Abraham Lincoln, Volume I eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 338 pages of information about Abraham Lincoln, Volume I.
its own integrity, certainly it cannot be stated as a further truth that no portion of a nation can ever be justified in endeavoring to obtain an independent national existence; no citizen of this country can admit this, but must say that such an endeavor is justifiable or not justifiable according as its cause and basis are right or wrong.  Far down, then, at the very bottom lay the question whether the Southerners had a sufficient cause upon which to base a revolution.  Now this question was hardly conclusively answered by the perfectly true statement that the North had not interfered with Southern rights.  Southerners might admit this, and still believe that their welfare could be best subserved by a government wholly their own.  So the very bottom question of all still remained:  Was the South endeavoring to establish a government of its own for a justifiable reason and a right purpose?  Now the avowed purpose was to establish on an enduring foundation a permanent slave empire; and the declared reason was, that slavery was not safe within the Union.  Underneath the question of the Union therefore lay, logically, the question of slavery.

Lincoln and the other Republican leaders said that, if slavery extension was prevented, then slavery was in the way of extinction.  If the assertion was true, it pretty clearly followed that the South could retain slavery only by independence and a complete imperial control within the limits of its own homogeneous nationality; for undeniably the preponderant Northern mass was becoming firmly resolved that slavery should not be extended, however it might be tolerated within its present limits.  So still, by anti-slavery statement itself, the ultimate question was:  whether or not the preservation of slavery was a right and sufficient cause or purpose for establishing an independent nationality.  Lincoln, therefore, went direct to the logical heart of the contention, when he said that the real dispute was whether slavery was a right thing or a wrong thing.  If slavery was a right thing, a Union conducted upon a policy which was believed to doom it to “ultimate extinction” was not a right thing.  But if slavery was a wrong thing, a revolution undertaken with the purpose of making it perpetual was also a wrong thing.  Therefore, from beginning to end, Lincoln talked about slavery.  By so doing he did what he could to give to the war a character far higher even than a war of patriotism, for he extended its meaning far beyond the age and the country of its occurrence, and made of it, not a war for the United States alone, but a war for humanity, a war for ages and peoples yet to come.  In like manner, he himself also gained the right to be regarded as much more than a great party leader, even more than a great patriot; for he became a champion of mankind and the defender of the chief right of man.  I do not mean to say that he saw these things in this light at the moment, or that he accurately formulated

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Abraham Lincoln, Volume I from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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