Abraham Lincoln: A Moral Unifier? Essay

1707 words - 7 pages

Abraham Lincoln is a mythical figure in American culture and history because he is the President who saved the Union and abolished slavery. American admiration for him is so great that Americans have carved him into mountains and immortalized him in a Greek temple. In the Lincoln Memorial, one can find the inscriptions of the “Gettysburg Address” and “Second Inaugural Address”. To some, these speeches signify America’s rebirth as a unified political and moral country. Interestingly, these two speeches overshadow the fact that Lincoln’s words were once divisive. In “House Divided”, Lincoln expands the North-South divisions by taking issue with “Popular Sovereignty”, an 1854 policy allowing residents of territories to decide whether to legalize slavery. According to Lincoln, “Popular Sovereignty” was only creating more divisions when the Union needed to reunify under a banner of either slavery or abolition. Furthermore, Lincoln argues that there was a conspiracy to propagate slavery throughout the Union. Lincoln illustrates how several Democrats such as Stephen Douglas, President Franklin Pierce, Chief Justice Roger Taney, and President James Buchanan have enacted policies that were individually unimposing, but collectively spread slavery throughout the Union. Lincoln believed that slavery would become lawful throughout the Union if “the present political dynasty”, a proslavery construct, was not “met and overthrown” by Republicans (Lincoln 405). While I do not think that Lincoln is calling for an armed overthrow, I believe that his speech embodies the Northern distrust of the South. In fact, Lincoln is so polemical that as soon as he is elected the South secedes. However, Lincoln pivots to become a consistent political and moral unifier as president.
Abraham Lincoln represents himself as a political unifier by remaining general when discussing Northerners and Southerners. Some might argue that Lincoln still causes disunity as president. Critics may point to his “Second Inaugural”, Lincoln says, “Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish...” (Lincoln, Second Inaugural Address 461). By juxtaposing Southern aggression and Northern defense, Lincoln can be seen as causing disunity. However, in the book Lincoln, David Herbert Donald believes Lincoln’s treatment of the North and South was actually unifying because Lincoln avoids specifically blaming the South by not “referring to the South or Confederacy” (Donald). For instance, in “Second Inaugural”, Lincoln never explicitly refers to the Confederacy. Instead, Lincoln uses various euphemisms such as “party” and “insurgents” (Lincoln, Second Inaugural Address 461). Lincoln’s euphemisms shift the emphasis away from blaming the Southern “slaveocracy” as a whole, and places it on the insurgents who happen to be Southern (Reid and Klumpp 460). Similarly, in “Gettysburg”, Lincoln continues...

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