The Abolishment of Slavery Through Dialect
Abraham Lincoln was a dialogic rhetorician who seemed intent on prompting others to discussion and action through the power of words. The one great consistency that exists across the rhetoric of Lincoln’s early administration is that, in conversations with friends and critics, in his written correspondence and in his public speeches, he listened, considered, and then replied to the arguments of others. With the determination to abolish slavery, Abraham Lincoln, practiced law and politics, and served as president of the United States in a society that lacked any modern day theories of race. It is necessary to recognize the enormous odds blacks faced in a society seemingly dedicated to the preservation of white superiority. It is equally important to understand how difficult it was for whites to endorse black freedom and equality. To be identified as an abolitionist or a proponent of black rights was not socially or politically expedient. In fact, it was often dangerous. Young Abe’s first real exposure to human bondage came in 1828, when he was nineteen years old. He and Allen Gentry were hired to float farm produce down the Mississippi to New Orleans. The two youths were mesmerized by the Crescent City, with its fabulous French Quarter and docks lined with steamboats. But they also saw the infamous slave markets of New Orleans, where black men, women, and children were bough and sold like animals. These were sights that Lincoln would never forget. Growth is indeed a word often used to describe Lincoln's position on race and slavery in a state, which had little sympathy for ex-slaves even if it had little support for slavery. Lincoln neither grew up in nor lived in a racially tolerant society. Historian Richard N. Current wrote: There were black laws in Illinois indeed-laws that denied the Negro the vote and deprived him of other rights. Illinois in those days was a Jim Crow state. That was where Lincoln had spent most of the years of his manhood, among people who had migrated from slave country farther south, as he himself had done. Naturally he had shared some of the negrophobic feeling of his neighbors in Kentucky, in southern Indiana, in central Illinois. That was where, in geography, and in sentiment, he came from. But he did not stay there. The most remarkable thing about him was his tremendous power of growth. He grew in sympathy, in the range of his humaneness, as he grew in other aspects of the mind and spirit. In more ways than one he succeeded in breaking through the thin bounds of his early environment." Lincoln detested slavery, but he was no abolitionist. He hoped it would peacefully die out of its own accord, without bloodshed or violence. Lincoln felt that slavery, however objectionable, was protected by the Constitution of the time. As a passionate Unionist, the young lawyer also felt that forced abolition would break up the United States. Lincoln started his political career in 1832 when he made the decision to run for Illinois General Assembly. Unfortunately the Black Hawk Indian War broke out before he was able to campaign. But, in 1834 Lincoln established himself as a member of the Illinois General Assembly in which he would stay apart of until 1842. As representative from Sangamon County, he represented the emerging Whig Party, which devoted itself under the national leadership of Senators Henry Clay and Daniel Webster. As a member of the General Assembly, Lincoln took an early stand on the question of slavery. He opposed a piece of legislation that condemned the activities of local abolition societies and lent general support to the institution of slavery. For support Lincoln joined Dan Stone, a representative also from Sangamon County, and together they expressed their protest to the resolution adopted by the Illinois General Assembly. They expressed their disapproval of the formation of abolition societies and proclaimed,...
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