Lincoln and slavery split from Compromise and Peace: The Road Not Taken

Hunter

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Apr 23, 2016

If not, why did he support the original 13th Amendment? Wasn't, it protect slavery and thereby avoid war? I understand many are sensitive about Lincoln, who was our greatest president, but this was not his finest hour.
 

Hunter

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No disrespect intended, but anyone who assumes Lincoln's position of non-interference with slavery in the states had nothing to do with avoiding civil war needs to take another look at his first inaugural address. Also note his comment that he had no "inclination" to interfere even if he had the power to do so. He was willing to tolerate slavery and was giving assurances to the South in order to diffuse the controversy and thereby avoid war. He was widely criticized for this by abolitionists.
 

The Confederate

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No disrespect intended, but anyone who assumes Lincoln's position of non-interference with slavery in the states had nothing to do with avoiding civil war needs to take another look at his first inaugural address. Also note his comment that he had no "inclination" to interfere even if he had the power to do so. He was willing to tolerate slavery and was giving assurances to the South in order to diffuse the controversy and thereby avoid war. He was widely criticized for this by abolitionists.

It had nothing to do with it, the reason is because he believed he didn't have the authority to abolish it, and he never said he had no inclination even if he had the power.
 

cash

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No disrespect intended, but anyone who assumes Lincoln's position of non-interference with slavery in the states had nothing to do with avoiding civil war needs to take another look at his first inaugural address. Also note his comment that he had no "inclination" to interfere even if he had the power to do so. He was willing to tolerate slavery and was giving assurances to the South in order to diffuse the controversy and thereby avoid war. He was widely criticized for this by abolitionists.

Again, you have to understand Lincoln's view of his official duties as opposed to his personal views. His personal view was slavery should be eradicated. His official view was that the Federal government had no power over slavery where it existed in the states. He was not willing to tolerate slavery in the territories at all. He would leave slavery in the states in which it existed alone, because legally he could do nothing else. This is not Lincoln being "perfectly good with the idea of keeping people in bondage, etc."
 

RebelHeart

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No disrespect intended, but anyone who assumes Lincoln's position of non-interference with slavery in the states had nothing to do with avoiding civil war needs to take another look at his first inaugural address. Also note his comment that he had no "inclination" to interfere even if he had the power to do so. He was willing to tolerate slavery and was giving assurances to the South in order to diffuse the controversy and thereby avoid war. He was widely criticized for this by abolitionists.

Lincoln had no Constitutional authority to stop slavery but he did have a commitment - both professional and personal - to uphold the Constitution. He was against slavery and passionate about the rule of law. He wanted to eradicate slavery in the country, not fight to keep the country together.
 

Hunter

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Again, you have to understand Lincoln's view of his official duties as opposed to his personal views. His personal view was slavery should be eradicated. His official view was that the Federal government had no power over slavery where it existed in the states. He was not willing to tolerate slavery in the territories at all. He would leave slavery in the states in which it existed alone, because legally he could do nothing else. This is not Lincoln being "perfectly good with the idea of keeping people in bondage, etc."

So, why not issue the emancipation proclamation after Bull Run? He had the authority then. Why wait another year? There is a modern tendency to ascribe to Lincoln the feelings he came to hold in 1865, but the historical record does not support this. Even his most fawning biographers portray his views on slavery as "evolving" during the war.
 

The Confederate

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So, why not issue the emancipation proclamation after Bull Run? He had the authority then. Why wait another year? There is a modern tendency to ascribe to Lincoln the feelings he came to hold in 1865, but the historical record does not support this. Even his most fawning biographers portray his views on slavery as "evolving" during the war.

In January 1863, many parts of the Confederacy were occupied, however in August 1861, the Union held very few parts of the Confederacy.
 

brass napoleon

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Even his most fawning biographers portray his views on slavery as "evolving" during the war.

Are you sure they said his views on slavery were evolving, or was it his views on race that were evolving? It seems to me that his views on slavery were pretty consistent going back to at least 1854, although his views on race were evolving throughout that period.
 

cash

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So, why not issue the emancipation proclamation after Bull Run? He had the authority then. Why wait another year? There is a modern tendency to ascribe to Lincoln the feelings he came to hold in 1865, but the historical record does not support this. Even his most fawning biographers portray his views on slavery as "evolving" during the war.

The Union was still pursuing the conciliation strategy in July of 1861. Again, you have to understand Lincoln's view of his official duty as opposed to his personal feelings. He still wanted slavery eradicated but he also wanted, at that time, to facilitate an easy reunion as well as to avoid antagonizing the four slave states who had remained loyal. That doesn't mean he didn't want to eradicate slavery.
 

Bee

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Are you sure they said his views on slavery were evolving, or was it his views on race that were evolving? It seems to me that his views on slavery were pretty consistent going back to at least 1854, although his views on race were evolving throughout that period.

This is such an important distinction -- thank you for pointing it out.
 

brass napoleon

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So, why not issue the emancipation proclamation after Bull Run? He had the authority then. Why wait another year? There is a modern tendency to ascribe to Lincoln the feelings he came to hold in 1865, but the historical record does not support this. Even his most fawning biographers portray his views on slavery as "evolving" during the war.

I think Lincoln himself explains it pretty candidly. Here's an excerpt from a private letter that he wrote in 1855 to a close friend, who was a slaveholder himself, explaining his own personal feelings on the matter:

'In 1841 you and I had together a tedious low-water trip, on a Steam Boat from Louisville to St. Louis. You may remember, as I well do, that from Louisville to the mouth of the Ohio, there were, on board, ten or a dozen slaves, shackled together with irons. That sight was a continued torment to me; and I see something like it every time I touch the Ohio, or any other slave-border. It is hardly fair for you to assume, that I have no interest in a thing which has, and continually exercises, the power of making me miserable. You ought rather to appreciate how much the great body of the Northern people do crucify their feelings, in order to maintain their loyalty to the Constitution and the Union.

