendment to shoot the rotting, stumbling corpse of zombie slavery in the head. An amendment Lincoln pushed very hard to get passed.

When it came to eliminating slavery, Lincoln crafted a strategy that actually worked. Is it so unforgivable that he won?
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top