Many Americans believe that Abraham Lincoln was the
“Great Emancipator,” the sole individual who ended slavery,
and the man who epitomizes freedom. In his brief
presidential term, Lincoln dealt with an unstable nation,
with the South seceding from the country and in brink of
leaving permanently. The differing ideologies between the
North and South about the economy and slavery quickly lead
to civil war. It was now the duty of Lincoln to maintain
the unity of the nation. Therefore, Lincoln is not the
“Great Emancipator” because his primary goals throughout his
presidency was always to maintain the unity of the nation
and not achieve the emancipation of slaves.
First of all, by looking at Lincoln’s road to the white
house, one can see that Abraham Lincoln was a man undecided
on the issue of slavery. He wisely used the issue of
slavery to appeal to both the abolitionists and to
Negrophobes, Northerners who were afraid of living side-by-
side with Negroes and competing with them for jobs. For
example, on July 10th of 1959, Lincoln gave a speech in
Chicago, a primarily abolitionist town. Lincoln stated that
inequality was unnecessary in this country. If all men were
created equal then were should look past race, saying, “Let
us discard all these things, and unite as one people
throughout this land, until we shall once more stand up
declaring that all men are created equal” (Hofstadter, pg.
148). On the other hand, Lincoln gave a speech in
Charleston, on September 18, 1858, a primarily pro-slavery
town and gave a totally contrary opinion. Lincoln stated
that he is not, or has ever been, in favor of freeing slaves
and giving them social equality. Lincoln stated...
... middle of paper ...
... he gave conflicting beliefs
about slavery to attain the necessary votes to elect him to
office. Then, once the Civil War began, he was merely
trying to preserve what was left of an unstable union. The
true “Emancipators” of slavery lie in the grass roots people
of that time, the abolitionists, Frederick Douglas, and the
slaves themselves. The slaves earned their freedom.
Lincoln was merely a man who let the events of his era
determine his policy.
“I claim not to have controlled events but confess plainly
that events controlled me.”
1. John Majewski, History of the American Peoples:
1840-1920 (Dubuque: Kent/Hunt Publishing, 2001).
2. Richard Hofstadter, The American Political
Tradition and the Men Who Made It (New York: Random
House Publishing, 1973).
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