Lincoln's Changing View of Slavery

Carronade

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#1
Lincoln said the nation could not long endure half slave and half free, that it would have to become all one or all the other; and I don't think he was suggesting that the northern states accept slavery.

His immediate purpose in 1861 was simply to preserve the Union, and I think he spoke honestly when he said he would free some, all, or none of the slaves in order to accomplish that; but I doubt he envisioned slavery persisting indefinitely thereafter.
 

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Mark F. Jenkins

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#2
Lincoln said the nation could not long endure half slave and half free, that it would have to become all one or all the other; and I don't think he was suggesting that the northern states accept slavery.
Hence the strong reaction in the slave states. They could read the writing on the wall.
 

CW Buff

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#3
His immediate purpose in 1861 was simply to preserve the Union, and I think he spoke honestly when he said he would free some, all, or none of the slaves in order to accomplish that
I think it was honest, in that there was certainly nothing untrue about it, but he was also well on his way to the EP (not fully committed, but well on his way). He pretty much knew at that point it would not be a matter of preserving the Union while freeing none of the slaves, though he would have done so if he could have before emancipation became a necessary war measure. David H. Donald (Lincoln) makes the point that in hindsight, one can see this and other statements leading up to the public announcement were carefully laying the groundwork. He was still very mindful of the Republican pledge not to interfere with slavery in the slave states (which at first I myself found incredible), and constitutionality, but coming around to the idea that it was proper to do so via war powers. Though he still felt war powers were more of an executive prerogative, which is why he blunted the Second Confiscation Act. The letter to Greeley was primarily meant to allay the expected fears that the move was abolitionist in nature, and to preemptively portray it as an absolute necessity of war. He still had those border states in mind, as well as anti-abolitionists everywhere (though there were fewer of them after over a year of war with little headway).
 
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#4
Hence the strong reaction in the slave states. They could read the writing on the wall.
Lincoln could have been a little more explicit. It took New Jersey about 50 years to eliminate nearly all of the slaves, while Maryland and Delaware still had a mixed economy. He could have said there is no immediate hurry, but the process of founding slave schools, slave churches, and age limits on the interstate transport of slaves would be a good starting point.
The colonization stuff was incredibly weak and because it was so weak it lacked credibility.
 

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#6
Lincoln's views continued to evolve during his presidency, as is well known. The colonization scheme was hardly original to him, anyway...
The well-known evolving slavery views of Lincoln are my understanding as well. Apparently, he initially got both his antislavery and colonization ideas from Henry Clay (possibly gradual, compensated emancipation as well). I've been reading A Wicked War by Amy S. Greenberg. In 1847 Clay gave an antiwar speech that Lincoln attended while on his way to Congress. Lincoln had been a big Clay fan since he began reading about him as a kid (but he had never met him until this time). Lincoln had campaigned on Whig economic issues (which he had also adopted from Clay). Until that time, Lincoln's "issue was not the [Mexican] war, and it certainly wasn't slavery. Before his trip to Lexington, Lincoln seemed genuinely unconcerned about the institution of slavery, viewing agitation to end the 'peculiar institution' primarily as a nuisance that unproductively split the Whig party. What Lincoln saw and heard that afternoon made him reconsider these positions. . . . Speaking in a slave state, Clay had condemned the expansion of slavery, and in no uncertain terms."

I have always thought he got his anti-slavery inclinations in part from his father, who had moved from KY to IN/IL to escape slavery (its negative effects on white working man's wages), and from witnessing it (I believe there was something about a trip, taking a raft of trade goods downriver to New Orleans, where he witnessed a slave auction). It's possible the sources I got that from were guesstimating, or perhaps Greenberg is focused on Lincoln's politics up to the Clay speech. I'm wondering, does anyone have solid info that conflicts with Greenberg?
 

WJC

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#7
Often realism tempers idealism. Republicans realized that immediate emancipation as called for by abolitionists would cause hardship. In order to mitigate that disruption, they considered gradual emancipation a more practical solution.
 

John Hartwell

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#8
Often realism tempers idealism. Republicans realized that immediate emancipation as called for by abolitionists would cause hardship. In order to mitigate that disruption, they considered gradual emancipation a more practical solution.
"Hardship" wasn't the problem. It was the Constitution. The Republicans, Lincoln included, wanted slavery eliminated as soon as possible, but they had no Constitutional way of doing it through Federal action.

The secessionists solved that problem for them by necessitating a "war measure."
 
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#9
Lincoln's views continued to evolve during his presidency, as is well known. The colonization scheme was hardly original to him, anyway...

Not directly concerning anyone's post, but just a general comment: history usually only looks like it's flowing in a particular direction in retrospect.
What I am thinking is that by 1860 Lincoln would state the African-Americans have been here as long, or longer than the whites. Furthermore the whites had brought them here against their will and now were responsible for them.
Equality was beyond contemplation at that point, but their human rights to have their own schools, their own churches, their own culture, and their own families after age 25, should have been recognized.
Lincoln did not have a solution to the problem, but humanity demanded that he state that blacks were a permanent part of the country, and neither exporting them or killing them off were acceptable solutions.
 

