Was Lincolns war for ending slavery or maintaining the Union

Was Lincolns war for ending slavery or maintaining the Union ?


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Joshism

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He was not originally a republican (they were abolitionists), he joined the party because it gave him a better chance to win.

Republicans were not abolitionists, except for a few radicals. The Republicans in the 1850s were always a Free Soil party. Among other things their biggest gripes were the Fugitive Slave Act, Kansas-Nebraska Act, and Dredd Scott. All issues related to slavery in the North and/or territories.

The Liberty Party were the abolitionists.

Abolitionists were anti-slavery people, but not all anti-slavery people were abolitionists.
 

Johhny Quest

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Nov 11, 2020
I had a new explanation about this which I don't think has been discussed.

BOTTOM LINE UP FRONT: It's not one or the other. Union and slavery were the same issue.

It's a little complicated to explain . . . .

From the beginning, the United States was a compromise. For strategic reasons, it made sense for all thirteen colonies to unite. You can see how colonists felt about their Union simply by reading the Preamble To The Constitution.

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.​

The Southern states were not as much in favor of a Union as the North, because even in the 1780s, they already feared that Union was synonymous with ending slavery. Therefore, the South was given greater political power than its size allowed. For example, the Northern colonies did not want slaves to be counted at all in terms of representation. Southern colonies did. So a compromise was reached: Every slave would count as 3/5th of a man in terms of representation.

Another example: In the Compromise of 1790, the Southern states agreed that the federal government should assume state debt from the recent war (which was much higher in northern colonies). The trade-off was that the South would get the capital built in their territory and so Washington was built on the bank of a river with a lot of swamp land around. (The Capital Reflecting Pool was once actually a swamp.)

As the nation inevitably grew in size as new states were added, the threat to Southern political power continued. But it was always maintained by compromise. There was the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and then the Compromise of 1850. Both averted war and soothed Southern fears.

But then came the worst "compromise" possible: The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, drafted by Senator Stephen A. Douglas.

The Act split the nation because it took the issue of slavery out of Congressional hands and put it in the hand of the citizens of individual states. This was an abdication of the nation's ability to compromise which had kept the Union together since the 1780s. The Act split the nation politically and convinced the South that the North was going to force an end to slavery. It set the stage for "Bloody Kansas" and it led to violence in the Capitol when Congressman Preston Brooks almost beat Senator Charles Sumner to death with a walking cane on the floor of the Senate.

Therefore, it's not either or. Union and slavery were the same issue . . . two sides of the same coin.

So then why do we see it as two different issues?

Primarily, because he North framed it that way. A northern farm boy was not about to leave his farm to fight for black people or, for that matter, prevent secession . . . but he would defend his nation against an aggressor.

I'll close with this Lincoln quote where he shows that he understood that the two issues were essentially the same:

My enemies say I am now carrying on this war for the sole purpose of abolition. It is and will be carried on so long as I am President for the sole purpose of restoring the Union. But no human power can subdue this rebellion without using the Emancipation lever as I have done.
 

Fairfield

Sergeant Major
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he joined the party because it gave him a better chance to win.
He joined the Republicans because the Free Soil Party merged into it during the decade before ACW.
Lincoln was a career politician
No, he certainly wasn't. I used to live in Macoupin County (just out side Springfield) in Illinois where he was a lawyer. His legal office is still shown in Springfield. He served in the Illinois state legislature but serving in a state legislature in those days was more of a community activity than it was a career. His political focus is usually dated to 1849 when he was a middle aged man.
Lincoln saw himself as working alongside the abolitionists on behalf of a common anti-slavery cause
If Lincoln worked in behalf of anti-slavery, he was (indeed) an abolitionist.
 

Fairfield

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Abolitionists were anti-slavery people, but not all anti-slavery people were abolitionists.
I don't get it. If an abolitionist was in favor of ending slavery and an anti-slavery person was in favor of ending slavery, isn't that the same thing?
 

jackt62

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New York City
I don't get it. If an abolitionist was in favor of ending slavery and an anti-slavery person was in favor of ending slavery, isn't that the same thing?