I do oppose the extension of slavery, because my judgment and feelings so prompt me; and I am under no obligation to the contrary. If for this you and I must differ, differ we must.'


- Abraham Lincoln, letter to Joshua Speed, August 24, 1855

Source: <http://showcase.netins.net/web/creative/lincoln/speeches/speed.htm
As for issuing the Emancipation Proclamation, that was a worthless piece of paper unless the Union armies were able to succeed in the war and enforce it. If he had issued it in the summer of 1861, Kentucky, Missouri, Maryland and Delaware would almost certainly have seceded, the Union would lose the war, and not a single slave would have been set free. At least that was Lincoln's perspective, and I have to believe he was right about that.
 
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Hunter

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In January 1863, many parts of the Confederacy were occupied, however in August 1861, the Union held very few parts of the Confederacy.

But the extent of occupation does not change the fact that he had the constitutional authority once the war began.
 

Hunter

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"would my word free the slaves, when I cannot even enforce the Constitution in the rebel states?

President Abraham Lincoln to a group of ministers from Chicago, September 13, 1862

The same month he issued his preliminary emancipation proclamation.
 

Hunter

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The Union was still pursuing the conciliation strategy in July of 1861. Again, you have to understand Lincoln's view of his official duty as opposed to his personal feelings. He still wanted slavery eradicated but he also wanted, at that time, to facilitate an easy reunion as well as to avoid antagonizing the four slave states who had remained loyal. That doesn't mean he didn't want to eradicate slavery.

You made my point. Conciliation meant toleration of slavery.
 

Hunter

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Joined
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I think Lincoln himself explains it pretty candidly. Here's an excerpt from a private letter that he wrote in 1855 to a close friend, who was a slaveholder himself, explaining his own personal feelings on the matter:

'In 1841 you and I had together a tedious low-water trip, on a Steam Boat from Louisville to St. Louis. You may remember, as I well do, that from Louisville to the mouth of the Ohio, there were, on board, ten or a dozen slaves, shackled together with irons. That sight was a continued torment to me; and I see something like it every time I touch the Ohio, or any other slave-border. It is hardly fair for you to assume, that I have no interest in a thing which has, and continually exercises, the power of making me miserable. You ought rather to appreciate how much the great body of the Northern people do crucify their feelings, in order to maintain their loyalty to the Constitution and the Union.

I do oppose the extension of slavery, because my judgment and feelings so prompt me; and I am under no obligation to the contrary. If for this you and I must differ, differ we must.'


- Abraham Lincoln, letter to Joshua Speed, August 24, 1855

Source: <http://showcase.netins.net/web/creative/lincoln/speeches/speed.htm
As for issuing the Emancipation Proclamation, that was a worthless piece of paper unless the Union armies were able to succeed in the war and enforce it. If he had issued it in the summer of 1861, Kentucky, Missouri, Maryland and Delaware would almost certainly have seceded, the Union would lose the war, and not a single slave would have been set free. At least that was Lincoln's perspective, and I have to believe he was right about that.


If he was truly opposed to slavery, didn't he "crucify" his feelings and tolerate the continuation of slavery in order to preserve the Union and win the war?
 

brass napoleon

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If he was truly opposed to slavery, didn't he "crucify" his feelings and tolerate the continuation of slavery in order to preserve the Union and win the war?

To an extent. He tolerated the continuation of slavery in the states where it already existed (up until January 1, 1863), but he refused to tolerate the expansion of slavery into the territories, even though allowing unrestricted expansion would preserve the Union (at least for some time) without a drop of blood being spilt.

'Wrong as we think slavery is, we can yet afford to let it alone where it is, because that much is due to the necessity arising from its actual presence in the nation; but can we, while our votes will prevent it, allow it to spread into the National Territories, and to overrun us here in these Free States? If our sense of duty forbids this, then let us stand by our duty, fearlessly and effectively. Let us be diverted by none of those sophistical contrivances wherewith we are so industriously plied and belabored - contrivances such as groping for some middle ground between the right and the wrong, vain as the search for a man who should be neither a living man nor a dead man - such as a policy of "don't care" on a question about which all true men do care - such as Union appeals beseeching true Union men to yield to Disunionists, reversing the divine rule, and calling, not the sinners, but the righteous to repentance - such as invocations to Washington, imploring men to unsay what Washington said, and undo what Washington did.

Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the Government nor of dungeons to ourselves. LET US HAVE FAITH THAT RIGHT MAKES MIGHT, AND IN THAT FAITH, LET US, TO THE END, DARE TO DO OUR DUTY AS WE UNDERSTAND IT.'


- Abraham Lincoln, Feb 27, 1860

Source: http://showcase.netins.net/web/creative/lincoln/speeches/cooper.htm
 
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Joined
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But the extent of occupation does not change the fact that he had the constitutional authority once the war began.
I'm sure that you, like myself, has been moved by the epic of Pickett's Charge. The perfectly aligned ranks, brave soldiers, gallant officers. I recall one observer describing the gleaming simmer of the bayonets in the hot July sunshine.
But they lost.
Lincoln wasn't a general he was a politician. He wasn't much for gallant gestures, he was keen on winning. And working within a framework of legal, political and military realities, he won everything: he destroyed slavery and preserved the Union. Now here we are in 2016, lamenting he didn't issue the Emancipation Proclamation after Bull Run, heck before Bull Run! Lincoln would have sighed and replied: "I'm not George Pickett. I must forgo what in your eyes seems like glory. I have content myself with merely victory."
 
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