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The Future of Slavery? Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Lincoln
Transcript of The Future of Slavery? Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Lincoln
John Adams (1735-1826)
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
. . Although I have never Sought popularity by any animated Speeches or inflammatory publications against the Slavery of the Blacks, my opinion against it has always been known and my practice has been so conformable to my sentiment that I have always employed freemen both as Domisticks and Labourers, and never in my Life did I own a Slave. The Abolition of Slavery must be gradual and accomplished with much caution and Circumspection. Violent means and measures would produce greater violations of Justice and Humanity, than the continuance of the practice. . . . There are many other Evils in our Country which are growing, (whereas the practice of slavery is fast diminishing,) and threaten to bring Punishment on our Land, more immediately than the oppression of the blacks. That Sacred regard to Truth in which you and I were educated, and which is certainly taught and enjoined from on high, Seems to be vanishing from among Us. A general Relaxation of Education and Government. A general Debauchery as well as dissipation, produced by pestilential philosophical Principles of Epicurus infinitely more than by Shews and theatrical Entertainment. These are in my opinion more serious and threatening Evils, than even the slavery of the Blacks, hateful as that is. . . . . I might even add that I have been informed, that the condition, of the common Sort of White People in some of the Southern states particularly Virginia, is more oppressed, degraded and miserable than that of the Negroes. These Vices and these Miseries deserve the serious and compassionate Consideration of Friends as well as the Slave Trade and the degraded State of the blacks.
Letter from John Adams to George Churchman and Jacob Lindley - 1801
The question of slavery and its future in the United States was present at the birth of the nation. The founding fathers and early Presidents recognized and wrestled with the moral, constitutional, economic and social complexities of slavery and its possible abolition. Decades later, Abraham Lincoln confronted the same difficult questions as the expansion of slavery into the western territories created a series of crises for the nation that led the Civil War. George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln each contemplated slavery on a personal level and in their roles as national leaders. Clear answers and consensus were illusive and contradictions abounded.
1. How did these founding fathers view slavery and its future in the young nation?
2. Where are there contradictions between stated views and actions? What were the
competing issues or conflicting values?
3. What do the similarities and differences among these Presidents reveal about their
leadership and the issue of slavery?
4. What factors or events may have influenced the views of these Presidents on the issue of slavery?
"I have always employed freemen both as Domisticks and Labourers, and never in my Life did I own a Slave. The Abolition of Slavery must be gradual and accomplished with much caution and Circumspection. Violent means and measures would produce greater violations of Justice and Humanity, than the continuance of the practice. . . . " J. Adams - 1801
"Every measure of prudence, therefore, ought to be assumed for the eventual total extirpation of slavery from the United States ... I have, throughout my whole life, held the practice of slavery in ... abhorrence."
J. Adams - 1819
“Negro Slavery is an evil of colossal magnitude.” J. Adams - 1819
". . . I can only say that there is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do, to see a plan adopted for the abolition of it; but there is only one proper and effectual mode by which it can be accomplished, and that is by Legislative authority…" G. Washington - 1786
" I never mean (unless some particular circumstance should compel me to it) to possess another slave by purchase; it being among my first wishes to see some plan adopted, by which slavery in this country may be abolished by slow, sure and imperceptible means.” G. Washington - 1786
George Washington's Plantation: Mount Vernon
"The unfortunate condition of the persons, whose labor in part I employ, has been the only unavoidable subject of regret. To make the adults among them as easy and comfortable in their circumstances as their actual state of ignorance and improvidence would admit, and to lay a foundation to prepare the rising generation for a destiny different from that in which they were born, afforded some satisfaction to my mind, and could not I hoped be displeasing to the justice of the Creator."
G. Washington - 1788 (4)
Learn more about George Washington and his slaves at Mount Vernon by visiting:
*In 1733, after his father's death, George Washington became the owner of 10 slaves. He was eleven years old.
* In 1759 George Washington married Martha Dandridge Custis. She was the widow of a wealthy planter and brought 84 slaves with her to Washington's Mount Vernon plantation in Virginia. When George Washington died in 1799, there were 318 slaves at Mount Vernon.
