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Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: Harvard University Press
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    This book focuses on the most controversial aspect of Lincoln's thought and politics - his attitudes and actions regarding slavery and race. Drawing attention to the limitations of Lincoln's judgment and policies without denying his magnitude, the book provides the most comprehensive and even-handed account available of Lincoln's contradictory treatment of black Americans in matters of slavery in the South and basic civil rights in the North.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-03373-3
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. 1 A Clash of Images: Great Egalitarian or Hard-Core Racist?
    (pp. 1-42)

    Interpreting the thought and actions of Abraham Lincoln is a difficult enterprise. Ambiguities and contradictions abound. W. E. B. Du Bois, the greatest of African American intellectuals, made some references to Lincoln in the early twentieth century that provide a good introduction to an assessment of his ideas and actions relative to slavery and race. As late as 1913, Du Bois seems to have shared the hagiographic view of the Great Emancipator common to African Americans in this period. In his pageantThe Star of Ethiopia,performed in that year to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of emancipation, Du Bois portrayed...

  5. 2 Free Soil, Free Labor, and Free White Men: The Illinois Years
    (pp. 43-84)

    Lincoln did not concern himself much about slavery before the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 made the status of slavery in the territories a major political issue. As he explained in a speech in 1858: “Although I have always been opposed to slavery, so far I rested in the hope and belief that it was in course of ultimate extinction. For that reason it had been a minor question with me.”¹

    There is no reason to doubt that he had disapproved of slavery from an early age. The first public statement of that disapproval came when Lincoln was serving his first...

  6. 3 Becoming an Emancipator: The War Years
    (pp. 85-126)

    As the historian David Potter wrote more than forty years ago, Lincoln “always regarded the perpetuation of the Union as more important than the abolition of slavery.”¹ Although recent historians have tended to give greater weight to Lincoln’s antislavery convictions than some of their predecessors, they have not been able to reverse the priorities. Lincoln made it clear early in the war that he would have saved the Union without abolishing slavery if that had been possible. His sincere hatred of the South’s “peculiar institution” is not in doubt, however. In a letter written in 1864, he succinctly explained the...

  7. Notes
    (pp. 129-145)
  8. Index
    (pp. 146-156)