Abraham Lincoln Supported Slavery Essay

1829 words - 7 pages

The Presidents’ Day holiday is celebrated in the cold month of February; children in classrooms across the United States are given a litany of the Presidents and their most famous accomplishments: George Washington, who could not tell a lie is the “father of our country”; John Kennedy, the dashing young man who asked, “not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”, was assassinated in a mystery that still remains unsolved, and “Honest Abe” Lincoln, the Great Emancipator who authored the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed the slaves, is credited with beginning the long road in the fight for equality for blacks. While these characterizations are true, there is an untold story to understand. Each president has personal and political skeletons in his closet that time and history tend to allow to remain locked away. Their images stare at the public from shiny coins to folded paper dollars, but their eyes seem to implore Americans to remember the presidents in their best light. Abraham Lincoln’s feelings toward slavery were not actually those that he portrayed in the Emancipation Proclamation. Moreover, Lincoln’s main objective in the Civil War was monetary: he feared states succession and financial collapse. Abraham Lincoln should not be known as the Great Emancipator, but rather the Great Centralizer.
Ask an average American citizen why the Civil War was fought and the common reply will be that the North wanted slavery abolished; whereas the South, who relied on slavery to work their plantations did not want slavery abolished. The slavery issue might have been auxiliary, certainly vital to keeping the states from seceding, but the Civil War was not fought to end slavery. If Lincoln could end slavery with The Emancipation Proclamation, why would he allow such a costly war to end it? African slavery existed in many parts of the world, but it did not take warfare to end it. Many countries, including the territorial possessions of the British, French, Portuguese and Spanish ended slavery peacefully during the late 18th and 19th centuries. (DiLorenzo 20) Lincoln actually supported slavery. Defending slave owners’ rights to own their property, Lincoln demonstrated his support for the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, when he stated, “When they remind us of their constitutional right (to own slaves) I acknowledge them, not grudgingly but fully and fairly, and I would give them any legislation for the claiming of their fugitives” (Johnson 47). The Emancipation Proclamation was little more than a political gimmick, and Lincoln admitted this in a letter to Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase: “The original proclamation has no . . . Legal justification, except as a military measure” (Johnson 206).
Lincoln’s election to Congress in 1854 and the Mexican War brought the issues of expansion of slave territory to the forefront. Lincoln shaped his position on slavery: he was opposed to black equality...

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