T Nation

On Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln did indeed have very complicated views on slavery and race, but the fact that Haney charges he did not want to make slavery an issue at all, and did it only to keep the British out of the war. This is simply untrue.

In James McPhereson?s much acclaimed book Battle Cry of Freedom, it is plainly shown that Lincoln was absolutely against slavery. On page 54-55, McPhereson states, ?Free soil sentiment in 1847 can be visualized in three concentric circles. At the center was a core of abolitionists who considered slavery a sinful violation of human rights that should be immediately expiated. Surrounding and drawing ideological nourishment from them was a larger group of antislavery people who looked upon bondage as an evil-by which they meant that it was socially repressive, economically backward, and politically harmful to the interests of the free states.

This circle was comprised mainly of Whigs (and some Democrats) from the Yankee belt of states and regions north of the 41st parallel who regarded this issue as more important than any other in American politics. The outer circle contained all those who had voted for the Wilmot Proviso but did not necessarily consider it the most crucial matter facing the country and were open to compromise. This outer circle included such Whigs as Abraham Lincoln, who believed that slavery was, ?an unqualified evil to the negro, the white man, and the State, which deprives our Republican example of its just influences in the world-enables the enemies of free institutions, with plausibility, to taunt us as hypocrites?

He also claims in this section that Lincoln thought abolition was to over the top, as it was so fiercesome and uncompromising that it united the South in support of the institution.
On pages 127-129, Lincoln also states his opposition to slavery again in his debates with Douglas in discussion of the Kansas- Nebraska act. ?The founding fathers, Lincoln said, had opposed slavery. They adopted a Declaration of Independence that pronounced all men created equal.? He went on to say that, ?There can be no moral right in the enslaving of one man by another?. Lincoln understood why the South would fight for it (as do I); it was the institution that they had become accustomed too, and just as the blacks were being born into slavery, the white southerner (or rich white southerner, as most southerners did not own slaves), were being born into this ?peculiar institution?, just on the other side. When they were raised with it since birth, it is easy to see that they would fail to see the wrong in it.

However, he did say blatantly that, ?If all Earthly power were given to me?my first impulse would be to free all the slaves, and send them to Liberia. But a moment?s reflection convinced him of the impossibility of this. ?What then, free them and keep them among us as underlings? Is it quite certain that this betters their condition??What next? Free them, and make them politically and socially equals? Even if Lincoln?s own feelings would accept this, ?we all know that those of the great mass of white people will not?A universal feeling, whether well or ill founded, cannot be safely disregarded? (McPhereson, 128).

He later goes onto say, in another debate with Douglas, that the popular sovereignty policy was abominable, especially when it was claimed that it affected the people only in the affected area. ?I cannot but hate this declared indifference, but, as I must think covert, real zeal for the spread of?the monstrous injustice of slavery.? (McPhereson, 128),

At this point, Lincoln was still a year away from becoming a Republican. However, ?his great affirmation of moral opposition to slavery, his belief that the national government had a right and duty to exclude it from the territories, and his conviction that this cancer must be eventually cut out, became hallmarks of the Republican party (McPhereson, 129).

Also, there were reasons for your other charges against him. The Eastern Theater was the most important theater, as far as Washington was concerned. The western theater, of course, would prove equally, if not more important, but with the main army of the Confederacy only between 30 to 100 miles away from the capital, it took precedence in both Washington and the nation?s, if not the world?s consciousness.

As soon as the war broke out, the Union had defeat after defeat. McDowell suffered a defeat at Bull Run on July 21, 1861. McClellan then took over the Union army, and started with the Peninsula Campaign in the spring of 62?, which he promptly bungled. After the wounding of General Johnston, General Lee took over, and it was lights out from there. There was the Seven Day?s campaign and then Second Manassas, both huge victories for the Confederacy. If Lincoln intended to free the slaves, he could not do it on the heels of such crushing defeats as these battles were, as it would have had little importance. So after Antietam, the bloodiest day in American history, was considered a Northern strategic victory, Lincoln let the Emancipation Proclamation fly. Without a victory, it would have been seen as a cry from a wolf that had no teeth. The ?victory? at Antietam gave Lincoln a leg to stand on.

As for why he only freed the slaves in the South, and not in the border states of Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri, simply said, he did not want to piss them off. Freeing the states already in rebellion could do nothing to hurt him; freeing the slaves in the border states could have tremendous impact on the war. If this angered them, it could send them out of the Union. Chiefly, this meant that if Maryland seceded formally, Washington D.C. would be surrounded in rebelling states. Therefore, the war effort could become severely hampered, if not destroyed completely, if the border states left. Lincoln did not want to piss them off. However, the Border States must have realized that by freeing the slaves in south, it was sounding the death knell of slavery in their own states as well.

