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Understanding Lincoln: Path to Emancipation

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by Michael Bagsahaw on 16 October 2013

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Transcript of Understanding Lincoln: Path to Emancipation

Lincoln's Path to Emancipation
Lincoln's Early Distaste for Slavery

It is hard to pinpoint exactly when Lincoln first came to despise slavery - as he rarely put in writing his thoughts on the matter. So, it is difficult to settle upon a place to start Lincoln's road map to emancipation. One of Lincoln's earliest recollections regarding slavery is his trip to New Orleans, which is where he encountered the slave trade. at the same time, it can be said that Lincoln despised slavery because he felt his father treated him as a slave. Another account stems from his upbringing, that his parents vehemently opposed slavery. Continue along the path to learn more about Lincoln and his path to emancipation.
Lincoln - the Whig
Throughout the course of the 1830s and 1840s, Lincoln establishes himself in the business of law. He is elected to the Illinois state legislature several times throughout the 1830s. One of his earliest speeches on the issue of slavery takes place in the Illinois Legislature (next slide).

In 1846 he is elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, the only Whig from Illinois. In his single term, he writes a bill to abolish slavery in Washington D.C.

As the date moves closer to 1850, the United States is rapidly expanding via Manifest Destiny and westward expansion. This expansion creates tension over the issue of spreading slavery
The Turbulent 1850s
Lincoln as President
Despite not picking up any electoral votes from the South - Lincoln is elected the 16th President of the United States running under the Republican platform. Lincoln's election will set off a series of events in which the southern states secede from the Union. Lincoln's tenure as President ends abruptly as he oversees the end of the war and the passage of the 13th Amendment. But how did he get there? In this section, focus will be placed on Lincoln as the President and his actions towards eliminating slavery.
Emancipation Proclamation & Lasting Impact




The Emancipation Proclamation promised to free enslaved people in the Confederate states. In addition, it authorized the U. S. military to begin enlistment of blacks. The war was no longer just about preserving the Union, it was now preservation and freedom. Take a look at its impact on the war and aftermath.
Slave Traders
1828 - Lincoln & Allen Gentry travel down the Mississippi River to New Orleans. Here, Lincoln spots gangs of slaves everywhere.

Russell Freedman writes, "Lincoln would never forget the sight of black men, women, and children being driven along in chains and auctioned off like cattle."
Down the Mississippi

Family Upbringing
54th Massachusetts Infantry

The Emancipation Proclamation did more than free slaves - it enabled African Americans to enlist into the United States armed forces.
13th Amendment

Passed by Congress on January 31, 1865 and ratified by the states on December 6, 1865 - the 13th Amendment abolished slavery. Although Lincoln didn't live to see it, it signifies the completion of his path to complete emancipation.
Click below to see a clip of Hollywood's reenactment of Lincoln's efforts to pass the 13th Amendment.
The 54th Massachusetts Infantry was one of the 1st all African American military units in the Civil War. For further info watch this video:
Emancipation Proclamation

Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 - Map
Lincoln's Reaction: Kansas-Nebraska Act
The 1850s was a time of turmoil and union destruction. There were several events that played a role in the dissolution of the Union including: the Compromise of 1850, Uncle Tom's Cabin, Kansas Nebraska Act, John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry, the Dred Scott decision, and others. Of them all, perhaps the Kansas-Nebraska Act played the biggest role in Lincoln's life and his path to emancipation.
Analysis of Lincoln's thoughts
There are a few key takeaways here. Lincoln argues that :

1st - Slavery defies laws of republicanism
2nd - Slavery makes the U.S. seem hypocritical
3rd - Slavery is morally wrong
4th - Slavery goes against Declaration of Independence
5th - Lincoln is not concerned with existing institution

Issue of Relocation
Letter to Horace Greeley

Letter to Albert G. Hodges
April 4, 1864
In this letter, Lincoln discusses his personal feelings on slavery, the role of the president, and why the emancipation proclamation was issued when it was. He professes that,

"I am naturally anti-slavery. If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong. I can not remember when I did not so think, and feel."
For a reading and further analysis watch this video:
Letter to Williamson Durley
Westward Expansion
1845 - Annexation of Texas
1846-48 - Mexican-American War
1848 -Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo
- Mexican Session
1850 - Compromise of 1850
- California Becomes Slave State
- Popular Sovereignty
Annexation reference is specific to Texas.
In fact - from roughly 1849-1854, Lincoln is, according to Michael Burlingame, semi-retired from politics. It is the Kansas-Nebraska Act that compels him to no longer stand by on the side line.
"the repeal of the 1820 Missouri Compromise and the threatened spread of slavery into millions of acres previously set aside for freedom outraged Lincoln..."
- Michael Burlingame
Dred Scott Decision
March 6, 1857
Please open up this video for a quick run down of the Dred Scott Decision and Lincoln's response
.
Views on Lincoln
"I was impressed with his entire freedom from popular prejudice against the colored race. He was the first great man that I talked with in the United States freely, who in no single instance reminded me of the difference between himself and myself, of the difference of color."

