Abraham Lincoln as Emancipator Term Paper

Pages: 6 (2207 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 4  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: American History

Abraham Lincoln as Emancipator

The issue of slavery represented one of the most important factors which shaped the history of the U.S. And especially the way in which it came to develop. It was seen for many decades as a subject for social upheaval, political debate, and most importantly a matter of human rights. However, regardless of the historical nature of the issues discussed in these debates, there are certain personalities which influenced, in a positive or negative way, the entire debate. In the case of slavery, one such personality was Abraham Lincoln one of the most important personalities of the country and at the same time an essential part in the debates on slavery. Although his name is often related to the Emancipation Proclamation or to his debates with Stephen Douglas, his beliefs on the issue of slavery stand above these acts or events. In this sense, he often argued his opposition to the "peculiar institution" despite the fact that he was not a stranger to the slavery phenomenon. Still, his beliefs and conviction make him to this day one of the most representative figures of the emancipation of slaves throughout the U.S.Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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TOPIC: Term Paper on Abraham Lincoln as Emancipator Assignment

In order to have a better understanding of the actual reasons which justify the fact that Abraham Lincoln considered slavery to be wrong, it is important to consider the historical background of the era and observe slavery in a wider framework. More precisely, Lincoln's beliefs on slavery were the result of growing tensions between two rival concepts: free and slavery state. After the end of the Civil War, the North was developing through trade and exploiting its new industrial capabilities, while the South was thriving at the cost of manual labor, through its special commercial relations with the English but more importantly through the use of slaves. As a consequence, the local landscape was different: New York was ranked the dominant and the most populated urban area, where as in the South a significant urban area was represented only by New Orleans (Jenkins, 1997). These economic tensions made their mark on the way in which politicians and evel local people came to understand the status of black people.

At the same time though, the new American nation was built on the principles of freedom, democracy and most importantly on human rights. The Declaration of Independence Lincoln often cited stated included the famous passage on the freedom of man. Thus, "all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" (2008). Despite the fact that these words represented the enthusiasm of the Founding Fathers and that they are even today the framework of the American democracy, at the time they were easily interpretable. This was largely due to the fact that slavery was seen in the North as a terrible wrongdoing, while in the South it was viewed as a necessary practice. This drew the attention on the way in which black people were treated and especially to the fact that they were not considered human beings endowed with inalienable rights and freedoms, as well as civil duties and political ones.

Taking these aspects into account it can be said that the discussions on slavery in which Lincoln was engaged focused on two pillars. On the one hand, there were the political discussions with the Democrats and especially with his direct opponent, Douglas; on the other hand, there were the moral issues Lincoln brought on the issue of slavery. However, these debates intermingled as Lincoln and Douglas became engaged in the political fight for the state of Illinois. While these confrontations had a political aim, they brought into the spotlight two different views on slavery and emphasized Lincoln's moral convictions and the way in which these would change.

The Civil War played a major part in the drafting of Lincoln's opinion on the issue of slavery. In this sense, he used the notion in order to rally support for the unity of the nation. Thus, he points out that "we all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself and the produce of his labor; while with others the same word may mean to do what they please with other men and the produce of other men's labor" (Ericson, 2000, p.157). This was the main argument he used against the beliefs of the Democrats. However, the discussions were held at the political level mostly. In this sense, the argument in fact represented a means through which Lincoln pointed out the fact that while the Republicans were the proponents of a stronger role for the federal government, the Democrats supported the idea of a looser central government. In the end the discussions came down to the issue of slavery in the sense that the Republicans were in favor of abolishing slavery in certain states, while the Democrats considered that the people must decide on whether the states should be free or should allow slavery and slave trade to take place.

The moral argument Lincoln used revolved around the issue of the wrongfulness of slavery. In this sense, he constantly pointed out that "I particularly object to the new position which the avowed principle of this Nebraska law gives to slavery in the body politic. I object to it because it assumes that there can be moral right in the enslaving of one man by another. I object to it as a dangerous dalliance for a free people -- a sad evidence that, feeling prosperity, we forget right" (Lincoln, 1854). It is rather hard to believe the fact that the moral aspect determined Lincoln to support the abolition of slavery. The times were rather difficult for the entire nation due to the tensions between the two sides of the country. The North and the South were being divided by an issue on which people could not be convinced through moral arguments. Nonetheless, Lincoln went on saying that the mere arguments promoted by the Democrats in support of slavery were not convincing either. Thus, necessity in his view cannot be considered an argument because it is the man who decides on his own necessities. In this sense, while Douglas throughout his arguments points out the fact that the right of the people to chose over the issue of slavery is a God given right, Lincoln counters him by appealing to the idea of right and wrong yet again. More precisely, "God did not place good and evil before man, telling him to make his choice. On the contrary, he did tell him there was one tree of the fruit of which he should not eat, upon pain of certain death. I should scarcely wish so strong a prohibition against slavery in Nebraska" (Lincoln, 1854). The technique used by Lincoln to include the idea of religion and of divine justice was a crucial point he made in his argument against slavery and a point he used in trying to determine the change in attitude towards the change in the way slaves were viewed and their treatment as human beings rather than as cattle or mere objects or property.

The fact that his arguments were based on moral considerations was an issue that became clear during the presidency of Abraham Lincoln. Despite the fact that he is considered to be an emancipator, he never actually advocated the idea of emancipation, but rather a reconsideration of their status. This is an evident fact, especially from the point-of-view of his later statements. In this sense, he later argued that "I have never understood that the presidency conferred upon me the unrestricted right to act officially upon this judgment and feeling" (M. McPherson, 2002, 108) considering that the moral issues he advocated did not have to become state principles. This viewed summarizes the changes that took place at the level of his policy once he became president of the United States.

He promoted the wrongfulness of slavery as an immoral act; yet he did not support the actual emancipation of the black people. His views became clearer and they can easily be summed up by one of his statements. Thus, "I protest against the counterfeit logic which concludes that because I do not want a black woman for a slave, I must necessarily want her for a wife. I need not have her for either, I can just leave her alone. In some respects, she is certainly not my equal; but in her natural right to eat the bread she earns with her own hands without asking leave of anyone else, she is my equal, and the equal of all others." (Fehrenbacher, 1989). Therefore, he viewed slaves equal only in their state of birth not in their rights as part of the society.

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