Abraham Lincoln on Slavery
Abraham Lincoln was born in 1809, in Hardin County, Kentucky (Abraham Lincoln Slavery and the Civil War, pg. 211, Johnson). Many Americans believe him to be one of the greatest presidents to ever serve in office. One thing that distinguished Lincoln from all the other former presidents was his distinct philosophy on slavery: that it is unfair and unjust to enslave another human being. Lincoln supported his opinion with a simple formula labeled the ‘Fragment on Slavery’ (Abraham Lincoln Slavery and the Civil War, pg. 20, Johnson), in which he described slavery as being easily applicable to anyone-not just blacks. By applying race or color, intellectual ability, or interest, Lincoln’s logic proved that if A (whites) can enslave B (blacks), then B can also enslave A. Lincoln justified his position on slavery based on his formula, in that no person had the right to enslave the other, based on those sole factors. Even though Abraham Lincoln is known as the “freer of the slaves,” he was not an abolitionist. According to the novel, there were many republican abolitionists who were far more against Slavery than Lincoln himself was. However, through his life and political career, his thinking about slavery and his policies surrounding it had changed drastically, especially during the civil war which evidently led to the end of slavery, and the preservation of the union. In this paper, I will analyze Lincoln’s thinking on the institution of slavery, as well as the general status of African Americans from his early political days, to his presidency, and through the civil war.
To begin with, Abraham Lincoln’s political career started off in 1834 after being elected to the Illinois House of Representatives as a Whig member. In March 1837, Lincoln made his first public declaration against slavery, and proposed an antislavery resolution in the Illinois legislature (Abraham Lincoln Slavery and the Civil War, pg. 211, Johnson). During his political aspirations, Lincoln repeatedly expressed his dislike for slavery and the need for it to end, and in his speech on the Kansas-Nebraska Act, he stated; “...I hate it because of the monstrous injustice of slavery itself...because it deprives our republican example of its just influence in the world...criticizing the Declaration of Independence...” ( Abraham Lincoln Slavery and the Civil War, pg. 16, Johnson). Lincoln acknowledged slavery was wrong and that blacks have certain rights, however he did not believe blacks to be equal to white men socially, as was stated in the Kansas-Nebraska Act; “...What next? Free them, and make them politically and socially, our equals? My own feelings will not admit this; and if mine would we well know that those of the great mass of white people will not...” (Abraham Lincoln Slavery and the Civil War, pg. 17, Johnson). Lincoln therefore stated; “ ...a universal feeling whether well or ill-founded cannot be safely disregarded...” (Abraham Lincoln Slavery and the Civil War, pg. 17, Johnson). Lincoln clearly believed that there was a superior race, however he did not believe that the inferior race should be punished and made as slaves. His thinking about the status of African-Americans was also made quite clear in a letter to Joshua Speed, recounting his experience of witnessing slaves on board a boat and bound together by iron shackles. From his statements made in the Nebraska Act as well as in his letter to Joshua Speed, his impression of blacks is evident, especially by the language in which he uses in his letter; “...I confess I hate to see these poor creatures hunted down and caught and carried back to their stripes, and unrewarded toils...” ( Abraham Lincoln Slavery and the Civil War, pg.21, Johnson). Instead of referring to the African-Americans as blacks, he labels them as poor creatures therefore not referring to them as men at all. Through his early career, Lincoln continued to repeatedly express his views on...
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