The Great Emancipator
Throughout history, people have debated whether Abraham Lincoln should be considered the Great Emancipator or not. Due to many factors that influenced his reasoning for his actions, his legacy has been greatly questioned. The freeing of slaves was not all because of one person but this act of great change in history would not have occurred without Abraham Lincoln and all his contributions to the cause. I argue that Abraham Lincoln, although at first his intentions to abolish slavery may not have been due to the moral issue of slavery, should still indeed be considered the Great Emancipator because he played a large role in the freedom of slaves. In order to support this claim I will first explain how Lincoln’s view on the moral issue of slavery changed over time, followed by the careful steps Lincoln took to ease the nation into the emancipation of slaves, and lastly how some decisions and changes made in the nation by Lincoln, made him a great leader and one that pushed for the end of slavery. Throughout the civil war period Lincoln came to a realization that he should not just abolish slavery for the interest to protect the union but more so because of the moral issue of slavery. At first, his goal was strictly to preserve the union in any way possible and at the time, states in the South were choosing to succeed and emancipation was the way he believed would stop that. Lincoln believed that succession was not the states rights but slavery was. 1 This was one of the reasons Lincoln did not feel it was his right to take away slavery from slave states. Lincoln stated, “If I could save the union without freeing any slave, I would do it, and if I could save it with freeing all the slaves I would do it.” 2 This proves that his main goal in the beginning was purely to save the union. As the war continued, Lincoln then issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which promised freedom to slaves in the areas that continued to be in rebellion on January 1, 1863, and also gave the federal government full permission to use Africa Americans to defeat the Confederate army.3 The reason for this proclamation was to take away slave labor from the Confederacy, shorten the war, and save lives. The announcement of this order confirmed the new purpose of the war, which was to bring a “new birth of freedom” to the nation.4 Now this war was not only a fight to preserve the union but to also end slavery. Here you can see the changing reasoning behind the emancipation, instead of it being strictly about the union, it is now about freedom for all.
Under Lincoln’s control the North began to use former fugitive slaves and many African Americans to help then win the war. Many of them had volunteered to fight, but instead the men were used as manual laborers and the women were employed as laundresses and cooks. 5 Lincoln allowed this to happen and this gave the North an extreme advantage, and played a major role in their victory. By seeing first hand the contribution that African Americans made to the war, Lincoln began to view slavery as a moral issue. He explains in his letter to James C. Conkling that these now free blacks, that some whites are not willing to fight for, are fighting for them and that the promise of freedom made to them must be kept.6 He realized that the promise of freedom was enough motive to make them fight for the people who gave them nothing but unfair rights and inhumane treatment. This got him thinking about the ethical issues regarding slavery and related it back to religion. The issue of religion was the way it proved slavery wrong, and the belief that God brought on this war to rid the world of the disgrace of slavery was brought about. Now in the end, Lincoln, being moved by the actions of the black soldiers in the war, opened his eyes and changed his reasoning behind all he did in favor of the moral issue slavery brought upon this nation. From the beginning of Lincoln’s presidency, he was...
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