Here is part Lincoln’s Inaugural speech.

I am using the part that is relevant to the topic at hand. As you can see He is clearly trying to say hey guys the problem you are having is not an issue.

Fellow-Citizens of the United States:

In compliance with a custom as old as the Government itself, I appear before you to address you briefly and to take in your presence the oath prescribed by the Constitution of the United States to be taken by the President “before he enters on the execution of this office.”

I do not consider it necessary at present for me to discuss those matters of administration about which there is no special anxiety or excitement.

Apprehension seems to exist among the people of the Southern States that by the accession of a Republican Administration their property and their peace and personal security are to be endangered. There has never been any reasonable cause for such apprehension. Indeed, the most ample evidence to the contrary has all the while existed and been open to their inspection. It is found in nearly all the published speeches of him who now addresses you. I do but quote from one of those speeches when I declare that–

I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.

Those who nominated and elected me did so with full knowledge that I had made this and many similar declarations and had never recanted them; and more than this, they placed in the platform for my acceptance, and as a law to themselves and to me, the clear and emphatic resolution which I now read:

Resolved, That the maintenance inviolate of the rights of the States, and especially the right of each State to order and control its own domestic institutions according to its own judgment exclusively, is essential to that balance of power on which the perfection and endurance of our political fabric depend; and we denounce the lawless invasion by armed force of the soil of any State or Territory, no matter what pretext, as among the gravest of crimes.

I now reiterate these sentiments, and in doing so I only press upon the public attention the most conclusive evidence of which the case is susceptible that the property, peace, and security of no section are to be in any wise endangered by the now incoming Administration. I add, too, that all the protection which, consistently with the Constitution and the laws, can be given will be cheerfully given to all the States when lawfully demanded, for whatever cause–as cheerfully to one section as to another.

There is much controversy about the delivering up of fugitives from service or labor. The clause I now read is as plainly written in the Constitution as any other of its provisions:

No person held to service or labor in one State, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall in consequence of any law or regulation therein be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.

It is scarcely questioned that this provision was intended by those who made it for the reclaiming of what we call fugitive slaves; and the intention of the lawgiver is the law. All members of Congress swear their support to the whole Constitution–to this provision as much as to any other. To the proposition, then, that slaves whose cases come within the terms of this clause “shall be delivered up” their oaths are unanimous. Now, if they would make the effort in good temper, could they not with nearly equal unanimity frame and pass a law by means of which to keep good that unanimous oath?

There is some difference of opinion whether this clause should be enforced by national or by State authority, but surely that difference is not a very material one. If the slave is to be surrendered, it can be of but little consequence to him or to others by which authority it is done. And should anyone in any case be content that his oath shall go unkept on a merely unsubstantial controversy as to how it shall be kept?

Again: In any law upon this subject ought not all the safeguards of liberty known in civilized and humane jurisprudence to be introduced, so that a free man be not in any case surrendered as a slave? And might it not be well at the same time to provide by law for the enforcement of that clause in the Constitution which guarantees that “the citizens of each State shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States”?

I take the official oath to-day with no mental reservations and with no purpose to construe the Constitution or laws by any hypercritical rules; and while I do not choose now to specify particular acts of Congress as proper to be enforced, I do suggest that it will be much safer for all, both in official and private stations, to conform to and abide by all those acts which stand unrepealed than to violate any of them trusting to find impunity in having them held to be unconstitutional.

Lincoln’s letter to Horace Greeley

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 [sic] 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 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.

Yours,
A. Lincoln.

As you can see he is not in support of making freeing the slaves an issue. The only reason he did it was because he thought it was the only way to save the union(i.e. a political move).

While some of his earlier letters indicate a hatred for slavery, it was not a hatred that was a convition.

Here is a quote from Professor Ernest Butner in an article he wrote. called Lincoln vs. Davis

“Some have said, that Lincoln was a man in a class by himself and was unequaled in his ability to maneuver and manipulate. At the time, no man in America could compare with him in political maneuvering. He took on the best both the Democrats and the Republicans had to offer as well as the problems of the Rebels from the South…and foreign diplomats. He handled each carefully and with great distinction. To the Democrats and Republicans his nature produced a policy which essentially stated that if you couldn’t be a part of the team…you went to jail…thus you were no longer a problem. He used slavery to win public appeal in England and France…and to win a war.”

