Describe and explain the evolution of Lincoln's views on slavery from the Lincoln-Douglas debates in 1858 through the Emancipation Proclamation.

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dbello's profile pic

dbello | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

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The Lincoln-Douglas debates in 1858 thrusted Lincoln into the national spotlight. Although this was a Senatorial race for Illinois, the debates recieved national attention. Lincoln's position over the slave issue at the debates was not whether it was voted in or out. His position and opposition was rooted in the 'reality' the implications could have on the future of the U.S. His argument was that if black human beings were not entitled to rights in America, perhaps other groups that came here could also be deprived of rights. Lincoln believed slavery was morally wrong, however in 1858 he did not advocate emancipation. Lincoln's position was that slavery was a reality, but wanted to contain it from spreading into western territories. He never challenged slavery head on, but his political savy in the future would force the slave issue into the heart of every American. Lincoln would be held responsible for the survival of the nation. By 1862 Americans were weary of war and the abolition movement had an effect on people. Lincoln understood the power of 'timing' and used the Union victory at Antietam for his Emancipation Proclamation.This document had no legal bearing, however it added moral purpose to the war. The stakes were raised, preserve the Union and eliminate slavery.Evolution of Lincoln's views on slavery will forever be entangled with his motives, however he gave his full measure of devotion for us.

alohaspirit's profile pic

alohaspirit | Middle School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

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In the debates, as any strong politician, he stands strong to what he believes in.  Lincoln was very much against slavery and spoke out against the Kansas-Nebraska Act that Douglas used to repeal the Missouri Compromise which banned slavery in Kansas and Nebraska.  In this quote Lincoln shows his disgust for slavery:

"This declared indifference, but, as I must think, covert real zeal for the spread of slavery, I cannot but hate. I hate it because of the monstrous injustice of slavery itself. I hate it because it deprives our republican example of its just influence in the world-enables the enemies of free institutions..."

But by the end of the Civil War, Lincoln's main goal was to win and try to make peace with the south and reunite the Union.  The Emancipation Proclamation DID NOT end slavery, but it allowed any slave the already was living in the north or had fled to the north to automatically be free.   If Lincoln officially ended slavery in the whole Union, the south would not have tried to make peace with the north even after the north won the war.  As a president, you have to make tough choices that is good for the whole, and even though in his heart he hated slavery, he had to take the right steps in order for the north to win the war and to bring the Union together.