* In his will, George Washington stated that his slaves were to be freed after Martha's death. The will also stated that the elderly slaves and the infirm should be cared for. Martha decided to carried out her husband's wishes in 1800. However, of the 318 slaves at Mount Vernon in 1799, only 123 of were eligible to be freed. The remainder were part of Martha's inheritance from her first husband and they remained in bondage. (2)
"The clause, too, reprobating the enslaving of the inhabitants of Africa was struck out, in compliance to South Carolina and Georgia, who had never attempted to restrain the importation of slaves, and who, on the contrary, still wished to continue it. Our northern brethren, also, I believe, felt a little tender under those censures; for, though their people have very few slaves themselves, yet they had been pretty considerable carriers of them to others. "
Jefferson's Minutes of Debates in 1776, on the Declaration of Independence
“I advance it therefore as a suspicion only, that the blacks, whether originally a distinct race, or made distinct by time and circumstances, are inferior to the whites in the endowments both of body and mind.” T. Jefferson, 1878
"I consider a woman who brings a child every two years as more profitable than the best man of the farm. . . What she produces is an addition to the capital, while his labors disappear in mere consumption." T. Jefferson, 1820
Thomas Jefferson: Letter to Jean Nicolas Demeunier - 1786
"We must await with patience the workings of an overruling Providence, and hope that He is preparing the deliverance of these, our suffering brethren. When the measure of their tears shall be full, when their groans shall have involved heaven itself in darkness, doubtless a God of justice will awaken to their distress, and by diffusing light and liberality among their oppressors, or, at length, by His exterminating thunder, manifest His attention to the things of this world....
* John Adams of Massachusetts never owned slaves and he stated on many occassions his moral opposition to slavery. However, he was not in favor of radical action on this issue, favoring a more gradual approach to ending slavery.
* During the Revolutionary War, Adams opposed the use of black soldiers, fearing this would alienate the Southern states and undermine unity among the states.
* Adams voted against a bill to abolish slavery while he served in the Massachusetts State Legislature, believing that the issue was too divisive. He wrote that such proposals should "sleep for a time" until it was less polarizing. (5)
Thomas Jefferson embodied many contradictions with regard to slavery. He spoke in opposition to slavery calling it "moral depravity" and a "hideous blot". He believed it violated the natural rights of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" that he wrote about in the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson also worried that slavery endangered the survival of the young nation. Yet, over the course of his life, Jefferson owned about 600 slaves. At any given time, approximately 130 slaves worked his plantation, Monticello, in Virginia.
Click on the link to visit Monticello and learn more about slavery on Jefferson's plantation:
*In 1784 Jefferson proposed an ordinance to prohibit slavery in the Northwest territories.
*Jefferson believed that abolition must be accomplished through a democratic process with the agreement of the slaveowners. He rejected the ideal of emancipation by the federal government.
*Jefferson believed that blacks were racially inferior and “as incapable as children" and he feared emancipation might lead to bloody retribution against slave owners. He did not believe that white Americans and emancipated black slaves could live together in the same country and he supported colonization. (8)
1820 - The Missouri Compromise
1820 - Thomas Jefferson: “We have the wolf by the ears, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go. Justice is in one scale, and self preservation in the other.”
1820- John Quincy Adams: "Slavery is the great and foul stain upon the North American Union... A dissolution, at least temporary, of the Union, as now constituted, would now be certainly necessary... The Union might then be reorganized on the fundamental principle of emancipation. This object is vast in in its compass, awful in its prospects, sublime and beautiful in its issue."
Annexation of Texas - 1845
1. Do you think Lincoln may have "polished" this account of his life for political purposes as he was campaigning for president?
2. What surprised you ? What new questions do you have about Lincoln?
Abraham Lincoln Autobiographical Sketch
In 1859, Abraham Lincoln wrote an autobiographical sketch for publication as he began his compaign for President.
Watch this short film and consider the essential questions on the previous slide. (12)
Abraham Lincoln's Letter to Mary Speed - 1841
Abraham Lincoln's Letter to Williamson Durley October 3, 1845
I perhaps ought to say that individually I never was much interested in the Texas question. I never could see much good to come of annexation; inasmuch, as they were already a free republican people on our own model; on the other hand, I never could very clearly see how the annexation would augment the evil of slavery. It always seemed to me that slaves would be taken there in about equal numbers, with or without annexation. And if more were taken because of annexation, still there would be just so many the fewer left, where they were taken from. It is possibly true, to some extent, that with annexation, some slaves may be sent to Texas and continued in slavery, that otherwise might have been liberated. To whatever extent this may be true, I think annexation an evil. I hold it to be a paramount duty of us in the free states, due to the Union of the states, and perhaps to liberty itself (paradox though it may seem) to let the slavery of the other states alone; while, on the other hand, I hold it to be equally clear, that we should never knowingly lend ourselves directly or indirectly, to prevent that slavery from dying a natural death---to find new places for it to live in, when it can no longer exist in the old. . . .
