Skip to comments.Lincoln's Strategy - Emancipation was an early goal - (American history buffs alert!)
Posted on 05/09/2005 9:35:24 PM PDT by CHARLITE
For the most part, I agree with Peter Lawlers critique of the recent New York Times column by David Brooks on Lincoln and the evangelical abolitionists. But Lawler says one thing that is dead wrong and needs to be corrected. Lawler writes that Lincoln opposed abolitionism before the Civil War because he believed it was unconstitutional; the Constitution only opposed the expansion of slavery into new territories. Abolitionism was a revolutionary principle, and it could finally only be justified by Lincoln after civil war had begun. While Lawler is correct in observing that Lincoln was no abolitionist, his argument plays into the hands of Lincolns detractors who argue that Lincoln really cared nothing about black freedom and only accepted the principle of emancipation out of desperation.
Lawlers argument also misses a point that Lincoln understood very well: The key to ending slavery where it existed lay not with the national government but with the states. Lawler needs to read Allan Guelzos remarkable book, Lincolns Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America.
Guelzo argues persuasively that Lincolns face was set toward the goal of emancipation from the day he first took the presidential oath. To achieve this goal, he planned to pursue a policy of legislated, gradual, compensated emancipation from the very outset of his presidency. He believed he could convince Congress to appropriate funds for compensating slave owners to gradually free their slaves. His plan was to begin where slavery was weakest: in the northern-most slave states, especially Delaware.
The key to his strategy was to prevent the expansion of slavery into the federal territories while working to convince the legislatures of slave states to changes their statutes relating to slavery. After all, the Constitution left the issue of slavery to the states. This state legislative strategy also offered the best chance for keeping the issue of emancipation out of the federal court system, where an unfavorable judgment, a likelihood as long as Roger Taney was chief justice, could set back its prospects.
This strategy also explains what seems to be his total lack of concern about the consequences of the proposal at the beginning of his term for an amendment foreclosing forever the possibility that the federal government could interfere with the institution of slavery, even by future amendment. Lincolns detractors have pointed to this amendment as more evidence that he didnt really care about ending slavery. But he was willing to accept it because he didnt think it really mattered and it certainly didnt interfere with his own strategy for ending slavery.
Thus while he was willing to accept this proposal as a way of bringing the seven states that had seceded back into the Union fold at the time of his inauguration, he adamantly refused any compromise on the expansion of slavery. In a series of letters written to Lyman Trumbull, William Kellogg, Elihu Washburne, and Thurlow Weed in December, 1860, Lincoln adjured them to entertain no proposition for a compromise in regard to the extension of slavery.
Lincolns strategy relied on the economic principles of supply and demand. He believed that if he could prevent the expansion of slavery into the federal territories and prevail upon state legislatures, beginning with the northern-most slave states, to accept gradual, compensated emancipation, the demand for slaves would fall while the supply would increase in the deep south. The combined effect would be to reduce the value of slave property. By thus shrinking slavery, he would make it uneconomical and once again place it back on the eventual road to extinction that he believed the Founders had envisioned.
The outbreak of war derailed the original version of his grand scheme, but even after the war began, Lincoln believed that if he could convince the legislatures of the loyal slave states to agree to compensated emancipation, he could end the rebellion, restore the Union, and begin the end of slavery. He reasoned that the combination of military success against the Confederacy and compensated emancipation in the loyal slave states would lead to the collapse of the Confederacy, which had staked its hopes on eventually incorporating the so-called border states.
But neither condition came to pass: Lincolns proposals for compensated emancipation were rejected by the border states, and the army of the Potomac under Gen. George McClellan was driven back from Richmond after coming close to capturing it. Lincoln concluded that he did not have the time to pursue his preferred legislative strategy in the border states and that therefore something stronger and more precipitous was needed to bring the war to a successful conclusion.
The Emancipation Proclamation was Lincolns response to the failure of Union arms and compensated emancipation. The time had come, as he wrote to Cuthbert Bullitt, to stop waging war with elder-stalk squirts, charged with rose water. Thus after Lees invasion of Maryland was turned back at Antietam, Lincoln issued a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation on September 22 that gave the Confederates 100 days to submit to the Union or face the prospect of immediate emancipation.
