Lincoln’s Goals of Emancipation and Preservation of the Union
Abraham Lincoln’s experience as a lawyer in Illinois and a member of congress for a short time could not have fully prepared him for the challenges of his presidency. His main obstacle was the disunity of the nation, and his main goal during his presidency was to reunite the country. In his own words “A house divided against itself cannot stand”. He also faced the challenge of slavery, which was a problem that had plagued America since its early days, and a major cause in starting the civil war.
Lincoln believed that slavery should be abolished, more importantly though he believed in the preservation of the union, and in the end he issued the emancipation proclamation in order to preserve the union. As a person, Lincoln held the ideal of slavery to be wrong, and morally believed that slaves should be freed. He believed in the equality of all men. In an address to congress Lincoln said “the United States ought to cooperate with any state which may adopt gradual abolishment of slavery, giving to such state pecuniary aid” (Document A).
This shows that he supported the abolition of slavery and was willing to support any other nation which was to do it. Lincoln also said in the Gettysburg address: “our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal” and he resolved that “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth”. He believed in the ideals of America very strongly, including the idea that all men are created equal.
Lincoln wanted to free the slaves, since he did not think it was right that they were enslaved. In addition to that Lincoln adamantly wanted to preserve the union, and so he took special wartime actions for that purpose. During the war, it was likely that the border states might have seceded from the union. To prevent this in Kentucky Lincoln instituted martial law to keep control. In Maryland he had all the pro-secession members of the state congress arrested.
These drastic actions showed how serious he was about preserving the union. Lincoln also suspended the writ of habeas corpus – the legal protection requiring a court to determine if a person is lawfully arrested. Under this suspension, over 13,000 anti-union Americans were arrested. These included legislators and newspaper editors among others. These arrests were enacted in order to silence anti-union voices, and the fact that this took place showed how concerned Lincoln was with preserving the union.
Ultimately, Lincoln’s emancipation proclamation was issued as a way to help preserve the country, because of the advantages it gave the union in the war. It was more important to him to save the union than free the slaves, as he once said “If I could save the union without freeing any slave I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would so it; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it”.
Lincoln also said that “emancipation would help us in Europe, and convince them that we are incited by something more than ambition. ”(Document B). Indeed, once the emancipation proclamation was issued it ended any possibility that European nations would aid the confederacy in the war. This was a strategic move on Lincoln’s part, to mitigate the support that the confederates received, in order to win the war and preserve the union. The emancipation proclamation was also strategic because of the effects that it had on the black people of the south.
Freed blacks were encouraged to join the US army with promotional posters such as that in Document D. Lincoln knew that this would help in the war by adding to their ranks. Furthermore the southerners experienced a labour shortage, because their slaves considered themselves free, and left work undone which was left to be done by the white people of the South. The Emancipation proclamation truly was a brilliant strategic move on the part of Lincoln, engineered for the purpose of keeping the United States intact.
Although he believed that slavery was wrong , Lincoln was more concerned with preserving the union, and his actions in freeing the slaves through the emancipation proclamation were done to meet the latter goal. Lincoln knew that slavery was one of the root causes of the war, and it was always an impending issue throughout the war. At the end of the day though, the slaves were freed in order to bring greater unity to the country. His actions ended up bringing increased freedom to black Americans, saved the country’s unity, and have forever defined him as one of the greatest presidents in American history.