View Professor Matthew Pinsker's remarks about this letter, the election of 1844, and the annexation of Texas. (17)
By the way, a fine example was presented on board the boat for contemplating the effect of condition upon human happiness. A gentleman had purchased twelve negroes in different parts of Kentucky and was taking them to a farm in the South. They were chained six and six together. A small iron clevis was around the left wrist of each, and this fastened to the main chain by a shorter one at a convenient distance from, the others; so that the negroes were strung together precisely like so many fish upon a trot-line. In this condition they were being separated forever from the scenes of their childhood, their friends, their fathers and mothers, and brothers and sisters, and many of them, from their wives and children, and going into perpetual slavery where the lash of the master is proverbially more ruthless and unrelenting than any other where; and yet amid all these distressing circumstances, as we would think them, they were the most cheerful and apparently happy creatures on board. One, whose offense for which he had been sold was an over-fondness for his wife, played the fiddle almost continually; and the others danced, sung, cracked jokes, and played various games with cards from day to day. How true it is that ``God tempers the wind to the shorn lamb,'' or in other words, that He renders the worst of human conditions tolerable, while He permits the best, to be nothing better than tolerable.
As a representative in the Illinois legislature, - Lincoln makes one of his first public statements about his personal and legal views on slavery.
March 3, 1837
The following protest was presented to the House, which was read and ordered to be spread on the journals, to wit:
``Resolutions upon the subject of domestic slavery having passed both branches of the General Assembly at its present session, the undersigned hereby protest against the passage of the same.
They believe that 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.
They believe that the Congress of the United States has no power, under the constitution, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the different States.
They believe that the Congress of the United States has the power, under the constitution, to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia; but that that power ought not to be exercised unless at the request of the people of said District.
The difference between these opinions and those contained in the said resolutions, is their reason for entering this protest.''
DAN STONE, A. LINCOLN,
Representatives from the county of Sangamon
Watch this video to learn more about why Lincoln wrote this letter to Mary Speed, his views on slavery and his struggles with depression.
In this letter Lincoln writes about the slaves he encountered on his journey from Kentucky to Illinois:
The heated debate in 1819-1820 over the admission of Missouri to the union as a slave state revealed deeply held conflicting moral, economic and political interests regarding slavery and westward expansion. Still, the compromise largely quelled the political arguments about slavery for three decades.
1837 : Protest in Illinois Legislature
Abraham Lincoln - Whig Politician
In his early political career in Illinois, in the 1830s, and while he served one term in the House of Representatives (1847-49), Abraham Lincoln was a member of the Whig party.
The Whig party was formed in 1834 by a coalition united by their hatred of “King Andrew” Jackson and his “usurpations” of congressional and judicial authority. Whigs included educators and professionals; manufacturers; farmers; immigrants; upwardly aspiring manual laborers; and free blacks.
Whigs supported the interests of business and emerging industries, the banks, and humanitarian reforms. They idealized the “self-made man,” who started “from an humble origin" and rose " gradually in the world, as a result of merit and industry.” cite Digital History
Consider the Essential Questions and these additional questions:
1. Why was Lincoln a Whig?
2. How does the Whig platform relate to Lincoln's background, values and interests?
3. Which Whig values would Lincoln have most strongly supported? Are there any that he would oppose?
The Whig party began to collapse after 1850 over the issue of slavery and it expansion west. Many Southern Whigs were slave owners who supported the notion of "popular sovereignty" in the territories while Northern Whigs opposed slavery in the territories and were outraged at the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act. With the party in shambles, many Northern Whigs formed the Republican Party in 1854, some other Whigs in joined the Know Nothing Party. (14)
The Kansas-Nebraska Act - 1854
Abraham Lincoln -
Letter to Joshua Speed - 1855
. . . But you say that sooner than yield your legal right to the slave---especially at the bidding of those who are not themselves interested, you would see the Union dissolved. I am not aware that any one is bidding you to yield that right; very certainly I am not. I leave that matter entirely to yourself.
In my humble sphere, I shall advocate the restoration of the Missouri Compromise, so long as Kansas remains a territory; and when, by all these foul means, it seeks to come into the Union as a Slave-state, I shall oppose it. . . . .
I think I am a whig; but others say there are no whigs, and that I am an abolitionist. When I was at Washington I voted for the Wilmot Proviso as good as forty times, and I never heard of any one attempting to unwhig me for that. I now do no more than oppose the extension of slavery. I am not a Know-Nothing. That is certain. How could I be? How can any one who abhors the oppression of negroes, be in favor of degrading classes of white people? . . . As a nation, we began by declaring that “all men are created equal.” We now practically read it “all men are created equal, except negroes.” When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read “all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and catholics.” When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty---to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocracy. . . . . .
