On Lincoln and The Emancipation Proclamation

It is good to develop a dialogue on the intentions of Lincoln, particularly when so much interest has been garnered with the release of the film “Lincoln.” It is important to study the conditions and events that led to Lincoln’s transformation on the issue of slavery. For example, from Howard Zinn’s book, A People’s History of the U. S., Lincoln is quoted from his 1858 campaign for the Senate as saying: “I will say, then, that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races (applause); that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people … And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the positon of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.” Zinn explains that Lincoln’s thinking only began to change when “the war grew more bitter, the casualties mounted, desparation to win heightened, and the criticism of the abolitionists tended to unravel the tattered coalition.” Also to be included in this analysis is the reality that the war was also between economic elites as to who would dominate a slave labor force — the industrialists in the North or the plantation owners in the south.

Check out

The Emancipation of Abe Lincoln on the New York Times

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