Wednesday, April 11, 2012

SC6 Civil War Rewind, Part Fifteen: A First-Rate Second Rate Man

Abraham Lincoln's First Attempt at Emancipation of the Slaves Is Met With Howls From the North...

     See, we told you we'd be right back with another entry!  Welcome to the latest post in our Civil War Rewind series, where we note important and interesting events from the War Between the States, exactly 150 years after they occured..  Today's history notes Abe Lincoln as the Great Emancipator for freeing the slaves.  It's always interesting to see how history will make heroes of even the most reluctant of people - and our 16th President certainly was one....

     Most people recognize Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation as his great achievement of the War.  It gave the Union's fight against the South a higher calling, in that it moved the North's motivation from just Union Preservation to the freeing of five million slaves.  However, this was not Lincoln's first offer, and the overall picture of Lincoln's internal decades-long struggle with the issue shows how it changed during the war.  Lincoln's final proclamation was written September 22, 1862, soon after the Union's win at Antietam (Sharpsburg), which he had to wait for to introduce it. 

     Going back in history, Lincoln had long believed that while he believed in the Negro's humanity, and it's inherent rights, he didn't believe in their equality as Americans... It's a bit of a stunning admission, but it's written in the books - and unfortunately, the view still exists in pockets today.  But, it does explain Lincoln's odd initial offer to 'free' the slaves.  In short, Lincoln's whole goal at the outset of the war was to save the Union, not free the slaves.  In his words, if that meant freeing all, none or some of the slaves would save the United States as a whole, he would do it - and that was basically his first offer...

    On April 10th, 1862, Lincoln did just that... He offered to free the slaves, but only in certain parts over time - and to send them to a refuge in Africa, in what is now Liberia.  We're not sure what the South's response was, but the North howled with disapproval.  Abolitionists were up in arms across the country.. Wendell Phillips called Lincoln 'a first-rate second rate man', and others equated it with freeing only part of a man, and which part was that?

    The plan obviously was pulled back from the backlash... Very often, compromise is a good way to resolve issues, and that was what Lincoln was searching for.  But, sometimes there are disputes that there is no middle ground.  It doesn't happen often, but slavery is one of those issues.  There was no way partial slavery would be right - the South would either go it's own way, or it would be brought back in the Union without slavery.  It was a weird plan, and that's how it went - 150 years ago this week...  We'll have a little bit of a break from these posts, as April and May, 1862 didn't have anything that we haven't already touched on - but it'll be a busy Summer!


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