According to some, Abraham Lincoln abolished slavery because he hated the inhumane institution. Others say he only abolished slavery because it undermined his enemy’s war effort.
The truth is Abraham Lincoln was a very shrewd politician and a very complicated man who went through lots of evolutions throughout his life. He’s often painted as a racist and a man of his times based on quotes where he says he does not think the black race equal to the white race. I mean, even after the war, what color was the race of the man (servant) that tied his shoe laces and assisted him in dressing everyday?
Lincoln also said he was waging the war not to abolish slavery, but to keep the country together. If the nation fell apart by the actions of a minority he thought the country was headed for anarchy and chaos. But as a result of the war being underway and at the end of said war, the country did slowly move towards abolition of owning slaves. Note: Lincoln and many Northern plantation owning states still kept their servants for many years after.
Lincoln was shrewd enough to bide his time. When early in the war one of his generals tried to abolish slavery in his district, Lincoln immediately prevented him from doing so and canceled this attempt. He drew a storm of criticism for this from anti-slavery factions in the country. The truth is at the time, it was the best thing he could have done. Several slaveholders were still loyal to the United States and if he had moved against slavery too early, they would have gone over to the other side, therefore bolstering the survival chances of slavery.
When Lincoln did abolish slavery, his timing was excellent. He did it right after a battle ranked as a Union victory. Why? Because if he had done it when the war was going against him, his action would have been perceived as the action of a desperate man.
The way in which Lincoln abolished slavery was also shrewd. His Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves only in the areas still under control of the Confederacy. He did not touch slavery in states still loyal to the Union or in areas under Union occupation, again to secure the support of loyal slaveholders. The proclamation made slaves run off with really no where to go- Lincoln never sent them back to their tribal owners in Africa. Interestingly, only one in four left their masters.
Slaves thought they should support the Union -even though there was plenty of racism in non-slave-holding states as well- and 180,000 black soldiers ended up serving in Union ranks. Ironically, there were many slaves in the same numbers who fought equally alongside the Confederate side.
Later in the war, Lincoln made sure slavery was eventually abolished throughout the entire country, even setting the stage to allow freed slaves to vote, but still never assisting any slave or ancestor of such, get back to their homeland. Odd to say the least.
The lesson here? Decide on your outcome, but be flexible about your approach.
*Thanks in part to Frank M.
Holt Collier, one of the African Southerners
who served in the Confederate Army during
the American Civil War.
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Thanks to my friend and brother, CRAZY RUSSIAN HACKER!!!
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