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Contrast of an American President

Updated on September 18, 2009

Contrast of an American President


Abraham Lincoln was born of humble beginnings in a log cabin in Kentucky and in time rose to the highest office in the land to become our nation’s sixteenth president.  He led our country through its darkest hour and came out victorious over Southern aggression and rebellion.  Mr. Lincoln championed the cause for freedom for the black slave population by issuing the “Emancipation Proclamation”, and in 1865 signed into law the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery as an institution.  This generally, is contained in most history books and historical documents which recorded the accolades of the fine statesman from Illinois.  Would you be a little surprised to find that “Honest Abe” was not as forthright as written in most historical accounts?  First, let’s concentrate a little more on Abraham Lincoln--the man.

            Mr. Lincoln was like many westerners of the time; he was reared on the family farm and worked hard to help his father and mother.  Upon reaching maturity, he had decided that a career in law was his chosen path in life, so he became a lawyer.  He had made comments to his law partner regarding his utter dislike of seeing slaves bound together with chains while traveling, by steamboat, back and forth from Illinois to Kentucky.  He felt the “peculiar institution”, as slavery was referred to, was inherently wrong and hoped it would end as a practice.  This thought would follow him throughout his life.  In 1858, a senate seat had become open from the State of Illinois, which prompted him to run for elective office.  During this campaign, he engaged Judge Douglas, the other candidate, in a series of debates that emphasized his position to prevent the spread of slavery into the new territories and states that were beginning to form in the west.  He did not win that senatorial election, but the attention he received from the debates helps catapult his political career.  In 1860, he was elected to the highest office in the land, the Presidency of the United States.  Throughout his political life, he proclaimed his staunch support and adherence, in speech and commentary, to the principles of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence and how these documents applied to our nation.  Lincoln’s steadfast character prevailed through the horrible bloodshed of the civil war and during this war he issued his famous “Emancipation Proclamation” freeing the slaves from their bondage.  After the conclusion of the war, he took it a further step and signed into law the thirteenth amendment, which abolished slavery in the United States.  Does this sound familiar?  Have you heard it this before?  Let’s look at these key points about Mr. Lincoln a little closer. 

            Even though the sight of chained slaves offended him, he represented, by choice, two slave owners in two very high profile cases involving their slaves that had run away to Free states.  He did not want to see the proliferation of slavery into the new territories, but he accepted the practice in the existing slave states.  Lincoln’s violations of the Constitution, during the war, such as the withholding of Writ of Habeas Corpus, raising of troops without consent of congress, and the blockade of cities on the Union side and subsequent use of Federal troops on civilians would, by today’s standards, have resulted in his impeachment or the further insurrection of the people that supported him.  The “Emancipation Proclamation” was a military directive pertaining to slaves in areas not controlled by Union forces and was only meant for a temporary political motive.  At the time, the war was not going well and he needed to disrupt the large labor force that the slaves represented in the South and the chaos this would create would also deter England, France, and Spain from entering the war on the side of the South.  The Thirteenth Amendment was pushed through Congress by the newly formed political party, the Republican Party, which consisted of mostly abolitionists that helped elect Mr. Lincoln to office.

            Mr. Lincoln was a product of his race and times.  He felt that slavery was wrong, but his opinion was the white race was still and always would be the superior race.  Historically, Lincoln has been portrayed as the “Moses” who led the enslaved people from bondage and the defender of the Constitution and civil liberties, but in fact he himself has tarnished the myth that was Abraham Lincoln.  


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