Skip to main content

View Diary: Lincoln's heir (143 comments)

Comment Preferences

  •  It was the intense pressure of Douglass, Garrison (6+ / 0-)

    and the abolitionist movement - including John Brown - that weighed in this history. Right up until 1860 Lincoln would happily have compromised on slavery and also entertained the idea that all freed blacks should be returned to Africa. He was rightly vilified in the abolitionist press.

    If southern firebrands had kept their cool, slavery may well have survived into the 20th century. New Mexico, Arizona, and Nevada would likely have been slave states.

    Douglass allied himself with Lincoln after the latter committed to total war against the Confederacy. He was an outspoken critic until that time.

    I'm not sure Lincoln would be remembered in the same way today had he not been helped to his deserved greatness by the fierce (a fierceness unlike anything Obama has borne from progressives) criticism  of his allies and the folly of his enemies.

    Perpetual crisis means never having to say you're sorry.

    by chuckvw on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 08:47:39 PM PST

    [ Parent ]

    •  I agree on the role of abolitionists, but (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MPociask, the autonomist

      you aren't giving Lincoln's views the full explanation they deserve.  It is true that Lincoln was willing to compromise on slavery, but only in the states where it already existed. He understood that the Constitution did not allow him, nor Congress, to interfere with slavery in the states. (Here at Daily Kos, we strongly disapprove when Presidents exceed their Constitutional authority.) This view of the limitations of federal power with regard to slavery was virtually universal at the time. Even Garrison thought so--that's why he publicly burned a copy of the Constitution, calling it a pact with Hell.

      But Lincoln also strongly believed that the federal government had plenary power over the territories, including the right to ban slavery there.  This had been assumed since the beginning of the Republic, when the Northwest Ordinance banned slavery in what was then considered the northwest territories.  It was at the core of the Missouri Compromise, which banned slavery in the Louisiana Purchase territories north of the southern borders of Missouri.  Lincoln thought that if slavery were kept out of the territories and limited only to the states in which it then existed, it would be "put on the path to ultimate extinction."

      It was the challenge to the principle that Congress could ban slavery in the territories which brought Lincoln back into politics in 1854 after a hiatus of several years.  When the Kansas-Nebraska Act overturned the Missouri Compromise, and subsequently when the Supreme Court said in Dred Scott (1857) that Congress had no power to ban slavery in the territories, Lincoln feared that the fundamental basis upon which slavery could end was being overturned.

      Fast forward to the period after his election but before his inauguration.  Seven southern states secede (those who think that Lincoln was not an opponent of slavery should reflect on this fact--they may not think he opposed slavery, but the South sure did).  Prominent statesmen are desperately looking for a way to save the Union without war.  One proposal is the Crittenden Compromise, referred to by chuckvw.  It involved an Amendment which could not be overturned for 40 years, guaranteeing no interference with slavery in the South, and Lincoln was willing to go along.  We today look with horror on this notion.  But remember that Lincoln and most people thought that the federal government couldn't interfere with slavery anyway, so Lincoln didn't think he was giving anything away in supporting such an Amendment.  He still thought that slavery confined to the South would wither away.

      But the Crittenden Compromise also allowed slavery in some of the territories, and Lincoln categorically refused. He was willing to accept war rather than compromise on what he thought was the foundation for the elimination of slavery. Like chuckvw, Lincoln also saw the possibility that New Mexico, Arizona, and Nevada would be slave states, and he was not willing to permit this to happen.

      As for colonization, we clearly see that it was an absurd proposition.  It was, however, supported for decades by many of the nation's greatest statesment.  Lincoln's political ideal statesman, Henry Clay, was a proponent.  In Lincoln's case, he thought that the level of racism and hatred in the entire country, not just the South, was so great that manumitted slaves could never live peacefully with whites. And given what happened in the 150 years since 1865, it's hard to deny Lincoln's point.  Even when occupied by victorious Northern armies, the South never gave up its hatred.  Within a little over 10 years after the end of the war, reconstruction was being rolled back, and the Klan was destroying nascent Black rights.  In 20 years, the Jim Crow system was solidly in place, and was upheld by the Supreme Court in 25 years. (And the North didn't care, and did nothing, except ensure that all its cities were totally segregated).  Maybe he should have been more optimistic about full equality instead of proposing colonization, but it's hard to deny the realism of his assessment.

      Its always the radicals who push the system, and they are indispensible.  But it's the statesmen who have to make it real.  In four years Lincoln saved the Union and destroyed slavery.  I think this merits the regard in which he is held.

      •  First of all, great comment (0+ / 0-)

        Should really be a diary, although I think it gives Lincoln benefit of the doubt, particularly regarding his affiliation with the American Colonization Society. Also, his devotion to the Constitution wasn't exactly unwavering during the war.

        But my brief comment asserting that the intense pressure of the abolitionists changed Lincoln's thinking and policy... which means, of course, that he was morally and intellectually susceptible to their suasion... couldn't possibly capture the contingency and nuance of the situation. Your comment succeeds much more in that regard.

        By the way, tens of thousands - going back to Nat Turner and John Brown - gave their lives to end slavery. Lincoln was but one of them.

        Thanks again for your comment.

        Perpetual crisis means never having to say you're sorry.

        by chuckvw on Mon Jan 28, 2013 at 11:57:16 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Thanks for your kind words, which I appreciate. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          chuckvw

          Nothing in what I said was intended to minimize the role of the brave abolitionists.  Without them, it's hard to see how abolition could have become one of the twin goals of the Union in the Civil War.

          And you're right about those who gave their lives, including a lot of people in the South or traveling in the South who were killed merely for voicing opposition to slavery.  

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site