As I said it was a political move nothing more.

Abraham Lincoln and his election in 1860 is the reason that the Civil War happened when it did. I do believe Lincoln would have done anything to save the Union without all the bloodletting that the Civil War became. However, I do not see the Emancipation Proclamation as a political move only. I sincerely think that the manipulativeness that the Professor describes is used in the opposite way that you believe it was; his address was an attempt to save the union, but I do not call it truthful in his personal beliefs.

Bruce Catton says in “Reflections on the Civil War” that, “When the Republicans won the 1860 election, and Abraham Lincoln was the President elect, the leaders of the cotton belt in the Deep South knew perfectly well that although he was not an abolitionist and had never advocated the destruction of slavery in the states, slavery was not safe with him in the White House. They knew the tide was going to turn with a President and dominant political party in Washington committed to the checking of slavery in the territories. They knew that if slavery was no longer able to expand, it eventually would have to die” (Catton, 9).

After Lincoln was asassinated, Secretary of War Stanton, remarked, There lies the Greatest Master of men that ever lived". It was a testimony from an expert" (Catton, 30).

When it comes down to it, Lincoln’s election doomed slavery. To say that the war was about anything other than slavery does not make sense. State’s Rights meant nothing, still mean very little. THe argument involving state’s rights was the right to own slaves. They weren’t complaining about income taxes.

To say that Lincoln had no intention of banning slavery is debateable. However, after the Civil War broke out, there was simply no reason to not emancipate; he obviously wanted to do it, but could not because of preservation of the Union. When the war began to look as if it would be a protracted war that would indeed not end in a month, he defined exactly why they were fighting. He did change the cause a bit, because freeing the slaves was not the North’s aim at the start (North being seperate from Lincoln himself). War was, of course, the only course, and South Carolina would not have seceded in 1860 if they thought slavery was not to be threatened by Lincoln, which indeed it was.

This is your claim for my argument

“but the fact that Haney charges he did not want to make slavery an issue at all, and did it only to keep the British out of the war.”

I proved that he

  1. did not intend to make it an issue

to which you said
“I do believe Lincoln would have done anything to save the Union without all the bloodletting that the Civil War became”

I quoted his inaugural speech which he further stated he has no intentions of abolishing it.

Lincoln states the war is not about slavery in his letter to greeley in 1862 (which is more than a month after the war began).

His very emancipation proclimation only frees slaves in the southern states. Now I have to ask what part of this does not seem to be a political move? or maybe you can tell which part which part of what Lincoln said was the truth?

with the professor I quoted I proved that he did do it for world opinion.

The professor that I quoted stated my very thoughts on why Lincoln did it. He was very concerned about world opinion and them recognizing the south as a nation.

The civil war might have been fought over slavery, but it was not Lincoln’s intention. I have never denied that is why it was fought. I merely argued what his reasons were for writing the emancipation of the slaves.

Is the debate over?

Nah…but I was drunk by 9 so my rebuttal woulda been terrible. I will post something soon.

I’ve read a great deal about Lincoln, from Sandburg on up and I would conclude the following: The British, realizing that their tiny island could not be a hegemon forever, took in the USA as a silent partner. For that, you need a large army, printing-press money, and a large government entity. You would need a large and economically developed country as well. The agreement was that the USA would take-up the role when Britain faltered.

Of course, none of this happened overnight; it was the work of generations. The culmination of this was WWI and Colonel House’s bringing the USA into the war. Lincoln agreed to get the ball rolling in exchange for the Presidency. (A good read here is the Intimate Papers of Colonel House).

[quote]FightinIrish26 wrote:
Nah…but I was drunk by 9 so my rebuttal woulda been terrible. I will post something soon.[/quote]

Are you still drunk?

Haney, I have put up proof that Lincoln thought slavery was a great evil, and historians who believe that slavery was not safe with him in the White House. I believe, as do many others, that it was a personal conviction of his against slavery that he held for long before he would have to think about GB interceding in any war that we had.

You have posted things that seem to show otherwise, but I already stated that I believe that the manipulativeness that you spoke of is something that he used against the slaveholders he wished to reassure. I don’t know what else there is to say on this. I have never heard of Headhunter’s theory, but I will not knock it, even though I think it is a little far fetched (though it would explain US intervention in WWI better than the sinking a cruise liner).

You’re original contention was that he did little other than keep GB out of the war, if you dont think this was your contention, go look at the damn Reagan thread. You said it… I contended he did things far better than this. Being that emancipation helped him politically was at best a good side effect.

