Abraham Lincoln's Presidency

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Does Abraham Lincoln deserve credit as "the Great Emancipator"?  Why or why not?

On the whole, one would argue that Lincoln does deserve credit as the Great Emancipator. Lincoln was the driving force behind changing the central aim of the Civil War from restoring the Union to abolishing slavery. In his Emancipation Proclamation, he also helped lay the ground for the eventual abolition of slavery under the Thirteenth Amendment.

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If any one individual in American history deserves the title of “The Great Emancipator,” it's Abraham Lincoln. Thanks to him, the Civil War turned from being a conflict over the Union to a moral crusade against the evils of slavery. This represented something of an about-face for Lincoln. In the...

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If any one individual in American history deserves the title of “The Great Emancipator,” it's Abraham Lincoln. Thanks to him, the Civil War turned from being a conflict over the Union to a moral crusade against the evils of slavery. This represented something of an about-face for Lincoln. In the early stages of the war, he'd expressed his opinion that he would retain slavery if it meant keeping the Union together. To be sure, Lincoln had always detested slavery, but was nonetheless prepared, for purely political reasons, to keep it if possible.

However, over the course of the Civil War, Lincoln came to realize that the war was about slavery, and that so long as slavery remained on American soil, the country would always be at risk of further political and military conflict. So slavery had to go, and Lincoln articulated his new thinking in his famous Gettysburg Address, in which he spoke of giving life to the emancipatory words of the Declaration of Independence—“all men are created equal”—in what he described as a “new birth of freedom.”

Lincoln put flesh on the bones of these principles in the Emancipation Proclamation. Though the Proclamation only ended slavery in those states not under Union control, it was recognized as being a major step forward on the road to outright abolition. In putting forward the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln was helping to prepare the ground for the eventual abolition of slavery in the Thirteenth Amendment. Lincoln was the driving force behind the passing of the Thirteenth Amendment, which lends further support to his status as “The Great Emancipator.”

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According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, the verb "emancipate" means "to free from restraint, control, or the power of another; especially: to free from bondage." More than any other single person, Abraham Lincoln was responsible for freeing African Americans from the bondage of slavery. For this reason, he deserves credit as the Great Emancipator.

As far back as the 1850s, Lincoln publicly declared that he thought of slavery as an evil. However, he was unable to do anything about it until after the Civil War broke out. On January 1, 1863, he issued his Emancipation Proclamation, which declared that all slaves held in the rebellious states would be forever free. This immediately freed approximately 3.1 million of the 4 million slaves then in the United States. At the time, the Proclamation was for military purposes. Former slaves escaping to the North depleted the Southern labor force. The Proclamation also allowed freed slaves to join the Union army, and about 190,000 former slaves joined the Union army and navy, significantly contributing to the war effort.

Concerned that the Emancipation Proclamation would not remain valid at the end of the war, Lincoln and his Republican Party managed to get Congress to pass the Thirteenth Amendment, which prohibited slavery and involuntary servitude in the United States.

In my opinion, based on this evidence, Abraham Lincoln deserves credit for being the Great Emancipator.

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Lincoln deserves the title "the Great Emancipator" to some degree. He always disliked the institution of slavery and felt that it undermined American democracy. He was not, however, convinced of the ability of African-American people to participate in an integrated society, and he considered the idea of founding a colony for former slaves in Central America. At first, he was not in favor of abolitionism but only wanted to end slavery where it already existed, believing it would eventually die out—a position referred to as "Free Soil."

When Lincoln passed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, it was a politically expedient move. He had to pacify the Radical Republicans in Congress who were eager to emancipate the slaves, but he also had to mollify the border states who were ready to secede. In addition, the New York City Draft Riots of 1863 (which took place after the Emancipation Proclamation was passed) proved that many Northerners, including Irish workingmen, were worried that the emancipation of the slaves would hurt them economically. Lincoln was a political realist and knew that he could only pass a measure that was largely symbolic in nature, as the Emancipation Proclamation only freed the slaves in the south (and they were not actually freed until the 13th Amendment was passed after the Civil War). 

In reality, the true emancipators were the members of the abolitionist movement, black and white, who worked to end slavery. For example, the African-American abolitionist, writer, and orator Frederick Douglass was tireless in pushing Lincoln to move towards emancipation. The leaders of abolitionism were the true figures of emancipation, though Lincoln eventually came to agree with their viewpoints and helped them pursue emancipation on a national scale.

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Abraham Lincoln was opposed to slavery both publicly and privately. His opposition to slavery led to the secession of a number of Southern states after his ascension. He, however, was obliged to save the Union above all else. He had to initiate a balanced strategy to achieve the end of slavery and maintain the structure of the Union. He suggested Compensated Emancipation, where slave owners within the Union would free their slaves and in exchange, be compensated by the government.

He believed the end of slavery would be achieved through amendments and proclamations entrenched and protected by the Constitution. This introduced conflict between the President and extreme abolitionists, who wanted an immediate and complete end to slavery during the war. However, the conflict ceased after the Emancipation Proclamation. The Emancipation Proclamation was issued during the Civil War and sought to free all the slaves who were on the run from the Confederate territories or were in rebellious states. The proclamation which was an executive order was followed by the 13th Amendment to the Constitution that legally abolished slavery in America.

In this regard, Abraham Lincoln deserves credit as the “Great Emancipator” for the role he played in ending slavery.

I do oppose the extension of slavery, because my judgment and feelings so prompt me; and I am under no obligation to the contrary. (Lincoln, In a letter to Joshua Speed)

As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy. (Lincoln on democracy)

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