What was one aspect of Abraham Lincoln's views on slavery?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles
The main thing you need to remember is that Lincoln ultimately felt that continuing slavery would be more devastating to our country than a civil war. His basic premise was that the issue would never be resolved peacefully, and slavery needed to be outlawed because it was tearing the country apart and making us weak.
Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In response to #4 - Thank you for digging a bit deeper and getting to the truth.  Many textbooks simply are too cursory and leave teachers and students with erroneous cause and effect relationships.  Lincoln did not oppose slavery.  Lincoln wanted the Union intact -- either with or without slavery, either with the South functioning or destroyed. Read his second Inaugural Address (1864) to see what he thought about continuing the war, and his reasons for continuing the fight. Issuing the Emancipation Proclamation (January 1863) was a brilliant political move on his part, and his primary reason for issuing it was to keep Britain from recognizing the Confederacy -- they had already supplied the South with munitions, and once recognized, Lincoln would have to consider a Northern invasion from Canada and a British blockade off the East Coast.  Keeping Europe out of the South was one of, if not the key reason the North won the war.  Having made the war about slavery, Lincoln took the "high moral ground" and effectively shamed Britain --How could they aid the South, having banished the institution of slavery in the Empire in the 1830's?

It's important to understand historical events in the context they happened, and not look back from our own time and project our values and our concepts of cause and effect upon those events.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

When Abraham Lincoln was running for the Senate in 1858, he made the famous speech in which he stated that "A house divided against itself cannot stand.  I believe that this government cannot endure permanently half-slave and half-free.  I do not expect the Union to be dissolved. . .but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other."  Although Lincoln lost his bid for the Senate, two years later he became President of a nation soon to be at war with itself, and his goal, first and foremost, was to save the Union.  In a letter to Horace Greeley written in 1862, Lincoln stated in no uncertain terms that "My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union. . .If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it, and if I could save the Union by freeing all the slaves, I would do it. . . ."    The issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation a year later, while hailed by slaves and abolitiionists as the official freeing of those held in bondage, was actually a political move garnered to gain support from England, or at the least, keep England from joining on the side of the South.  The Emancipation Proclamation changed the game, because now the war was about slavery.  The document freed slaves only in those states still in rebellion, and in practice, it didn't actually free a single slave.  However, the focus had changed from saving the Union to eradicating slavery, and by changing that focus for the soldiers, and the world at large, Lincoln galvanized support from Europe, energized the Northern troops, and put the Confederacy even more on the political defensive than it had already been.  


Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

President Lincoln believed very strongly that in order for the Union to survive and to achieve greatness, the institution of slavery must be eradicated throughout the entire country. So long as slavery existed in the country, Lincoln felt, the promise of America could not be realized. A clear statement of his political philosophy is Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, issued in 1862 while the Civil War still raged.

Interestingly, it seems that Lincoln's views on slavery changed during his political career. As he became older, his anti-slavery views became even stronger.

In regard to your thesis statement, it needs to be somewhat general in nature. It needs to be a statement you believe you can explain and support with information discovered through research of your subject.

Here are a few sample thesis statements that might work for you:

1. President Lincoln strongly opposed slavery within any part of the United States.

2. President Lincoln believed slavery must be eradicated in order for the United States to survive and fulfill its purpose and potential.

3. President Lincoln came to believe that eradicating slavery was both a moral and a political responsibility for the country.

4. President Lincoln's anti-slavery views became stronger during his presidency.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I think it is important for you write your own thesis statement, because then it belongs to you...something you can be proud of. However, I can give you a few suggestions that will help you in your task.

1. Read The Lincoln-Douglas debates. Since your paper must express Lincoln's perspective pay attention to his responses in the debate.

2. Research Lincoln's childhood, it was not uncommon for him to witness slaves chained together passing by his home as a young boy. Although subtle, these memories had an impact on him as an adult.

3. Look at his politics during the 1860 Presidential election. His views were clear, slavery was wrong however he did not advocate its immediate abolition just the spread of the institution of slavery into the west. (He was well aware of The Missouri Compromise, The Compromise of 1850, and The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. The first two were nothing more than a band aid on a wound that refused to heal, the latter proved deadly)

4. 1863-The Emancipation Proclamation speech delievered by Lincoln freed all persons in bondage in the states of rebellion. First, understand the President has no legal authority to do this, however the speech was heard and printed in newspapers across the nation. His speech was successful because he sprinkled morality over the tug of war over power between the federal and state governments. Lincoln's primary goal was to keep the union together.

5. After you research one or all of these suggestions, write your statement.

Good Luck !!

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial