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What best summarizes Lincoln's position on slavery in 1858?  

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bettabailey | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 2, 2011 at 11:55 PM via web

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What best summarizes Lincoln's position on slavery in 1858?


Tagged with history, lincoln, slavery

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askteacherz | Middle School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted May 3, 2011 at 9:05 AM (Answer #1)

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Moderate; this is the term that best describes Lincoln's stance on slavery. While he was adamantly opposed to slavery he was not willing to allow it's end to ruin the unity oft he nation. The Lincoln-Douglas debates in 1858 provide perhaps the best true view to Lincoln's stance on the institution of slavery. Douglas was in favor ofthe concept of popular sovereignty, for which he championed. Lincoln was opposed to its expansion but not necessarily it extinction. However, he argued that the founders of 1776 had set the stage for the end of the institution. It was his opinion that the Declaration of Independence had set into motion the "containment" of slavery and that it's end com about through a natural death. This belief is eloquently explained by historian Sean Wilentz in his book titled The Rise of American Democracy. The moderate Lincoln is many times misrepresented because of his most famous of speeches known historically as the House Divided Speech. His moderate stance on slavery was what got him the Republican nomination over Seward in 1860. He opnlysupported the Fugitive Slave Law and even his Reconstruction Plan in 1863 is very moderate, even perhaps overly lenient on Confederate States of America.
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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted May 3, 2011 at 12:02 AM (Answer #2)

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The term that best summarizes Lincoln's position on slavery is the term "free soil."  Lincoln was a firm believer in this idea, which held that slavery must not be extended to places where it did not already exist.

Lincoln personally believed that slavery was wrong.  He did not believe in racial equality, but he believed that it was wrong to enslave blacks nonetheless.  However, he did not believe that the federal government had the Constitutional right to abolish slavery where it already existed.

For this reason, Lincoln held to the free soil position.  People who believed this said that slavery should be contained where it already existed so that the new territories could remain free for settlement for small white farmers.

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