Abraham Lincoln spent most of his political career as a member of the Whig party endorsing policies that aided economic development, supported free soil and opposed the expansion of slavery. Lincoln was instrumental in creating the voice of the Republican Party and during that process his own views on slavery were shaped. He played the middle ground and therefore appealed to both former conservative northern Whigs, and radical Republicans. The Civil War proved to be a turning point in Lincoln’s view of slavery and the extent he would go to abolish it.
The Whig Party lost their political strength when the issue of slavery in the newly acquired territories from Mexico split the party. Northern Whigs wanted slavery barred from the territories and Southern Whigs wanted it open to slavery. In 1854 the Kansas-Nebraska Act passed which made previous lands that were closed to slavery open to it by granting the right of popular sovereignty to the territories. The act destroyed the Whig Party. A majority of northern Whigs began to align themselves with the newly formed Republican Party, who strongly opposed slavery. The southern Whigs, who favored slavery, were absorbed into the Democratic Party. Lincoln’s political interest was rekindled with the Kansas-Nebraska Act prompting him to leave the Whig Party and become the leading spokesman for the Republican Party.
The debates between Lincoln and Douglas during the 1858 senatorial campaign in Illinois hashed out the differences of the Republican and Democratic Parties. Douglas framed the Republicans as abolitionist whose ultimate goal was to end slavery and destroy the rights of southern property owners clearly protected in the Constitutio...
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...as illegal so he was equally lenient and offered a pardon to nearly all white southerners that took an oath of allegiance. Where he differed from Lincoln was that he was a racist and aside from the requirement that they abolish slavery, repudiate succession and refuse to pay the Confederate debt, Johnson gave the new southern governments freedom in managing their local affairs. As a result the Black Codes were established by southern governments greatly limiting the freedom of black Americans. This prompted Congress to override President Johnson’s veto, and pass the Civil Rights Act.
Foner, Eric. Give Me Liberty! An American History Volume 1, Second Edition. New York: Seagull Press,
Johnson, Michael P. Abraham Lincoln, Slavery, and the Civil War, Selected Writings and Speeches. Boston:
Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2001
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