Abraham Lincoln

April 2024 Forums General discussion Abraham Lincoln

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 27 total)
  • Author
  • #81583

    Can anyone provide a link to any articles which examine Lincoln's real atitude to the slaves and the circumstances under which slavery was abolished in the US? I'm guessing it might have had something to do with the coming industrial revolution in America and the fact the the slaves ended up being a burden to their masters?

    steve colborn

    I remember reading a standard quite a few years ago, in which a letter from Lincoln to the Southern states was cited. He explicitly stated his intentions were not to get rid of slavery. I will try and dig up the quote. Steve.


     "There is a popular belief that Lincoln was the champion of the movement to abolish slavery. This is not true. His declared aim was "to save the union" with or without slavery. In a debate with Steven A. Douglas he gave his views on the position concerning negroes: "I am not in favour of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office . . . I am not in favour of negro citizenship." (p.30) The Civil War by Henry Hansen, published by Mentor.He was ready to see the fugitive slave law enforced. Under this law any slave who escaped from a plantation to free territory had to be sent back to the plantation. On November 30th 1860 he wrote to Alexander H. Stevens, a Georgia politician:"Do the people of the South really entertain fears that a Republican administration would directly or indirectly interfere with their slaves or with them about their slaves? If they do, I wish to assure you… that there is no cause for such fears." (Hansen p.30)Referring to Lincoln's Inaugural Address when he took office on the 4th March 1861, Hansen makes the following comments:"Lincoln spoke calmly and without rancour. He repeated his declaration that he had no purpose to interfere with slavery in the States where it existed. He would execute the laws in all the – States, since he considered the Union unbroken." (p.47)" http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/pamphlets/historical-materialism

    steve colborn

    Cheers OGW : ) Steve.


    Despite Lincolns' support for slavery he was forced into emancipation due to the amount of casualties on the union side.

    steve colborn

    Thanks OGW and Brian. Both posts added the clarity I was looking for. Steve.


    Some further related material is to be found on Socialism Or Your Money Back.Robert 


    Thanks for this guys! I was thinking of going to see the new movie about this character. If only because the score is written by my favourite film composer John Williams. I have most of the scores he ever wrote on CD since (along with Herrmann) he is the daddy of them all…sorry to digress here! I also thought being a Speilberg effort it would at least look good with good costumes, sets etc. However I guess it will be a whitewash of Obama tinged patriotism which will make me wretch. I'll just buy Williams' soundtrack album…nah fuck it I'll get my mate to steal it for me from an "illegal" downloading site!

    steve colborn

    LOL Ozy! best way to do it. Fuck Capitalisms controlling attitude. Be well Ozy.Steve


    As 1 January was the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation by President Lincoln in the US Civil War, the March Socialist Standard will cover this issue. There will also be a review of the Lincoln film.Even the official US government's archive site recognises its limitations in practice:

    President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, as the nation approached its third year of bloody civil war. The proclamation declared "that all persons held as slaves" within the rebellious states "are, and henceforward shall be free." Despite this expansive wording, the Emancipation Proclamation was limited in many ways. It applied only to states that had seceded from the Union, leaving slavery untouched in the loyal border states. It also expressly exempted parts of the Confederacy that had already come under Northern control. Most important, the freedom it promised depended upon Union military victory.

    Lincoln was a moderate of the abolitionist cause, but there is no doubt that he wanted slavery to end: defence of the union was a strategic position, given the unpopularity of the war.  He was the son of small farmers who had been forced to leave Kentucky because they had been out-competed by slave plantations.Despite his public pronouncements, we have his actions.  He prosecuted the war (to the point of sacking his generals, and directing military operations himself) despite unpopularity and opposition, and the idea that there could be some conciliation with the South (His Secretary of State, Seward, apparently had a plan for some sort of Carribbeanwards Imperial expansion as a way of alleviating the problem of slavery).The strike against slavery had actually come sooner, when Kansas had become a free state, both sides knew slavery had to expand or die.Irrespective of his undoubted racism, and whether he was an avid abolitionist or not, he did make personal political choices that did end slavery, he could have been a severe block on such a process had he chosen to be so.


    And of course, Uncle Charlie made short work of claims the war wasn't about Slavery:http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1861/10/25.htm

    Uncle Charlie wrote:
    The question of the principle of the American Civil War is answered by the battle slogan with which the South broke the peace. Stephens, the Vice-President of the Southern Confederacy, declared in the Secession Congress that what essentially distinguished the Constitution newly hatched at Montgomery from the Constitution of Washington and Jefferson was that now for the first time slavery was recognised as an institution good in itself, and as the foundation of the whole state edifice, whereas the revolutionary fathers, men steeped in the prejudices of the eighteenth century, had treated slavery as an evil imported from England and to be eliminated in the course of time. Another matador of the South, Mr. Spratt, cried out: "For us it is a question of founding a great slave republic." If, therefore, it was indeed only in defence of the Union that the North drew the sword, had not the South already declared that the continuance of slavery was no longer compatible with the continuance of the Union?

    Famously, the International Working Men's Association wrote to Lincoln on his re-election (drafted by Marx)

    We congratulate the American people upon your re-election by a large majority. If resistance to the Slave Power was the reserved watchword of your first election, the triumphant war cry of your re-election is Death to Slavery…They consider it an earnest of the epoch to come that it fell to the lot of Abraham Lincoln, the single-minded son of the working class, to lead his country through the matchless struggle for the rescue of an enchained race and the reconstruction of a social world.

    http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/iwma/documents/1864/lincoln-letter.htm and here is the letter on Lincoln's assassination: http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/iwma/documents/1865/johnson-letter.htm


    Another one, quickly, because I think Marx is on the money here: http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1862/03/03.htm

    Lincoln is not the product of a popular revolution. This plebeian, who worked his way up from stone-breaker to Senator in Illinois, without intellectual brilliance, without a particularly outstanding character, without exceptional importance-an average person of good will, was placed at the top by the interplay of the forces of universal suffrage unaware of the great issues at stake. The new world has never achieved a greater triumph than by this demonstration that, given its political and social organisation, ordinary people of good will can accomplish feats which only heroes could accomplish in the old world!

    He was, from the accounts I read, considered a non-entity who could be played by Great Men like Seward, but he adroitely used the powers of his office to achieve his ends.


    I don't think there can be much doubt that Lincoln was really a sincere opponent of slavery though still a racist.  Although the debate about slavery was framed in religious/moral/ethical terms the real crux was whether slavery could be allowed to expand.  If not it would inevitably wither in time.  The slave states forced the civil war in attempt to secure a future for slavery in the face of determined opposition from the new Republican party led by Lincoln.  A fudged compromise would probably have been on the cards.  Lincoln stood in the way of this.  He was regarded badly by both pro and anti-slavery camps because he was a pragmatic politician – hence his overtures to southern states that he really wasn't against slavery but for the union.  The course of events allowed Lincoln to force the course of the war along anti-slavery lines. 


    To keep banging on, ISTR, he was in favour of the gradual abolition of slavery (essentially, in the same sort of vein as a Labour reformist).As a politician from Illinois, he'd have been aware at how important the Mississippi was to enabling that landlocked state to trade (he had once worked on a paddle steamer), that would have motivated his defence of the union stance (when an Illinois state legislator, he had been part of a Whiggish faction which nearly bankrupted the state on public navigation works).I'd recommend Gore Vidal's Lincoln, which uses documented events, and, IIRC, manages to keep a certain mystery around the internal workings of Lincoln's mind during the great dramas.http://www.gorevidalpages.com/2011/05/bookslut-on-gore-vidals-lincoln.html

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 27 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.