Mackubin Thomas Owens is an associate dean of academics and a professor of national security affairs at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I. He is writing a history of U.S. civil-military relations.
The only fault I find with Owens' composition is that he seems to repeat this idea nearly verbatim, three times in the course of the article.
Lincoln still considered African descended people inferior to Caucasians.
I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.
Those who nominated and elected me did so with full knowledge that I had made this and many similar declarations and had never recanted them; and more than this, they placed in the platform for my acceptance, and as a law to themselves and to me, the clear and emphatic resolution which I now read:
Resolved, That the maintenance inviolate of the rights of the States, and especially the right of each State to order and control its own domestic institutions according to its own judgment exclusively, is essential to that balance of power on which the perfection and endurance of our political fabric depend; and we denounce the lawless invasion by armed force of the soil of any State or Territory, no matter what pretext, as among the gravest of crimes.
Lincoln's First Inaugural Address. Maybe he forgot to read Owens in National Review Online.
Well, *DUH*! So did everybody who lived at that time - including some of the most ardent abolitionists.
That was an evil of their time - but their virtue in laying their lives down to free their brothers in Christ was their own, and was heroic.
IIRC, Lincoln also suggested to Frederick Douglass and others, that emancipated slaves be re-settled outside the US. Alexander Stephens reported that shortly before Lincoln's assasination, he told Stephens he had no plans for assisting freed slaves in adjusting to their new way of life. That was reportedly during a conversation they had at Hampton Roads. As Stephens relates it, Lincoln said, "I guess they'll just have to 'root hog or die.'" That would have fit Lincoln, since he followed black minstrelsy and "Root Hog Or Die" was popular at the time.
All of the founding fathers were rank hypocrites yet still struggled with the issue of slavery.
Now lets move on to more pressing concerns....was Lincoln gay? < /sarc>
In my simple mind, there was some relationship between Lincoln running as the Republican candidate, and the fact that party was recently formed based on abolition.
Let others dither until the end of time, about all the finer distinctions.
Slavery was abolished in Britain in the 1830s and the time was well nigh, for the US to do likewise, as it did.
Women eventually got to vote, too. Time marches on.
Well, he let Walt Whitman in the White House. That should tell you something. ;-)
So did almost every other Caucazoid in North America including the Radicals.
Why is it I have a sneaking idea Guelzo was educated at a liberal institution of indoctrination? Lincoln's one goal was to maintain power anyway he could. He had just been elected President to a nation that had lost it's Southern States. If he wanted to free slaves why didn't he free slaves in the North with his Emancipation Proclamation?
I think some of you put these threads on FR just to get old folks like me rantin' and a ravin'. Not tonight friends. Peace!
A good guess, but the Republican Party was founded in opposition to the extension of slavery into the Territories, not its abolition where it already existed. The Republican position is spelled out in the first Republican Party platform, that of 1856. And Lincoln in his first inauguaral states his belief that he didn't have the Constitutional authority to interfere with the practice of slavery. Not that we should let his own words have any merit.
From Frederick Douglass' 1876 oration in memory of Lincoln:
"He was preeminently the white mans President, entirely devoted to the welfare of white men. He was ready and willing at any time during the first years of his administration to deny, postpone, and sacrifice the rights of humanity in the colored people to promote the welfare of the white people of this country. In all his education and feeling he was an American of the Americans. He came into the Presidential chair upon one principle alone, namely, opposition to the extension of slavery. His arguments in furtherance of this policy had their motive and mainspring in his patriotic devotion to the interests of his own race. To protect, defend, and perpetuate slavery in the states where it existed Abraham Lincoln was not less ready than any other President to draw the sword of the nation. He was ready to execute all the supposed guarantees of the United States Constitution in favor of the slave system anywhere inside the slave states. He was willing to pursue, recapture, and send back the fugitive slave to his master, and to suppress a slave rising for liberty, though his guilty master were already in arms against the Government.