And yet let [me] say I am Your friend forever
Lincoln's Speech in Peoria, Illinois - October 16, 1854
I wish to MAKE and to KEEP the distinction between the EXISTING institution, and the EXTENSION of it, so broad, and so clear, that no honest man can misunderstand me, and no dishonest one, successfully misrepresent me….
This declared indifference, but as I must think, covert real zeal for the spread of slavery, I can not but hate. I hate it because of the monstrous injustice of slavery itself.
. . let me say I think I have no prejudice against the Southern people. . . .
My first impulse would be to free all the slaves, and send them to Liberia,---to their own native land . .
What next? Free them, and make them politically and socially, our equals? My own feelings will not admit of this; and if mine would, we well know that those of the great mass of white people will not . . . We can not, then, make them equals.
When they [slave owners] remind us of their constitutional rights, I acknowledge them, not grudgingly, but fully, and fairly; and I would give them any legislation for the reclaiming of their fugitives, which should not, in its stringency, be more likely to carry a free man into slavery, than our ordinary criminal laws are to hang an innocent one.
But all this; to my judgment, furnishes no more excuse for permitting slavery to go into our own free territory, than it would for reviving the African slave trade by law. The law which forbids the bringing of slaves from Africa; and that which has so long forbid the taking them to Nebraska, can hardly be distinguished on any moral principle; and the repeal of the former could find quite as plausible excuses as that of the latter
In the whole range of possibility, there scarcely appears to me to have been any thing, out of which the slavery agitation could have been revived, except the very project of repealing the Missouri compromise.
Slavery is founded in the selfishness of man's nature---opposition to it, is [in?] his love of justice. . . . . Repeal the Missouri compromise---repeal all compromises---repeal the declaration of independence---repeal all past history, you still can not repeal human nature. It still will be the abundance of man's heart, that slavery extension is wrong; and out of the abundance of his heart, his mouth will continue to speak….
House Divided Speech - June 16, 1858
“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved---I do not expect the house to fall---but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other.
Either the opponents of slavery, will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new---North as well as South.
. . . . We shall lie down pleasantly dreaming that the people of Missouri are on the verge of making their State free; and we shall awake to the reality, instead, that the Supreme Court has made Illinois a slave State.To meet and overthrow the power of that dynasty, is the work now before all those who would prevent that consummation. That is what we have to do. But how can we best do it? . . . .
. . . But “a living dog is better than a dead lion.” Judge Douglas, if not a dead lion for this work, is at least a caged and toothless one. How can he oppose the advances of slavery? He don't care anything about it. His avowed mission is impressing the “public heart” to care nothing about it. . .
Lincoln's First Debate with Stephen Douglas Ottowa, Illinois - August 21, 1858
I will say here, while upon this subject, that I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so . . . . I have no purpose to introduce political and social equality between the white and the black races. There is a physical difference between the two, which, in my judgment, will probably forever forbid their living together upon the footing of perfect equality . . . . I, as well as Judge Douglas, am in favor of the race to which I belong having the superior position. I have never said anything to the contrary, but I hold that. . . there is no reason in the world why the negro is not entitled to all the natural rights enumerated in the Declaration of Independence, the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. [Loud cheers.] I hold that he is as much entitled to these as the white man. I agree with Judge Douglas he is not my equal in many respects-certainly not in color, perhaps not in moral or intellectual endowment. But in the right to eat the bread, without the leave of anybody else, which his own hand earns, he is my equal and the equal of Judge Douglas, and the equal of every living man.
The Lincoln - Douglas Debates - 1858
Many of the documents included in the next lesson come from the Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858, a series of seven formal political debates between the two Illinois candidates for the U.S. Senate. The incumbent candidate was the powerful and nationally known Democrat, Stephen Douglas. The challenger was little known Republican, Abraham Lincoln. The debates were held in different congressional districts throughout Illinois. In every debate, each candidate was allowed to speak for an hour and a half. Although Lincoln lost the election, in these debates he made detailed statements about his moral, legal, political and social beliefs about slavery. The debates launched Lincoln to national prominence and to his nomination as the Republican candidate for President in 1860.