There was a difference. Abolitionists believed in immediate emancipation, whereas anti-slavery people were willing to provide a landing path for ending slavery, either by compensation to slaveowners, or by gradually freeing different segments of the enslaved population, etc. Lincoln was not an abolitionist but he was most certainly against slavery. Another difference between the 2 types was the intensity of belief, in addition to the means of emancipation.
 

Joshism

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Jupiter, FL
I don't get it. If an abolitionist was in favor of ending slavery and an anti-slavery person was in favor of ending slavery, isn't that the same thing?

I used to think the same thing. It was pointed out to me on CWT at some point in the past that abolitionists (or I suppose more accurately: the antebellum abolitionist movement, 1830s-1860s) were not simply opposed to slavery, but opposed in a very specific way: immediate and uncompensated.
 

Fairfield

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Dec 5, 2019
There was a difference. Abolitionists believed in immediate emancipation, whereas anti-slavery people were willing to provide a landing path for ending slavery, either by compensation to slaveowners, or by gradually freeing different segments of the enslaved population, etc. Lincoln was not an abolitionist but he was most certainly against slavery. Another difference between the 2 types was the intensity of belief, in addition to the means of emancipation.
I just don't see it. Why should someone be paid to stop doing something immoral? If you divide on the basis of intention and method, it seems that this is adding a qualification as to the type of abolitionist or anti-slaver and not to the basic term itself.
 

Fairfield

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I used to think the same thing. It was pointed out to me on CWT at some point in the past that abolitionists (or I suppose more accurately: the antebellum abolitionist movement, 1830s-1860s) were not simply opposed to slavery, but opposed in a very specific way: immediate and uncompensated.
Then, I should think, you have a radical abolitionist. An abolitionist, IMO, is simply someone who wants to abolish. All these other qualifications are merely adjectives that define the type of abolitionist. No? It would be like saying that the difference between an anarchist and a libertarian is that the former throws bombs. Totally misses the point.
 

jackt62

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I just don't see it. Why should someone be paid to stop doing something immoral?
In an ideal world, that would be the case. But the issue came down to practical politics. Slavery was legal under the Constitution, and therefore, short of an amendment prohibiting it (as did happen with the 13th amendment), many folks believed that the most effective way to end slavery without resorting to war was to compensate slave owners. This concept came up time and again. Lincoln put forth a plan to do so in the loyal slave owning states (Kentucky, Missouri, Maryland, Delaware), but that plan was rejected. It was however, put into practice in the federal District of Columbia where an 1862 law required slaves in DC to be emancipated with compensation of $300 per slave being paid to slave owners.
 

Fairfield

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In an ideal world, that would be the case. But the issue came down to practical politics. Slavery was legal under the Constitution, and therefore, short of an amendment prohibiting it (as did happen with the 13th amendment), many folks believed that the most effective way to end slavery without resorting to war was to compensate slave owners. This concept came up time and again. Lincoln put forth a plan to do so in the loyal slave owning states (Kentucky, Missouri, Maryland, Delaware), but that plan was rejected. It was however, put into practice in the federal District of Columbia where an 1862 law required slaves in DC to be emancipated with compensation of $300 per slave being paid to slave owners.
From what I've read in the letters they wrote--soldiers from my own area--it was a matter of morality. They were both abolitionists and and anti-slavers. I guess that I don't see any difference between the two terms: if you look up the definitions, each refers to the other.
 
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This is just an argument of semantics . Slavery caused the war. Saving the Union was the northern objective but the Union fracture was caused by slavery. War was not even inevitable by the first group of secessionist states. Firing on Sumter started the war if you don’t consider it to have started in Kansas. And Lincoln only called for troops after that. Why argue about this ? Anyone claiming that slavery wasn’t the root cause is already lost and can’t be found.
That the US remained slave-holding is hardly semantics. Slavery may have been the root cause, but the cause was not its elimination in 1861 at all. Again Lincolns own statements were rather clear on that.
 
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I just don't see it. Why should someone be paid to stop doing something immoral? If you divide on the basis of intention and method, it seems that this is adding a qualification as to the type of abolitionist or anti-slaver and not to the basic term itself.
Because it was legal and they did not consider it immoral......

A modern comparison would be some cities implementing gun buyout programs. As guns are both legal and represent a monetary investment by the owners.......why would they give them up for a loss? It would make no economic sense.

