Serendipitious Freedom

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Abraham Lincoln is one of the American presidents that history often smiles upon on. Christened with the moniker “honest Abe”, Lincoln has been held up as the epitome of strength, courage, morality, and martyrdom by giving up his life to fight the cause of ending slavery. This leads to the almost legendary imagery of Lincoln “the great emancipator of the slaves”. Yet, does the man live up to the legend? Does Lincoln even deserve the acclaim that he receives? By using historical accounts, as well as Lincoln’s own words, I will argue that Lincoln’s crowning achievement, freeing the enslaved African Americans, was incidental to his primary goal of preserving the union; therefore, perhaps diminishing his legendary status in American History. However, in order to understand the eventual emancipation of the enslaved and Lincoln’s motivations, it is important to understand the events leading up to the American Civil War. After the Presidential election of 1860, Lincoln was elected to govern a young United States of America that had never before been so divided (Tindall and Shi 485). Although other factors, such as religion and regional economic interest, contributed to the civil divisions, there was also the issue of the existence and continence of slavery in the southern states (Gritter). Prior to Lincoln’s election, there had been attempts at compromises in order to quail the tensions in the Union. For example, Generally speaking, a President’s hopes and agenda for one’s country is often outlined in the inaugural address of the President. This can also be said for the First Inaugural Address of President Lincoln in 1861. In it, Lincoln acknowledges the division in the country over the issue of slavery by saying that there are states th... ... middle of paper ... ...avery was not on his agenda. In conclusion, several would argue that President Lincoln was perhaps one of the greatest President’s to ever serve but, it cannot be ignored that perhaps one his greatest achievements, freeing the enslaved African Americans, was for selfish reasons, which in turn mars his legacy. Many would say that Lincoln was a moral man, often using biblically infused arguments against slavery. I would be inclined to also agree with this characterization of Lincoln. However, I would also regard Lincoln as an opportunist. Lincoln’s primary goal was to preserve the union and ending the divisive institution of slavery that Lincoln felt was morally wrong was an added bonus. Nevertheless, despite whatever Lincoln’s intentions were, slavery was ended and the Union was preserved, solidifying his place in American history as one of the greatest presidents.

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