Lincoln's Second Debate with Stephen Douglas
Freeport, Illinois - August 27, 1858
Lincoln's Sixth Debate with Stephen Douglas
Quincy, Illinois - October 13, 1858
. . . .That controversy necessarily springs from difference of opinion. . . reduced to its lowest terms, is no other than the difference between the men who think slavery a wrong and those who do not think it wrong. The Republican party think it wrong-we think it is a moral, a social and a political wrong. We think it as a wrong not confining itself merely to the persons or the States where it exists, but that it is a wrong in its tendency, to say the least, that extends itself to the existence of the whole nation. Because we think it wrong, we propose a course of policy that shall deal with it as a wrong. We deal with it as with any other wrong, in so far as we can prevent its growing any larger, and so deal with it that in the run of time there may be some promise of an end to it.
We have a due regard to the actual presence of it amongst us and the difficulties of getting rid of it in any satisfactory way, and all the Constitutional obligations thrown about it. . . . we have no right at all to disturb it in the States where it exists, and we profess that we have no more inclination to disturb it than we have the right to do it. ……
We oppose the Dred Scott decision . . . We do not propose that when Dred Scott has been decided to be a slave by the court, we, as a mob, will decide him to be free. . . . but we nevertheless do oppose that decision as a political rule, which shall be binding on the voter to vote for nobody who thinks it wrong, which shall be binding on the members of Congress or the President to favor no measure that does not actually concur with the principles of that decision. We do not propose to be bound by it as a political rule in that way, because we think it lays the foundation not merely of enlarging and spreading out what we consider an evil, but it lays the foundation for spreading that evil into the States themselves. We propose so resisting it as to have it reversed if we can, and a new judicial rule established upon this subject.
I will say now that there is a sentiment in the country contrary to me-a sentiment which holds that slavery is not wrong, and therefore it goes for the policy that does not propose dealing with it as a wrong. That policy is the Democratic policy . . . Judge Douglas . . . -advocating the present Democratic policy, never himself says it is wrong. . . if he will examine the policy proposed to be carried forward, he will find that he carefully excludes the idea that there is any thing wrong in it. . . . When Judge Douglas says that whoever or whatever community wants slaves, they have a right to have them, he is perfectly logical if there is nothing wrong in the institution; but if you admit that it is wrong, he cannot logically say that any body has a right to do wrong. When he says that slave property and horse and hog property are, alike, to be allowed to go into the Territories, upon the principles of equality, he is reasoning truly, if there is no difference between them as property; but if the one is property, held rightfully, and the other is wrong, then there is no equality between the right and wrong; . . . I now say that whenever we can get the question distinctly stated-can get all these men who believe that slavery is in some of these respects wrong, to stand and act with us in treating it as a wrong-then, and not till then, I think we will in some way come to an end of this slavery agitation. [Prolonged cheers.]
Lincoln's Sixth Debate with Stephen Douglas
Quincy, Illinois - October 13, 1858 (continued)
Lincoln's Seventh debate with Stephen Douglas
Alton, Illinois - October 15, 1858
But is it true that all the difficulty and agitation we have in regard to this institution of slavery springs from office seeking-from the mere ambition of politicians? Is that the truth? How many times have we had danger from this question? Go back to the day of the Missouri Compromise. Go back to the Nullification question, at the bottom of which lay this same slavery question. Go back to the time of the Annexation of Texas. Go back to the troubles that led to the Compromise of 1850. You will find that every time, with the single exception of the Nullification question, they sprung from an endeavor to spread this institution.. . .
But where is the philosophy or statesmanship which assumes that you can quiet that disturbing element in our society which has disturbed us for more than half a century, which has been the only serious danger that has threatened our institutions-I say, where is the philosophy or the statesmanship based on the assumption that we are to quit talking about it, [applause] and that the public mind is all at once to cease being agitated by it? Yet this is the policy here in the north that Douglas is advocating-that we are to care nothing about it! . . . Is it not a false statesmanship that undertakes to build up a system of policy upon the basis of caring nothing about the very thing that every body does care the most about? ["Yes, yes," and applause]-a thing which all experience has shown we care a very great deal about? [Laughter and applause.]
Lincoln's Seventh debate with Stephen Douglas
Alton, Illinois - October 15, 1858 (continued)
What I insist upon is, that the new Territories shall be kept free from it [slavery] while in the Territorial condition. Judge Douglas assumes . . . that we have no right whatever to interfere. . . . I think that as white men we have. Do we not wish for an outlet for our surplus population . . . ? Do we not feel an interest in getting to that outlet with such institutions as we would like to have prevail there? If you go to the Territory opposed to slavery and another man comes upon the same ground with his slave, upon the assumption that the things are equal, it turns out that he has the equal right all his way and you have no part of it your way. If he goes in and makes it a slave Territory, and by consequence a slave State, is it not time that those who desire to have it a free State were on equal ground. . . , ,
On the point of my wanting to make war between the free and the slave States, there has been no issue between us. So, too, when he assumes that I am in favor of introducing a perfect social and political equality between the white and black races. These are false issues, upon which Judge Douglas has tried to force the controversy. There is no foundation in truth for the charge that I maintain either of these propositions.