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#10
"Hardship" wasn't the problem. It was the Constitution. The Republicans, Lincoln included, wanted slavery eliminated as soon as possible, but they had no Constitutional way of doing it through Federal action.
The secessionists solved that problem for them by necessitating a "war measure."
Thanks for your response.
Throughout the years leading to the 1860/61 secession crisis, thinking people on both sides of the slavery issue (not the extremists) recognized that abolition could not be achieved without changing our Constitution. With that as the prevailing attitude, those who wanted to abolish slavery sought ways to bring about abolition in ways short of amending our Constitution. A bill calling for gradual emancipation might have passed Congress, but only if the economic, security and social concerns were overcome.
As you point out, consideration of these concerns became far less necessary once the Southern states recalled their Senators and Representatives from Congress. Even then, the Emancipation Proclamation's limited application was only possible as a war measure and abolition was only achieved with the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment.
 
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#12
I don't think Lincoln changed fast enough, but his untimely murder cut his opportunity short.
Not till Grant had to face his own anti-Semitic order and speak of the human rights of Jews in Europe, does the concept of human rights appear clearly.
 

John Hartwell

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#13
Thanks for your response.
Throughout the years leading to the 1860/61 secession crisis, thinking people on both sides of the slavery issue (not the extremists) recognized that abolition could not be achieved without changing our Constitution. With that as the prevailing attitude, those who wanted to abolish slavery sought ways to bring about abolition in ways short of amending our Constitution. A bill calling for gradual emancipation might have passed Congress, but only if the economic, security and social concerns were overcome.
As you point out, consideration of these concerns became far less necessary once the Southern states recalled their Senators and Representatives from Congress. Even then, the Emancipation Proclamation's limited application was only possible as a war measure and abolition was only achieved with the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment.
I don't think "a bill calling for gradual emancipation" could even have been considered, let alone passed by Congress simply because Congress had no constitutional authority to do so. Only the states themselves could eliminate slavery within their own borders.
 

WJC

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#14
I don't think "a bill calling for gradual emancipation" could even have been considered, let alone passed by Congress simply because Congress had no constitutional authority to do so. Only the states themselves could eliminate slavery within their own borders.
Thanks for your response.
Yet that is exactly how the Thirteenth Amendment was initiated, beginning with a Bill submitted by Representative James M. Ashley on December 14, 1863. That Bill called for "the submission to the several States of a proposition to amend the national Constitution prohibiting slavery, or involuntary servitude, in all the States and Territories now owned or which may be hereafter acquired by the United States."
<The Congressional Globe, 38th Congress, Second Session 19 (1863)>
 

John Hartwell

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#15
Thanks for your response.
Yet that is exactly how the Thirteenth Amendment was initiated, beginning with a Bill submitted by Representative James M. Ashley on December 14, 1863. That Bill called for "the submission to the several States of a proposition to amend the national Constitution prohibiting slavery, or involuntary servitude, in all the States and Territories now owned or which may be hereafter acquired by the United States."
<The Congressional Globe, 38th Congress, Second Session 19 (1863)>
Precisely. Such a bill would have had no chance at all so long as the slave states were represented in Congress.
 
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#16
Slavery does not have to be abolished to be limited.
Slavery and white society too, can be changed by mandating primary schooling education.
Slaves could be allowed non-supervised churches, which implies no work on the sabbath.
It could also mean children under age 14 cannot be sold nor men over age 25.
And if those types of changes, to Romanize slavery, are not acceptable, the Republicans can spend 25 years campaigning for those changes and asking rhetorically, why not?
 

thomas aagaard

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#17
Some "what ifs..."
In spring and summer 1862 I do think the union had a chance to end the war early.
They where moving forward out west and McClellan was moving on Richmond.
Had Richmond been taken and part of Hallecks army out west marched south into Alabama towards Mobile the south might have accepted returning to the union, especially if they had been offered a good deal... like full membership back and no federal limits on slavery where it already existed in the south...
And I think Lincoln would have been willing to offer just that. His priority was always the preservation of the union...

But by late 1862 the war was going to end slavery... even if the CSA had survived because of a McClellan presidential victory in November 1864... slavery would likely never have recovered.
 
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#20
Could this man really move away from these words... they are hateful...

“I would save the Union….

My paramount object
in this struggle
is to save the Union,
and it is not to save
or 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.”

I could not believe my eyes. Right there at the Lincoln Memorial, the same memorial where in 1963 Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I have a dream” speech, the same memorial where in 1939 an African American singer named Marian Anderson challenged segregation and performed in front of 70,000 people, the same memorial where our nation gathers to seek healing and fight for civil rights, and one of the few memorials that allows people of color to feel acknowledged and included. That memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, has a plaque hanging on the wall which literally states, according to Abraham Lincoln, Black Lives Don’t Matter.


https://nativenewsonline.net/currents/truth-abraham-lincoln-nativelivesmatter-blacklivesmatter/
 

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