The Abolitionists eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 198 pages of information about The Abolitionists.
leaders, it prevented an open rupture.  It served as a bridge between them.  Although they never took Mr. Lincoln fully into their confidence again, the Abolitionists interpreted his proclamation as a concession and an abandonment of his previous policy, which it was much more in appearance than actually.  At all events, it was splendid politics.  The somewhat theatrical manner in which it was worked up and promulgated in installments, thus arousing in advance a widespread interest and curiosity, showed no little strategic ability.  No more skillful move is recorded in the history of our parties and partisans than this act of Mr. Lincoln, by which he disarmed his Anti-Slavery critics without giving them any material advantage or changing the actual situation.  I am not now speaking of the motive underlying the proclamation of the President, but of its effect.  Without it he could not have been renominated and re-elected.

Another observation, in order to be entirely just to Mr. Lincoln, after what has been stated, would at this point seem to be called for.  There is no doubt that from the first he was at heart an Anti-Slavery man, which is saying a good deal for one born in Kentucky, raised in southern Indiana and southern Illinois, and who was naturally of a conservative turn of mind.  Nevertheless, he was never an Abolitionist.  He was opposed to immediate—­what he called “sudden”—­emancipation.  He recognized the “right”—­his own word—­of the slave-owner to his pound of flesh, either in the person of his bondman or a cash equivalent.  He was strongly prejudiced against the negro.  Of that fact we have the evidence in his colonization ideas.  He favored the banishment of our American-born black people from their native land.  It was a cruel proposition.  True, the President did move from his first position, which, as we have seen, was far from that occupied by the Abolitionists, but from first to last he was more of a follower than leader in the procession.

And here the author wishes to add, in justice to himself, that if, by reason of anything he has said in this chapter, or elsewhere in this work, in criticism of Mr. Lincoln’s dealings with the slavery issue, he should be accused of unfriendliness toward the great martyr President, he enters a full and strong denial.  He holds that, in view of all the difficulties besetting him, Mr. Lincoln did well, although he might have done better.  Much allowance, must be made to one situated as he was.  He undoubtedly deserves the most of the encomiums that have been lavished upon him.  At the same time, the conclusion is inevitable that his fame as a statesman will ultimately depend less upon his treatment of the slavery issue than upon any other part of his public administration.  The fact will always appear that it was the policy of Salmon P. Chase, Charles Sumner, Thaddeus Stevens, Horace Greeley, Henry Ward Beecher, and other advocates of the radical cure, with whom the President was in

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The Abolitionists from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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