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.
Slavery ended throughout the western hemisphere without war, except in the case of Haiti and the United States. But the true believers claim that slavery wouldn't have ended in Brazil, Cuba, and the other western societies without the American Civil War as a prod. I have to give them credit for knowing that they ought to try to justify the slaughter, despite the apparent absence of any logical connection.
From another issue of the Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association, also published by the University of Illinois --
This anecdote, which appears in both Stephens and Campbell's accounts and which Lincoln later repeated to his portraitist, reveals a harsh side to Lincoln, perhaps caused by his desire to reassure the Confederates that he did not seek a social revolution in the postwar South. The story also belies Lincoln's earlier expressions of sympathy for black refugees from slavery and his approval, one month after the Hampton Roads Conference, of the Freedman's Bureau bill providing temporary aid for the former slaves (and white refugees) in their adjustment to freedom. Still, Lincoln, like most Americans at the time, optimistically expected emancipation itself to be "the king's cure" for blacks in the South. Lincoln believed that a free person, now including blacks, should be able to make his way in America through his own ability and effort without the assistance of the state. Though he had admitted the difficulties of the white and black races living together in freedom (his earlier support for black colonization reflected this concern), the president envisioned a limited role for the federal government in protecting and aiding blacks after the war. Had he lived to witness the postwar threat to black freedom, Lincoln might have changed his mind regarding federal responsibility for black liberty.
It's a good article on the Hampton Roads meeting. I recommend it.
No, but Nathan Bedford Forrest and Robert E. Lee were Gay. We should make the Confederate Battle Flag the new Gay Pride flag if you ask me.
Oh, I thought he meant Gay as in happy. Never mind. ;-)
Such an evil had to be destroyed as well as the institutions that allowed it to thrive.
No half measures were possible.
No half measures would have been justifiable in he eyes of a just God.
In some states close to half of all families had slaves. In the south as a whole around 1 family in every 5 held slaves, and these were the people who would have to root or die. The benefits of slavery were far more common that you are apparently willing to admit. You would rather call people marxist and go home.
And yet the account I gave was the only one where Lincoln explained his actions. Who better than he would know what he meant? His remarks show that his lack of sympathy was for the southern white population that would have to work for a change.
I would point out that Wilson's version differs radically from the account I gave, and the two that you gave. Wilson attributes the comments to Alexander when all the others attribute it to Hunter. Wilson claims the concerns expressed were solely about the freed slaves, and the other three accounts make it clear that white interests were the concern. But then Clyde Wilson has his own agenda to advance, and admitting that Lincoln's account weren't a racist attack on the former slaves does nothing to advance that.
There is not a single instance where slavery was not ended through government legislation, and always over the strenuous objection of the slave owners themselves. Since the southern states were willing to rebel to protect slavery in 1860 how long do you think it would be before they would be willing to sit back and accept a forced end to their institution? 20 years? 50 years?
He certainly did.
"When, therefore, it shall be asked what we have to do with the memory of Abraham Lincoln, or what Abraham Lincoln had to do with us, the answer is ready, full, and complete. Though he loved Caesar less than Rome, though the Union was more to him than our freedom or our future, under his wise and beneficent rule we saw ourselves gradually lifted from the depths of slavery to the heights of liberty and manhood; under his wise and beneficent rule, and by measures approved and vigorously pressed by him, we saw that the handwriting of ages, in the form of prejudice and proscription, was rapidly fading away from the face of our whole country; under his rule, and in due time, about as soon after all as the country could tolerate the strange spectacle, we saw our brave sons and brothers laying off the rags of bondage, and being clothed all over in the blue uniforms of the soldiers of the United States; under his rule we saw two hundred thousand of our dark and dusky people responding to the call of Abraham Lincoln, and with muskets on their shoulders, and eagles on their buttons, timing their high footsteps to liberty and union under the national flag; under his rule we saw the independence of the black republic of Haiti, the special object of slave-holding aversion and horror, fully recognized, and her minister, a colored gentleman, duly received here in the city of Washington; under his rule we saw the internal slave-trade, which so long disgraced the nation, abolished, and slavery abolished in the District of Columbia; under his rule we saw for the first time the law enforced against the foreign slave trade, and the first slave-trader hanged like any other pirate or murderer; under his rule, assisted by the greatest captain of our age, and his inspiration, we saw the Confederate States, based upon the idea that our race must be slaves, and slaves forever, battered to pieces and scattered to the four winds; under his rule, and in the fullness of time, we saw Abraham Lincoln, after giving the slave-holders three months grace in which to save their hateful slave system, penning the immortal paper, which, though special in its language, was general in its principles and effect, making slavery forever impossible in the United States. Though we waited long, we saw all this and more."
