Lincoln became the United States’ 16th president. As a president, his views on slavery brought magnificent change in the county’s history. His influence on the political history of America was majorly because he is credited as the president who brought an end to slavery (Oates 74). His evolving views on slavery at different seasons of his life brought him to the limelight being that slavery was a common practice in the United States of America. He witnessed open racial discrimination in various states. Even though many political leaders held different ideologies on this matter, Lincoln was purely against slavery. This paper endeavors to discuss in details Abraham Lincoln’s view on slavery and its evolution over time. The paper will also examine Abraham Lincoln’s attempts to end slavery, the challenges he met and his success.
According to Oates (75), Lincoln’s negative view on slavery was created and influenced by time, places and seasons he encountered in his life as he was reaching political maturity. He notes that during Lincoln’s early stages of life, slavery was a recognized institution. In fact, Lincoln was born in the slave state of Kentucky even though his father did not own slaves. Lincoln later became concerned why there were no much blacks in both Illinois and Indiana where their family shifted to. He later realized that these were free states though quite unfavorable to the blacks as they did not accord the blacks the acceptable legal rights they deserved.
Oates (75) argues that with such background, Lincoln’s view of slavery from his earlier stage of life was that it was a bad institution. However, he also notes that Lincoln somehow agreed that slavery was quite necessary for the southern economy. This can be observed from the statement he made in Bloomington, Illinois. He proclaimed that those who were practicing slavery among the southerners had never been different in status compared to the northerners. He then emphasized on the need to keep this fact in mind whenever one is discussing the subject of slavery. Moreover, it became quite evident that he believed that the blacks did not deserve equal treatment with the whites. Such views were further shaped as Lincoln gained political maturity and developed national standings in them.
Oates (75) notes that despite the fact that Lincoln had abandoned politics, he was drawn back by act of the Kansas-Nebraska that was passed in the year 1854. It had given various territories the right to decide for themselves whether or not to permit slavery. So clear was Lincoln on this matter. He outrightly opposed black equality and did not desire its spread to other states in America. In 1858 Lincoln ran for senate race against Steve Douglas who defeated him. However, the campaign period provided a great platform where both candidates openly spoke their national views on slavery. During the campaign Lincoln was frequently criticized by his opponent of having inconsistent views on slavery. His changing views over time were interpreted as desperate attempt to win the votes of southern block.
For example, Lincoln stated during his campaign that he had never had any intension of bringing to an end the slavery institution. Oates (75) records the statement made by Lincoln on the 21st of August, 1858 in Ottowa, where Lincoln had declared that he had not purposed in any way to alter the operation of institution of slavery in any given state (75). He then continued that he believed the law did not give him the right to do so. He added that even personally he had not had any inclination to interfere with such institutions. He was therefore moderate in his actions and words and regarded slavery as evil though he was not an abolitionist himself.
His view on slavery became different again in1860. This was after the Republican Party had gotten victory in election. Oates (76) notes that this was time when Lincoln’s desire to abolish slavery became quite evident. He argues that even though by then the views expressed by Lincoln could be seen as being motivated by his political ambitions, he fought through. However, he notes that Lincoln’s final position concerning slavery came out so clearly in 1863 when he issued his first Emancipation Proclamation. In this Proclamation he openly declared that he would use his war powers to free slaves and bring them to union control.
However, this would never be realized immediately because despite his private stand on slavery, Lincoln made no attempt to openly and directly end slavery. He knew that his views on slavery were opposed to that of a section of his government members and feared that a division could rise if he made such attempts.
However, his fight against slavery was later boosted by his strong belief in the united nation. This was evidenced from one of the speeches he gave in which he used the words of Jesus from the Bible. Oates notes his statement that “A house divided against itself cannot stand”. He continued by declaring his belief that the US government could not prosper by promoting a state in which some people were free while others were slaves (75). However, his double standard on the issue continued because he did not want to see the southerners to rebel for such a particular course. He thus maintained a moderate stand, even though it was his earnest desire to see slavery come to an end.
When civil war erupted in 1861-1865 because the southerners rebelled and opted to create a free state, Abraham Lincoln remained true to his views. This made the Southerners to feel that if the northern won, they would be definitely forced to free all the slaves. Even though the civil war presented a major internal crisis for Lincoln during his reign, he stood firm on pro-union policies and did not give in to pressure. His final victory to abolition of slavery came when he signed the Emancipation Proclamation. In this Proclamation he gave preliminary declarations on the Emancipation which he declared would be effected a hundred days from then (Oates 77).
He was true to his word and in January 1863 the Emancipation Proclamation was implemented. Even though in its initial stages the Proclamation freed only a small percentage of slaves who were allowed to join the U.S military and offer support during civil war, its impact was seen with time. Thousands of slaves were freed. Thus Emancipation Proclamation brought final victory over slavery. The process however was not a smooth one. Apart from activists like Cooper who rose against his views, there were assassination threats, especially from the southerners who hated him and his ideologies. However, Oates (78) notes that irrespective of this pressure, Lincoln promoted unity and shunned division in states.
In conclusion, Abraham Lincoln is a man history will forever judge kindly due to his impact on the American circle. Not being an opportunist, Lincoln is credited as a leader of rare nature. He was wise in his political endeavors and desired a united nation rather than achieving his political interests. His ultimate stand on slavery is seen upon enacting of the Emancipation Proclamation. Even though reconciling of his private and public views on slavery have been controversial in the beginning of his political career, Lincoln’s maturity in politics enabled him to bring slavery to an end and lead the country in the moment of its crisis.