We are now far into the fifth year, since a policy was initiated, with the avowed object, and confident promise, of putting an end to slavery agitation. Under the operation of that policy, that agitation has not only, not ceased, but has constantly augmented. In my opinion, it will not cease, until a crisis shall have been reached, and passed.
I should be exceedingly glad to know that there would never be another slave State admitted into the Union; but I must add, that if slavery shall be kept out of the Territories during the territorial existence of any one given Territory, and then the people shall, having a fair chance and a clear field, when they come to adopt the Constitution, do such an extraordinary thing as to adopt a slave Constitution, uninfluenced by the actual presence of the institution among them, I see no alternative, if we own the country, but to admit them into the Union. . . . .
I should be exceedingly glad to see slavery abolished in the District of Columbia. [Cries of "good, good."] I believe that Congress possesses the constitutional power to abolish it. Yet as a member of Congress, I should not with my present views, be in favor of endeavoring to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia, unless it would be upon these conditions: First, that the abolition should be gradual. Second, that it should be on a vote of the majority of qualified voters in the District; and third, that compensation should be made to unwilling owners. With these three conditions, I confess I would be exceedingly glad to see Congress abolish slavery in the District of Columbia, and, in the language of Henry Clay, "sweep from our Capital that foul blot upon our nation." [Loud applause.]
Private & confidential.
Dec. 10, 1860
Hon. L.Trumbull. Springfield, Ills.
My dear Sir:
Let there be no compromise on the question of extending slavery. If there be, all our labor is lost, and, ere long, must be done again. The dangerous ground---that into which some of our friends have a hankering to run---is Pop. Sov. Have none of it. Stand firm. The tug has to come, & better now, than any time hereafter.
Yours as ever
Lincoln's Letter to Lyman Trumble
Watch this video to dig deep into the content, context and subtext of this short but important letter.
Slave Population in the United States 1790-1860
The Wilmot Proviso & The Mexican Cession - 1846-1850
During the Mexican-American War (1846-1848) Congressman David Wilmot amended an appropriations bill in the House of Representatives to forbid slavery in any territory that might be gained from Mexico as a result of the war. This Wilmot Proviso passed in the House two times but was rejected by the Senate. Congressman Abraham Lincoln, a Whig serving in the House o f Representatives from 1847-1849, voted in favor of the Wilmot Proviso. In defeat at the end of the war, Mexico was forced to cede vast territories in the west to the United Stats in the Treaty of Guadeloupe-Hildago (1848). These new territories adding new fuel to the nation's fiery debate over the future of slavery. Some Whigs in the Senate opposed ratification of the peace treaty and this territorial expansion, seeing it as a deliberate and immoral effort to expand slavery. (18)
"When I was at Washington I voted for the Wilmot Proviso as good as forty times, and I never heard of any one attempting to unwhig me for that. I now do no more than oppose the extension of slavery."
Abraham Lincoln in a letter to Joshua Speed, 1855 (19)
Compromise of 1850
California was acquired in 1848 as part of the Mexican Cession. The gold rush of 1849 brought 100,000 settlers to California. Soon, California was ready for statehood, and drafted a state constitution prohibiting slavery. Extreme pro-slavery elements cried out in opposition and threatened secession, thus provoking a political crisis. The result was the Compromise of 1850 which left neither side of the slavery debate satisfied, but preserved the Union, at least for a while.
Terms of the Compromise of 1850
*California was admitted to the Union as a free state.
*The remainder of the Mexican Cession would be divided into the Utah Territory and the New Mexico Territory. Each would decide the slavery question by a majority vote of the settlers - "popular sovereignty".
*The slave trade in the District of Columbia was abolished.
*Congress would pass a new Fugitive Slave Law that would be strictly enforced.
"I was losing interest in politics, when the repeal of the Missouri Compromise aroused me again. . . "
Abraham Lincoln - 1859
Kansas-Nebraska Act divided the Nebraska Territory into two parts: the Kansas Territory and the Nebraska Territory. Popular sovereignty - a vote of the settlers of each territory - would be used to decide the question of slavery. The Democratic majority in Congress passed this Act which repealed the Missouri Compromise and gave slavery the chance to expand where it had previously been forbidden.
