DBQ: Abraham Lincoln and the Struggle for Union and Emancipation, 1861-1865 Lincoln began the civil war claiming to want only to preserve the union, and I think that saving the union was his main goal, but I think even from the beginning, slavery played a part in the start of the war too and another one of his goals was to gradually get rid of slavery. I think as time went on, it started to have a bigger and bigger role in the war, but I don’t think the goal of ending slavery every surpassed his goal of saving the union. He did whatever he thought it would take to save the union, and he also managed to end slavery while doing it.
Lincoln knew that slavery was an issue from the beginning, and he wanted to stop it, but wasn’t making an incredibly big deal out of it at first. in March of 1862, Lincoln addressed congress (Doc A), and was encouraging congress to offer compensation to any state that was gradually abolishing slavery, which showed that he didn’t want slavery anymore, but wasn’t pushing too hard for it and was making it so that there wasn’t any punishment for not abolishing slavery, but that there was a reward for those that were trying to abolish slavery.
In a letter to Horace Greeley in August of 1862, he said, “if I could save the union without freeing any slave I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all of the slaves, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others I would also do that. ” this again proves that he knew that slavery was a problem and was an inevitable part of the war, but that his primary focus was to save the union, and then worry about the slavery issue later on. He was also trying to keep the Border States happy, not obviously just focusing on freeing the slaves.
He did want to gradually abolish slavery but it wasn’t his main goal at the time. Lincoln came to believe that the emancipation proclamation would actually help save the union. There are several different things that the abolishment of slavery could do that would be good for the union and would help keep the union together. In a speech from Lincoln to a Committee of Religious Denominations of Chicago on September 13, 1862, (Doc B) Lincoln talked about how the abolition of slavery would help keep Europe from supporting the south.
He also said it would be good for helping the union win the war because without the blacks laboring for the southerners, the south would have an even harder time growing food and getting the things that they need to survive, it’s hard enough with a labor force helping out the south, but if all that labor was taken away from them, then the south would be ruined. He also believed that emancipation would help in saving the union because it would bring in more men that were willing to fight.
In a speech from Lincoln to members of the Democratic Party on August 26, 1863 (Doc G), Lincoln said “You say you will not fight to free Negroes. Some of them seem willing to fight for you, but, no matter. Fight you, then, exclusively to save the union. I issued the proclamation on purpose to aid you in saving the union. ” So he was saying that since white men weren’t willing to “fight to free Negroes” he had to issue the proclamation of emancipation freeing the blacks, therefore making it so that there were more men available to fight and to fight willingly for their freedom, and for the union to stay together.
The emancipation proclamation helped in pretty significant ways to save the union. Everyone kept thinking that Lincoln started to put his desire for slavery to end, over his desire to save the union. They all thought that his goal had changed and all he cared about was freeing the blacks when, in fact, his goal of saving the union was always there and was always greater than the slavery issue. Granted, he did want to end slavery and he did what he could to end slavery, but that wasn’t his primary goal. He wanted more than anything to keep the union together.
In a speech by Frederick Douglas delivered at the unveiling of the Freedmen’s monument in memory of Abraham Lincoln (Doc K) Douglas said, “he was preeminently the white man’s president, entirely devoted to the welfare of white men. He was ready and willing at any time during the first years of his administration to deny, postpone, and sacrifice the rights of humanity in the colored people to promote the welfare of the white people of this country. ” He is saying that no matter what, Lincoln was doing everything for the whites. He would do to the blacks whatever it took to do what is good for the white men.
The white men were his top priority. Even though Lincoln’s goals slightly shifted from being almost entirely only wanting the security of the union to wanting slavery to end, he never lost sight of his main goal. The entire time he wanted, more than anything, to save the union. He did whatever he needed to do to save it, even if some people disagreed on if he made the best choices or not. The war was not about his desire for the abolition of slavery. It was about saving the union, and he ended up being able to abolish slavery along with saving the union.