[quote]FightinIrish26 wrote:
Haney, I have put up proof that Lincoln thought slavery was a great evil, and historians who believe that slavery was not safe with him in the White House. I believe, as do many others, that it was a personal conviction of his against slavery that he held for long before he would have to think about GB interceding in any war that we had.
[/quote]

I just asked, you said you were going to post more. No need to get all up in arms over it.

Exactly I showed otherwise in his own statements. You are assuming that his words are not meant the way he is using them.

[quote]
You’re original contention was that he did little other than keep GB out of the war, if you dont think this was your contention, go look at the damn Reagan thread. You said it… I contended he did things far better than this. Being that emancipation helped him politically was at best a good side effect. [/quote]

No my contention is the thing you praised him for was a polotical move to keep them out of the war. I told you I would not be to quick to praise him since he only did it for political reasons.

I never debated what the war was over.

If you were done with the debate, then you should of said you were when I asked the last time. You started the debate, why not tell me when you are finished?

I wasn’t posting that angrily, I just don’t think there is too much more too say that we haven’t said.

I have shown, through quotes, that Lincoln hated slavery. You have shown, through quotes, that he did not want to end it, for fear of severing the Union.

However, as Catton said, if slavery did not expand, it would collapse, and having a country half one and half the other would not work. Lincoln knew this, as in the famous “House divided” speech. What do you think he meant when he said that? He sure wasn’t calling for the whole country to be slave states; yet he was sounding the death knell for either free or slave states. I believe that in his desperation to keep the union together, he was willing to lie to whomever and say that slavery wasn’t an issue. Your position would stand better if he didn’t free them.

To say it was only a political move is to ignore all the things Lincon himself said about slavery, and how evil it was!

[quote]FightinIrish26 wrote:
I wasn’t posting that angrily, I just don’t think there is too much more too say that we haven’t said.

I have shown, through quotes, that Lincoln hated slavery. You have shown, through quotes, that he did not want to end it, for fear of severing the Union.

However, as Catton said, if slavery did not expand, it would collapse, and having a country half one and half the other would not work. Lincoln knew this, as in the famous “House divided” speech. What do you think he meant when he said that? He sure wasn’t calling for the whole country to be slave states; yet he was sounding the death knell for either free or slave states. I believe that in his desperation to keep the union together, he was willing to lie to whomever and say that slavery wasn’t an issue. Your position would stand better if he didn’t free them.

To say it was only a political move is to ignore all the things Lincon himself said about slavery, and how evil it was! [/quote]

That is why I asked before if it was over.

The truth is he was willing to do whatever it took to save the union. So I can easily say it was just a political move, because he would have just as easily not abolished it if the south would have played nicely.

He just was using all and every measure he could come up with to clinch victory, and that was an effective way to keep the world out of it. Plain and simple. He was being a politician. He was catering to whatever would help is cause to save the union.

Lincoln as well as several previous presidents did indeed feel that slavery was a wrong. However, they also believed that an American president did not have the power to abolish slavery. They more or less felt that it would eventually work itself out?(leave the problem for another generation) It really became a problem with all the new immigrants? coming to the United States at the time. Immigrants in the North want to be paid for their work. Slaves in the South work for free. Economic dispute anyone?

It was also pointed out by Haney that the Emancipation proclamation only freed slaves who were in lands not controlled by Union forces. So if I was in New York and a slave owner, then those slaves are not free. This was done in an attempt to get the slaves to start to revolt against their masters by telling them they were now free. Guess what, it actually worked! A few slave revolts took place, they freed themselves, went to other plantations, freed other slaves, I believe a few even joined the Union Army.

Anybody ever read Joseph Sobran’s book on the subject of Lincoln?

[quote]ScrambyEggs wrote:
Lincoln as well as several previous presidents did indeed feel that slavery was a wrong. However, they also believed that an American president did not have the power to abolish slavery. They more or less felt that it would eventually work itself out?(leave the problem for another generation) It really became a problem with all the new immigrants? coming to the United States at the time. Immigrants in the North want to be paid for their work. Slaves in the South work for free. Economic dispute anyone?

It was also pointed out by Haney that the Emancipation proclamation only freed slaves who were in lands not controlled by Union forces. So if I was in New York and a slave owner, then those slaves are not free. This was done in an attempt to get the slaves to start to revolt against their masters by telling them they were now free. Guess what, it actually worked! A few slave revolts took place, they freed themselves, went to other plantations, freed other slaves, I believe a few even joined the Union Army. [/quote]

I think I put something in on this before, but I’ll mention it again. There were 11 states in the Northern section of the country all abolished slavery before 1819, and New York was in these states. There were the border states, which were Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouri. The Missouri Compromise was made in 1820 when Maine was admitted into the Union to make sure that for every slave state, there was a free state also. Being a slave owner in NY was impossible by the time of the Civil War.