-
Frederick Douglass
It's important to note that this was a military necessity. As Commander in Chief of the armed forces, the President has the ability to declare wartime measures. This was instituted as a wartime measure to negatively effect the southern states (slaves were their work force) and to provide a military boost for the Union (fresh soldiers).
To start: take a quick minute to watch this video to get you off and running. Then move to the right.
Lincoln "always thought that all men should be free; but if any should be slaves it should be first those who desire it for themselves, and secondly, those who desire it for others."
In 1860, Lincoln discussed how his parents uprooted the family, partly as a result of slavery.... Lincoln's parents were "just steeped full of {the Reverend} Jesse Heads' notions about the wrong of slavery and the rights of man as explained by Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine." - Michael Burlingame, Inner World
Thomas & Nancy Lincoln

1852 - Lincoln recounts his disgust of witnessing the horrors of the slave trade in New Orleans as a younger man.
Lincoln considered slave traders the "enemies of the human race." As president, he refused to pardon a slave trader stating, "any man, who, for paltry gain and stimulated only by avarice, can rob Africa of her children to sell into interminable bondage, I never will pardon, and he may stay and rot in jail before he will ever get relief from me."
Kansas- Nebraska Act
Created 2 new territories (Kansas, Nebraska)
Repealed the Missouri Compromise
1820 – Maine & Missouri added as states
No slavery north of 36∘30’
Popular Sovereignty
Voters decided on slavery or not

Everything not turquoise now slave state, slave territory, or open to slavery. Significant change compared to 1820.
Protest on Slavery
Illinois State House March 3, 1837
"the institution of slavery is founded on both injustice and bad policy; but that the promulgation of abolition doctrines tends rather to increase than to abate its evils."

- A Lincoln and Dan Stone
Lincoln's Dislike for Expansion

Abraham Lincoln was not too keen on expanding the country as it would pertain to the spread of slavery. He was vehemently opposed to the war with Mexico - as he believed Polk was simply instigating a confrontation to acquire, take, or purchase land. This issue of expansion boils into the 1850s.
Following the victory at Antietam, Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation (Sept 22, 1862) - freeing slaves in the Confederate states (as of Jan. 1, 1863) while granting blacks the ability to enlist in the U.S. military.

The freeing of the slaves does not contain to the border states. The proclamation is a wartime measure. It has tremendous impact on the war.
To learn more, watch this video.
Thomas Lincoln's Role
Another reason why at an early age Lincoln opposed slavery may have been how his father treated him. Lincoln viewed his relationship with his father similar to how slaves were used and abused.

He was loaned out at times, was pulled away from school, and any wages he did earn, he had to hand them over to his father.

In many ways, Lincoln as a child was deprived of certain rights.
- Michael Burlingame
"I never, in my life, felt more certain that I was doing right, that I do in signing this paper... If my name ever goes into history it will be for this act, and my whole soul is in it." -
Abraham Lincoln (Jan 1st, 1863)
- this implies that perhaps there was more to this military measure... it goes back to his views as a young man "If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong. I can not remember when I did not think, and feel."
Roughly 130,000 African Americans served in the war after the Emancipation Proclamation - that can't be minimized, the importance of that.
Watch this short video on New Orleans
Lincoln is adamantly opposed to providing an opportunity for slavery to continue to live and flourish in the U.S. His hope is slavery will die a natural death, not be allowed to prosper and grow.
"A house divided against itself cannot stand."
- June 16, 1858.
"You and we are different races. We have between us a broader difference than exists between almost any other two races. Whether it is right or wrong I need not discuss, but this physical difference is a great disadvantage to us both, as I think your race suffer very greatly, many of them by living among us, while ours suffer from your presence."
Lincoln often thought that colonization would be an eventual step in the freeing of the slaves. The following was relayed to a group of African-Americans - Aug. 14th, 1862.
Lincoln didn't believe in slavery, but he also didn't believe in true equality...
See the full transcript