Abraham Lincolns Changing Viewpoints
There are several reasons for Lincoln’s statement in 1858 about not having equality between the races and his issuing of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862. Lincoln had shifting viewpoints regarding slavery when he got elected and throughout the war. Each of his opinions made sense at the time for Lincoln taking the position he took at the different time periods. As the war approached, Lincoln made certain decisions in order to ensure the stability of the union. Although one of the reasons on why Lincoln’s views regarding slavery changed was because he believed it was morally wrong, the main reason was because he wanted to keep the Union together. Lincoln’s reasons was because he wanted to get elected, he did not want anyone to secede, and he did not want Great Britain and France to join the Confederacy.
In 1858, Abraham Lincoln knew he had to get elected to office in order to bring the change to the Union. In the election of 1860 against Douglas, Breckinridge, and Bell, Lincoln won. When they were preparing for the war, Lincoln rejected black men to volunteer and instead called out for troops. Lincoln was always asked by other people about the reason they were fighting in the war and he responded that he was doing it for the Union and not for the abolition of slavery. Lincoln wanted to maintain the Union together but in order to do that, the only option he had was to abolish slavery. Lincoln accepted the fact that to fully unite the union he had to abolish slavery through the Emancipation Proclamation. Although Lincoln believed that slavery was wrong, he was not an abolitionist.
Lincoln knew that if he issued the Emancipation Proclamation either before or right after his election as President, more southerner states would have seceded. If Lincoln would have announced the Emancipation Proclamation in 1858, during his election, the southerners would have worked harder to counter Lincoln’s candidacy in 1860. Even though Lincoln never said that he wanted to get rid of slavery, Southerners believed otherwise. Lincoln’s views changed in 1862 and started seeing things differently that allowed him to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. When the Emancipation Proclamation had been issued, the North started thinking more about ending slavery. As the war progressed, the North got more into the war and its fighting. Additionally, the abolition of slavery became more of a goal for the North. However, Lincoln had to be sure the Border States that remained in the Union when the Civil War began would stay in the Union. If he had issued the Emancipation Proclamation before 1861, the Border States would have gone to the South.
Lincoln and his administration also believed that if they made the abolition of slavery a war aim, they could stop Great Britain or France from joining the Confederacy. Lincoln knew that both Great Britain and France would not support a country fighting a war to keep slavery, since Both Great Britain and France had abolished slavery. Through the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln made it clear that the North was in favor of abolishing slavery unlike the South. Lincoln also knew that the European countries were ending slavery and by issuing the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862, Lincoln made it clear that the United States had the same thoughts as Europe regarding the ending of slavery. This made the European nation’s know that they were tied with the North and either had to side with the Union or be neutral and many picked neutrality. The Emancipation Proclamation did not end slavery but gave freedom only for slaves in the states that were still waging war against the United States. It didn’t free slaves in the slave states that were not part of the Confederacy, and in those portions of the Confederacy that had come under Union military control.
In conclusion, Lincoln’s 1858 statement could be reconciled with his 1862 Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln was not an abolitionist, but knew that the institution of slavery was morally wrong. However, his main concern was the state of the country, if that meant continuing slavery and looking the other way while it was practiced, so be it. Fortunately, it came to the point that the only way the Union could be made whole was if the peculiar institution of slavery was abolished. Slavery didn’t end everywhere in the U.S. until the 13th Amendment was added to the Constitution. After issuing the Emancipation Proclamation, it became clear that the fight to save the Union also was a fight to end slavery. Even more members of the public came to accept that no salvation of union was possible without the ending of slavery.