The race to which we belong were not the special objects of his consideration. Knowing this, I concede to you, my white fellow-citizens, a pre-eminence in this worship at once full and supreme. First, midst, and last, you and yours were the objects of his deepest affection and his most earnest solicitude. You are the children of Abraham Lincoln. We are at best only his step-children; children by adoption, children by forces of circumstances and necessity. To you it especially belongs to sound his praises, to preserve and perpetuate his memory, to multiply his statues, to hang his pictures high upon your walls, and commend his example, for to you he was a great and glorious friend and benefactor. Instead of supplanting you at his altar, we would exhort you to build high his monuments; let them be of the most costly material, of the most cunning workmanship; let their forms be symmetrical, beautiful, and perfect, let their bases be upon solid rocks, and their summits lean against the unchanging blue, overhanging sky, and let them endure forever! But while in the abundance of your wealth, and in the fullness of your just and patriotic devotion, you do all this, we entreat you to despise not the humble offering we this day unveil to view; for while Abraham Lincoln saved for you a country, he delivered us from a bondage, according to Jefferson, one hour of which was worse than ages of the oppression your fathers rose in rebellion to oppose."
So did just about every other white man in the U.S., North and South.
He generally qualified any statements of the sort. See the chapter on the Declaration of Independence in Harry Jaffa's Crisis of the House Divided for Lincoln's view of equality.
I take it you're talking about the Union army. Please show us where the Union army took up arms against the South to abolish slavery.
Lincoln related the circumstances behind the story in to Alexander McClure.
"You see," said he, "we had reached and were discussing the slavery question. Mr. Hunter said, substantially, that the slaves, always accustomed to an overseer, and to work upon compulsion, suddenly freed, as they would be if the South should consent to peace on the basis of the 'Emancipation Proclamation,' would precipitate not only themselves, but the entire Southern society, into irremediable ruin. No work would be done, nothing would be cultivated, and both blacks and whites would starve!"
Said the President: "I waited for Seward to answer that argument, but as he was silent, I at length said: 'Mr. Hunter, you ought to know a great deal better about this argument than I, for you have always lived under the slave system. I can only say, in reply to your statement of the case, that it reminds me of a man out in Illinois, by the name of Case, who undertook, a few years ago, to raise a very large herd of hogs. It was a great trouble to feed them, and how to get around this was a puzzle to him. At length he hit on the plan of planting an immense field of potatoes, and, when they were sufficiently grown, he turned the whole herd into the field, and let them have full swing, thus saving not only the labor of feeding the hogs, but also that of digging the potatoes. Charmed with his sagacity, he stood one day leaning against the fence, counting his hogs, when a neighbor came along.
"'Well, well,' said he, 'Mr. Case, this is all very fine. Your hogs are doing very well just now, but you know out here in Illinois the frost comes early, and the ground freezes for a foot deep. Then what you going to do?'
"This was a view of the matter which Mr. Case had not taken into account. Butchering time for hogs was 'way on in December or January! He scratched his head, and at length stammered: 'Well, it may come pretty hard on their snouts, but I don't see but that it will be "root, hog, or die."'"
Lincoln was talking to one of the Confederate commissioners, Hunter. Hunter was expressing his concern about what would happen to southren society without the slave labor that provided their wealth. Without slaves, Hunter complained, no work would be done. Nothing would be harvested. People would starve. So when Lincoln related the story it was to point out that the white population could no longer live off the labors of their chattle. The white population would have to work for a change. It was the white population that would have to 'root hog, or die' not the former slaves.
And on better terms - freed slaves would get the grants to stand on their own feet, same grants as white settlers were getting.
Doesn't Harry Jaffa like to claim "Lincoln didn't mean what he wrote here" when he comes across inconvenient statements by Abe? We mere mortals don't have access to "what he really meant" versus what he actually wrote.
Lincoln, unlike modern south-haters, knew that only a small precentage of southerners owned slaves. Work was nothing new to the white population of the south, but that claim does have a continued popularity among the culturally marxist.