I guess you just forgot to include that part, huh?
In post 26, the author simply states that Stephens asked Lincoln the question. He doesn't make attribution in the quoted text. It's probably in the footnotes of the original article.
In post 22, Hunter is cited as the one who raised the question. It's possible that both Hunter and Stephens pursued this matter with Lincoln. In the quoted text given in that post, attribution for the story is given to both Stephens and Campbell.
I don't think anybody believed then or believes now, that Lincoln was making a "racist attack" on black people -- only that he was not losing any sleep over their plight as freed men. Lincoln had already gone on record with his belief that blacks could not adequately integrate into white society and, as has been noted, he proposed to Douglass and others that blacks be resettled abroad.
While there is variation in the Hampton Roads accounts, the only "radical" difference I see is in the interpretations offered. If you believe Professor Wilson has an "agenda," please state your basis for that belief. If it's the mere fact that he's Southern, then similar claims of bias could be made toward Northern sources.
Wilson is on the Board of Directors for the League of the South. He has a definite agenda.
Have you read the Emancipation Proclamation? Far from making slavery "impossible," it was quite limited and specific. Plenty of slaves were being held after the Proclamation and even after the war. It took a constitutional amendment to abolish slavery.
Lot of that going around. But here I posted parts of Douglass's tribute because I thought that you and Pelham might be trying to imply that Douglass had no respect for Lincoln. Surely you two were not trying to imply that, were you?
While Lincoln's personal dislike of slavery is well-known, the only related position he ever advocated strongly and consistently was the prevention of slavery's spread into the territories, "where it does not already exist." He steadfastly refused to take up the call of the abolitionists, since the majority of Northerners were not sympathetic to it. And, as I've pointed out, his Emancipation Proclamation only called for the freedom of slaves living in the states that continued to rebel -- not the slaves in the border states or in northern states like Delaware and not the slaves in secessionist states that laid down their arms.
I never implied Douglass lacked respect for Lincoln. I said he knew him, ie. he understood Lincoln's primary political objectives were to preserve the union and prevent slavery's spread to the territories, not to abolish it. He also understood that slavery was a huge political headache for Lincoln and that he would be content just to ship black people off to foreign shores to fend for themselves. Lincoln did not openly support a 13th Amendment until after his re-election, when it became clear that the union would be victorious and resettlement was not an option.
There is indeed. Perhaps we should post the quote in context?
Washington, August 22, 1862.
Hon. Horace Greeley:
I have just read yours of the 19th. addressed to myself through the New-York Tribune. If there be in it any statements, or assumptions of fact, which I may know to be erroneous, I do not, now and here, controvert them. If there be in it any inferences which I may believe to be falsely drawn, I do not now and here, argue against them. If there be perceptable [sic] in it an impatient and dictatorial tone, I waive it in deference to an old friend, whose heart I have always supposed to be right.
As to the policy I "seem to be pursuing" as you say, I have not meant to leave any one in doubt.
I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can be restored; the nearer the Union will be "the Union as it was." If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause. I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors; and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views.
I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty; and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men everywhere could be free.
While Lincoln's personal dislike of slavery is well-known, the only related position he ever advocated strongly and consistently was the prevention of slavery's spread into the territories, "where it does not already exist."
Which is all that he believed the government could do absent a constitutional amendment. It would be highly presumptuous of him to advocate something that wasn't constitutional.
And, as I've pointed out, his Emancipation Proclamation only called for the freedom of slaves living in the states that continued to rebel -- not the slaves in the border states or in northern states like Delaware and not the slaves in secessionist states that laid down their arms.
The Emancipation Proclamation was a war measure issued as a tool for combating the rebellion. Since Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouri were not part of the rebellion to begin with, and since Tennessee and parts of Virginia and Louisiana had been returned to federal control, the Emancipation Proclamation could not legally apply to them. It took the 13th Amendment to end slavery, and Lincoln's support for that is well documented.
Complete nonsense. Lincoln was a supporter of voluntary emigration for former slaves. Emphasis on the 'voluntary'. In that he was no different than other evil men who shared the same beliefs. Men like James Madison, Robert Lee, and John Breckenridge. Unlike Jefferson Davis, Lincoln never advocated forced deportation for freed blacks.
Lincoln did not openly support a 13th Amendment until after his re-election, when it became clear that the union would be victorious and resettlement was not an option.
That is incorrect as well. Lincoln ran for reelection on a platform strongly supporting the 13th Amendment, and made his complete support for that plank known in letters to the platform committee.