Monday, April 7, 2014

Was Lincoln A "Flip-Flopper"? Or Simply Opportunistic?

Throughout the Civil war, Lincoln's public statements on the subject of slavery were not always consistent. Lincoln is always personally in favor of freeing all men, but he realizes that if he pushes all Americans to abolish slavery, he will lose support for the Union and possibly lose the war. In his open letter to Horace Greeley, Lincoln says: "My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union and is not either to save or to destroy slavery... I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men everywhere could be free." He values the preservation of the Union and winning the war over the freedom of the slaves. He is willing to do whatever it takes to win the war and save the Union, and if that means freeing slaves, then he will do it; if that means not freeing slaves, then he will do that also. Personally, Lincoln believes that all people should be free.
In the Emancipation Proclamation, in 1863, Lincoln's policy on the freedom of slaves changes. He says: "all persons held as slaves within any state or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall
then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free." This means that all slaves in rebelling confederate states are now free. Although this does not free all slaves, this does aid Lincoln in achieving his final goal of obtaining freedom for all Americans. Lincoln's personal feelings are still consistent, in that he is striving to free all enslaved Americans.
In the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln dedicates the victory and sacrifices made by the tens of thousands of lives lost to continuing the cause of the Union. He also says: "they gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom." This states that these brave men fought and died for what they believed in, and their deaths should be but a reminder that the Union must push on towards the ultimate goal of success, and now obtaining freedom for all people. Lincoln publicly states that all people should be free regardless of race, and says that the best way to honor the dead, is to drive forward in supporting the cause which they died for.
Lincoln At Gettysburg

Lincoln's views on slavery never change, for he always wishes that all people would be free. However, he sees that it would not be tactically viable to attempt to free all of the slaves at once, and early in the war. He knows that he will lose a great amount of support for the war, so he waits to free slaves until it is beneficial to the union, and once victory is imminent.

Lincoln's Views Documents
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