Describe how Lincoln's war aims evolved between 1861 and 1863, changing from preservation of the union to ending slavery. Why the shift?

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saintfester | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

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At the outbreak of the Civil War, Lincoln declared that his main goal was the preservation of the Union and not the freedom of slaves. After the first few terrible years of the war, his views on the goals had changed.

Originally Lincoln has seen the send of slavery and the preservation of the Union as two different goals. He once said, “If I could preserve the Union and not free a single slave, I would do it. If I could preserve the Union and free them all, I would do that.”

By 1862, he realized that ending slavery would actually help him win the Civil War. First, it would deprive the south of European support. If the war were re-defined as a war against slavery, European nations could no longer support the south in good conscious. Also, slaves would be empowered to run away, rebel or maybe join the Union army. Lincoln’s abolitionist advisors expected that African Americans would sign up by the battalion if the wars goals were aimed towards freeing their fellow slaves in the south.

So Lincoln didn’t shift his beliefs so much, he just finally realized that both aims complimented each other and helped his ultimate goal.     


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