Senator Stephen Douglas defends the Kansas-Nebraska Act
Stephen Douglas of Illinois was a Democrat and a powerful figure in the United States Senate. Intent upon gaining Southern support for a plan to build a transcontinental railroad from Chicago to the Pacific coast, and perhaps votes as a likely Presidential candidate in 1860, Douglas introduced and sponsored the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854.
. . . there is nothing in the bill under consideration which does not carry out the principles of the Compromise of 1850, by leaving the people to do as they please, subject only to the provisions of the Constitution of the United States . . . . The legal effect of this bill is neither to legislate slavery into these territories nor out them . . . . Under the operation of this principle, New Hampshire became free, while South Carolina continued to hold slaves; Connecticut abolished slavery, while Georgia held onto it . . . . . . Did they do it at the dictation of the federal government? Did they do it in obedience to your Wilmot Proviso or Ordinance of 1787? Not at all; they did it by virtue of their right as freemen under the Constitution of the United States, to establish and abolish such institutions as they thought their own good required.
Stephen Douglas - debate in Congress - 1854
Death of the Whig Party
The coalition of interests that held the Whig Party together since the 1830's fell apart after the Whig candidate was defeated by Democrat Franklin Pierce n the 1852 presidential election and after the passage of the Kansas -Nebraska Act in 1854. Some Whigs were drawn to the anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic "Know Nothings" and others who were opponents of slavery broke off to form the new Republican Party.
Birth of the Republican Party
The Republican Party was founded in 1854 in Wisconsin in response to the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act. It began as a coalition of Free Soilers, former Whigs and some Democrats. The uniting principle was oposition to the expansion of slavery in the territories. But Republican accepted slavery in the states where it already existed and made no proposals for immediate abolition. It was a sectional party with it support solely in the North. For the remainder of the 1850's support for the new political party grew in the North, while alienation and fear of the Republican Party escalted in the South.
Split of the Democratic Party
Key planks in platform of the Republican Party:
* Preserve the Union and uphold the Constitution of the United States
* No expansion of slavery into the territories.
* Tolerate slavery in the states where it exists due to
* Admit Kansas to the Union as a Free State should be admitted
* Free homesteads for settlers in the West
* Protective Tariff to help US businesses
"Two years ago the Republicans of the nation mustered over thirteen hundred thousand strong.
We did this under the single impulse of resistance to a common danger, with every external circumstance against us.
Of strange, discordant, and even, hostile elements, we gathered from the four winds, and formed and fought the battle through, under the constant hot fire of a disciplined, proud, and pampered enemy.
Did we brave all then, to falter now?---now---when that same enemy is wavering, dissevered and belligerent?
The result is not doubtful. We shall not fail---if we stand firm, we shall not fail. Wise councils may accelerate or mistakes delay it, but, sooner or later the victory is sure to come."
Abraham Lincoln - House Divided Speech - 1858
Some Northern Democrats opposed the expansion of slavery and the Kansas-Nebraska Act and fled to the new Republican party after 1854. By 1860, there were two sectional factions of the Democratic Party. The Northern Democrats endorsed popular sovereignty in the territories; Southern Democrats insisted on unrestricted extension of slavery in the territories.
The Dred Scott Decision - March 6, 1857
Dred Scott was a slave in Missouri who sued for his freedom claiming that the time that he spent with his owner in the free state of Illinois and the free territory of Wisconsin made him a free man. In 1850 a Missouri court gave Scott his freedom. Two years lthe Missouri Supreme Court overturned the decision. Finally, in 1857 the Supreme Court of the United States issued a controversial ruling in the case that heightened sectional tensions between the free and slave states.
Chief Justice Roger Taney wrote the 7-2 majority ruling for the United States Supreme Court which:stated:
* Neither slaves nor free blacks were citizens of the United States, had no right to sue in federal court, and "no rights which the white man was bound to respect."
* Congress had no right to exclude slavery from the federal territories.
* Any law excluding slavery property from the territories was a violation of the Fifth Amendment prohibition against the seizure of property without due process of law. Therefore, the Missouri Compromise of 1820 , the doctrine of “popular sovereignty”, and even the Kansas-Nebraska Act were all unconstitutional.
Introduction: The Future of Slavery
This Prezi presents a series of three lessons that explore how the first three Presidents, and Abraham Lincoln viewed the institution of slavery and its future in the nation that professed its belief that
"all men are created equal".