The problem with compensation and buy back programs is in it being fair compensation.
 
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Joshism

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Jupiter, FL
Then, I should think, you have a radical abolitionist.

Fair point, but essentially that term is redundant given how it was used.

People like Lincoln and Henry Clay didn't considered themselves abolitionists, even though they lived in an era when that term was in use.

It would be like saying that the difference between an anarchist and a libertarian is that the former throws bombs.

Radical Libertarians are usually classified anarcho-capitalists and anarcho-communists.

Anarchy comes in two flavors. The bomb-throwing anarchists were effectively radical libertarians. Not to be confused with anarchists like The Joker (and various teenage hoodlums) who are anarchists want anarchy i.e. chaos.

From what I've read in the letters they wrote--soldiers from my own area--it was a matter of morality. They were both abolitionists and and anti-slavers. I guess that I don't see any difference between the two terms: if you look up the definitions, each refers to the other.

You could be morally opposed to slavery yet not an abolitionist. You could be morally opposed to slavery and still be racist against black people.

I think some of the confusion is because by the 1850s Southerners came to paint anyone who opposed slavery anywhere as an abolitionist and damned the entire Union from the beginning of the war as abolitionists. In the 20th century, those who wished to glorify the Union were happy to paint the Union as abolitionists, both because they thought it a compliment and probably also because they didn't appreciate the distinction between Free Soilers and abolitionists.

If I may offer an example of the distinction (which is not intended as a point of debate but only an illustrative example): I'm a teetotaler who believes the consumption of intoxicating beverages is morally wrong. I would like to reduce alcohol consumption in the country to zero. But I'm not a Prohibitionist; I don't think simply bringing back the 19th Amendment would be a good idea. My moral belief is tempered by a realistic appraisal of how that that belief could be effectively implemented, just as Lincoln and other non-abolitionists felt the end of slavery needed to be considered as a practical problem not simply a moral one.
 

jackt62

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From what I've read in the letters they wrote--soldiers from my own area--it was a matter of morality. They were both abolitionists and and anti-slavers. I guess that I don't see any difference between the two terms: if you look up the definitions, each refers to the other.

I'm sure the terms were used inter-changeably. Southerners certainly did not make a distinction between the different views.
 

Fairfield

Sergeant Major
Joined
Dec 5, 2019
but essentially that term is redundant given how it was used
Not really. An abolitionist was merely someone who wished to abolish slavery. This included many, many people. Certainly there were differences in fervor. William Lloyd Garrison is frequently cited as a rabid abolitionist--but he pales before a man like Lysander Spooner. Abraham Lincoln's views on abolition developed during the years--as is the wont of most viewpoints (if we all believed today as we did as children, perhaps we could settle differences with a food fight 😂). Three years into the ACW he wrote "I am naturally anti-slavery. If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong. I can not remember when I did not so think, and feel." Of course, Henry Clay wasn't anti-slavery: he was, himself, a slave owner.
You could be morally opposed to slavery yet not an abolitionist. You could be morally opposed to slavery and still be racist against black people.
I certainly agree with your 2nd statement but I simply don't see the 1st. The definition for abolitionist is one who is opposed to slavery and the definition of an anti-slaver is one who is an abolitionist. The difference--AFAIK--is zilch. That there is a difference in degree to adherents is true for most stands.

Prohibition isn't necessarily a good example of what you are trying to say. The issue of government over reach comes into it. My saintly grandmother made bathtub gin during those years--and she couldn't stand the stuff (gin, that is--she drank beer right out of the can). 😊 As an aside, my grandfather said that her gin was pretty awful.

Edited for spelling
 
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Joshism

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Jupiter, FL
The definition for abolitionist is one who is opposed to slavery and the definition of an anti-slaver is one who is an abolitionist.

The dictionary definition of the word and how the word was actually used in the antebellum USA are not the same.

In 1860, the only people who would have called Lincoln an abolitionist were pro-slavery people who saw no distinction. Free Soilers and Abolitionists certain saw a distinction and identified themselves accordingly.

Did the Republicans ever describe themselves as an abolitionist party?

Did Lincoln ever describe himself as an abolitionist?