Lincoln did not emancipate the slaves in the border states because the Union war effort would be screwed if he did. If Maryland went to the South, Washington D.C. would be surrounded by slave states in rebellion (ironically enough). Being as these states had remained loyal to the union, he did not want to piss them off and have them contribute their men and industries to the South! However, by proclaiming slavery illegal in the states in rebellion already, he had nothing to lose; if the North won, the issue was solved, if not, the proclamation would be null and void anyway.

There were not any slave revolts en masse’ that I know of, although I’m sure some did occur, if only for the fact that the men were off fighting the war and no one was there to keep a handle on them. All in all, 500,000 blacks fought for the North in the Civil War, and, being as the number of freed men in the North was relatively low, I would say its safe to bet that most of them were escaped or former slaves.

The issue mentioned in the start of your post is a very leftist point of view, as I have read about it in only one book, “Labor’s Untold Story”, which is about the history of labor unions goin back to the Molly Maguires. I think your statement is defintily true, but it would have taken a long time for this issue to materialize, and with the way that abolitionists were spitting fire about slavery, I believe it would have been abolished on moral grounds far before an economic reason could be found.

I understand your point Haney, but I don’t believe it is true. Like I said, there has been nothing that I read that says Lincoln ever mentioned it as a way to keep Britain out. It seems like your opinion is more speculation then mine!

[quote]FightinIrish26

The issue mentioned in the start of your post is a very leftist point of view, as I have read about it in only one book, “Labor’s Untold Story”, which is about the history of labor unions goin back to the Molly Maguires. I think your statement is defintily true, but it would have taken a long time for this issue to materialize, and with the way that abolitionists were spitting fire about slavery, I believe it would have been abolished on moral grounds far before an economic reason could be found.[/quote]

Haha well that is what I learned in my Political Science class and yes you certainly could consider the prof. a bit of a leftist so I may have inherited some sway myself. The reason few people were unwilling to touch the issue until is started to melt down was because it was loaded and no president reallly felt they had the power to decide for everyone. No matter what side you pick, some one is walking away pissed off. It is like abortion now. In a few hundred years they may look back on us and say the same thing and ask why we did not condemn such an act. (Please no pro abortion flames it is an example) You just have to remember that as times changes so do the morals/ethics/values of the people. Even after they were freed the slaves the African American populace still had a long fight toward equality. So it wasn?t like the Union welcomed their new brothers with open arms.

[quote]FightinIrish26 wrote:
I understand your point Haney, but I don’t believe it is true. Like I said, there has been nothing that I read that says Lincoln ever mentioned it as a way to keep Britain out. It seems like your opinion is more speculation then mine![/quote]

I can’t help it I call a spade a spade. I like lincoln but I am not dilusional about how things went down.

Lincoln was a pretty slick guy when it came to handling people.

[quote]ScrambyEggs wrote:
FightinIrish26

The issue mentioned in the start of your post is a very leftist point of view, as I have read about it in only one book, “Labor’s Untold Story”, which is about the history of labor unions goin back to the Molly Maguires. I think your statement is defintily true, but it would have taken a long time for this issue to materialize, and with the way that abolitionists were spitting fire about slavery, I believe it would have been abolished on moral grounds far before an economic reason could be found.

Haha well that is what I learned in my Political Science class and yes you certainly could consider the prof. a bit of a leftist so I may have inherited some sway myself. The reason few people were unwilling to touch the issue until is started to melt down was because it was loaded and no president reallly felt they had the power to decide for everyone. No matter what side you pick, some one is walking away pissed off. It is like abortion now. In a few hundred years they may look back on us and say the same thing and ask why we did not condemn such an act. (Please no pro abortion flames it is an example) You just have to remember that as times changes so do the morals/ethics/values of the people. Even after they were freed the slaves the African American populace still had a long fight toward equality. So it wasn?t like the Union welcomed their new brothers with open arms. [/quote]

You are very rigt. People may very well look back on Reagan, Clinton, Bush I and Bush II, and say they never did anything to stop the terror that was going on (depending which side wins in the end). This is why hindsight is 20/20! Who knows how it will end? Unfortunatley, its them pencilneck historians who dictate it. So who can tell!?