Abraham Lincoln: The Great Emancipator
During the Abraham Lincoln’s short time as president, he managed not only to save a nation deeply divided and at war with itself, but to solidify the United States of America as a nation dedicated to the progress of civil rights. Years after his death, he was awarded the title of ‘The Great Emancipator.’ In this paper, I will examine many different aspects of Lincoln’s presidency in order to come to a conclusion: whether this title bestowed unto Lincoln was deserved, or not. In order to fully understand Lincoln, it is necessary to understand the motives that drove this man to action. While some of his intentions may not have been for the welfare of slaves, but for the preservation of the Union, the actions still stand. Abraham Lincoln, though motivated by his devotion to his nation, made the first blows against the institution of slavery and rightfully earned his title of ‘The Great Emancipator.’
In a speech that Lincoln gave prior to his presidency, we can see how ambiguous his stance on slavery truly was. This speech, known as the ‘House Divided’ speech, was given on the 16th of June, 1858, and outlined his beliefs regarding secession, but did not solidify the abolition of slavery as his main goal. Lincoln states that the nation “could not endure, permanently half slave and half free,” and that the slavery will either cease to exist, or will encompass all states lawfully (Lincoln). At this point in his life, Lincoln’s primary concern is clearly with the preservation of the nation.
Contrary to a common modern misconception, Lincoln did not believe that Negroes were equal to white men in regards to intellect or morals. In his fourth debate in Charleston, Illinois, he is directly quoted as stating, “There is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality” (Lincoln). Even though he naively believed that white men were the supreme race, he was staunchly against slavery as an institution and felt that the Declaration of Independence included black persons. In the same debate, Lincoln goes on to state that he “[does] not perceive that because the white man is to have the superior position the Negro should be denied every thing” (Lincoln). He believed that ‘the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,’ as outlined in the Declaration of Independence, applies to all men, regardless of their color, ethnicity, or culture. This may be attributed to the fact that he had not had many encounters with Black slaves until when he was in his late teens, where it had a profound impact on him (Foner 8).
Lincoln held firm to the idea that the United States’ defining quality was its uniquely democratic government. The Constitution was cherished by Lincoln, and it was for the preservation of this document that Lincoln was willing to carry out whatever task necessary. However,...