Did William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, or the abolitionist press ever describe Lincoln or the Republican party as abolitionists?

Did Hinton Rowan Helper, a rare Southern who believed slavery was bad, describe himself as an abolitionist?

Did the Free Soil Party of 1848, or its candidate Martin Van Buren, identify themselves as abolitionists?

I'm pretty sure the answer to all these questions is "no" but maybe some keen searchers can find evidence to the contrary.
 

Fairfield

Sergeant Major
Joined
Dec 5, 2019
The dictionary definition of the word and how the word was actually used in the antebellum USA are not the same.

In 1860, the only people who would have called Lincoln an abolitionist were pro-slavery people who saw no distinction. Free Soilers and Abolitionists certain saw a distinction and identified themselves accordingly.

Did the Republicans ever describe themselves as an abolitionist party?

Did Lincoln ever describe himself as an abolitionist?

Did William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, or the abolitionist press ever describe Lincoln or the Republican party as abolitionists?

Did Hinton Rowan Helper, a rare Southern who believed slavery was bad, describe himself as an abolitionist?

Did the Free Soil Party of 1848, or its candidate Martin Van Buren, identify themselves as abolitionists?

I'm pretty sure the answer to all these questions is "no" but maybe some keen searchers can find evidence to the contrary.
Maybe yes, maybe no--but it really makes no difference. They may have described each other as green-skinned space creatures for all the difference. People call me a lot of words that I wouldn't have used (both for good and for bad).

A word is what it is. Period, en punto.
 
Fair point, but essentially that term is redundant given how it was used.

People like Lincoln and Henry Clay didn't considered themselves abolitionists, even though they lived in an era when that term was in use.



Radical Libertarians are usually classified anarcho-capitalists and anarcho-communists.

Anarchy comes in two flavors. The bomb-throwing anarchists were effectively radical libertarians. Not to be confused with anarchists like The Joker (and various teenage hoodlums) who are anarchists want anarchy i.e. chaos.



You could be morally opposed to slavery yet not an abolitionist. You could be morally opposed to slavery and still be racist against black people.

I think some of the confusion is because by the 1850s Southerners came to paint anyone who opposed slavery anywhere as an abolitionist and ****ed the entire Union from the beginning of the war as abolitionists. In the 20th century, those who wished to glorify the Union were happy to paint the Union as abolitionists, both because they thought it a compliment and probably also because they didn't appreciate the distinction between Free Soilers and abolitionists.

If I may offer an example of the distinction (which is not intended as a point of debate but only an illustrative example): I'm a teetotaler who believes the consumption of intoxicating beverages is morally wrong. I would like to reduce alcohol consumption in the country to zero. But I'm not a Prohibitionist; I don't think simply bringing back the 19th Amendment would be a good idea. My moral belief is tempered by a realistic appraisal of how that that belief could be effectively implemented, just as Lincoln and other non-abolitionists felt the end of slavery needed to be considered as a practical problem not simply a moral one.

I'd sure like to hear @ForeverFree 's comments in regards to the difference between abolitionists and people that were anti-slavery. Maybe if he has some spare time he'll pop in here and make a comment. I believe that the two were different and I tried writing a response three different times to @Fairfield but every time I read it before hitting the "Post reply" it just didn't read correctly back at me and seemed to be lacking in the points I wanted to make so I deleted each attempt. There are some days I couldn't write my own name correctly if I had to and this appears to be one of those times.
 

Fairfield

Sergeant Major
Joined
Dec 5, 2019
I'd sure like to hear @ForeverFree 's comments in regards to the difference between abolitionists and people that were anti-slavery. Maybe if he has some spare time he'll pop in here and make a comment. I believe that the two were different and I tried writing a response three different times to @Fairfield but every time I read it before hitting the "Post reply" it just didn't read correctly back at me and seemed to be lacking in the points I wanted to make so I deleted each attempt. There are some days I couldn't write my own name correctly if I had to and this appears to be one of those times.
Maybe it's Common Sense winning out! 😂
 

Peace Society

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Lincoln wanted the slaves free, but thought they ought to leave the country and settle in Liberia. A lot of them objected to that because their ancestors had been in this country, sometimes longer than those of the whites.
 
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