Lesson #1 - Washington, Adams , Jefferson and the Future of Slavery
uses primary sources to explore the views of the first three Presidents. The lesson requires 1-2 class periods.
Lesson #2 - Young Abraham Lincoln and Decades of Debate: 1820-1857
introduces young Abraham Lincoln's early experiences and views related to slavery. It also reviews the series of political crises over slavery that took place during the decades of Lincoln's youth and early political career. This lesson will require 2-3 days of class time and homework.
Lesson #3- Lincoln and the Future of Slavery 1837-1860
engages students in close readings of several documents in which Lincoln offers his personal, constitutional, and social views on the future of slavery and the possibility of abolition in the United States. This lesson will require 2 days of class and homework.
Lesson #1 : Washington, Adams , Jefferson and the Future of Slavery
1. What historical events had an impact on young Abraham Lincoln’s life?
2. How may Lincoln’s early life have influenced his views on slavery or his qualities as a politician?
3. How did Lincoln’s early life and his views on slavery compare to those of Washington, Adams and Jefferson?
4. How did each of the events featured in the Prezi ( slides 12 -23: Missouri Compromise 1820 -- Dred Scott decision 1857) impact the national debate about slavery’s future? How did Lincoln view these events during his career as a Whig or Republican Politician?
5. What values and interests clashed in this series of crises?
Lesson # 2: Young Abraham Lincoln and Decades of Debate: 1820-1857
From 1820-1860 a series of conflicts over the future of slavery erupted and eventually broke the Union apart. Abraham Lincoln was born in 1809, and these decades of conflict were the years when Lincoln grew up, launched his political career, and rose as a national leader. In this lesson students will use the Prezi to view two videos about young Abraham Lincoln. This can be don in class or as homework. In class, student will discuss the videos and essential questions 1-3. Over a few nights prior to this lesson, as homework, students will take notes from their textbook on the series of crises from the Missouri Compromise of 1820 to the Dred Scott decision of 1857. In class, the Prezi slides on these events will be used for review and discussion, and to highlight Abraham Lincoln's views on these events transpiring in the early years of his political career.
Lesson #3: Lincoln and the Future of Slavery 1837-1860
Students will explore Lincoln's moral, constitutional, political and social views about slavery, and the possibility of abolition, using his own words from private letters and public statements. Each student will work closely with one longer document or two shorter documents, considering the context, text and subtext of each. This can be done as homework. Next, small groups of 4-5 students will will present, analyze and discuss the different documents with each other, using the essential questions as their guide. After the small group discussion, students will have quiet time for reflection and review, and then will be asked to write out their responses to the essential questions in paragraph format using insights gained through the group discussion and quotes from the documents. (All students will have access to this Prezi and the complete set of documents on their IPads.) This writing assignment may be used as an assessment of student learning.
Essential Questions :
The Future of Slavery?
Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Lincoln
1. What were Lincoln's key beliefs about slavery, its future in the United States, and the possibility of abolition? What were his core values and top priorities?
2. How do Lincoln's views on slavery compare to those of Presidents Washington, Adams and Jefferson? What do these comparisons reveal about the institution of slavery over the intervening decades? Are the similarities or differences best explained by Lincoln's life story or by historical events?
3. Were Lincoln's views consistent or contradictory? Was he faithful to his core values or was he a hypocrite? (Find quotes from the different documents to illustrate.)
4. Evaluate Lincoln's views of slavery and its future in the United States. Was Lincoln's plan for the future of slavery just? What were the greatest opportunities and obstacles?
In this lesson students will work with primary and secondary sources to examine the views and policies of the first three Presidents on slavery. Working in groups of three, students will use the Prezi slides to consider the view of
of these Presidents using the questions below as a guide. After about 15 minutes, remix the groups so that each group has one "expert" on Washington, Adams and Jefferson. In these new groups, students can present their understanding of the different Presidents, make comparisons and draw conclusions using the questions below as a guide. (Throughout this lesson, students will access this Prezi on their IPads.)
Final Thoughts. . . . .
As a whole class, return to the essential questions and evaluate Lincoln's ideas and leadership.
1. What did Lincoln believe about the future of slavery?
2. How do Lincoln's views on slavery compare to those of early Presidents? What do these comparisons reveal about the institution of slavery?
3. Were Lincoln's views consistent or contradictory?
4. Was Lincoln a great leader by 1860?
5. How did secession and war change everything? .. . . This will be an essential question for the next unit on the Civil War and Emancipation!