Lincoln and the Abolitionists: John Quincy Adams, Slavery, and the Civil War by Fred KaplanThe acclaimed biographer, with a thought-provoking exploration of how Abraham Lincoln’s and John Quincy Adams’ experiences with slavery and race shaped their differing viewpoints, provides both perceptive insights into these two great presidents and a revealing perspective on race relations in modern America.
Lincoln, who in afterlife became mythologized as the Great Emancipator, was shaped by the values of the white America into which he was born. While he viewed slavery as a moral crime abhorrent to American principles, he disapproved of anti-slavery activists. Until the last year of his life, he advocated voluntary deportation, concerned that free blacks in a white society would result in centuries of conflict. In 1861, he had reluctantly taken the nation to war to save it. While this devastating struggle would preserve the Union, it would also abolish slavery—creating the biracial democracy Lincoln feared. John Quincy Adams, forty years earlier, was convinced that only a civil war would end slavery and preserve the Union. An antislavery activist, he had concluded that a multiracial America was inevitable.
Lincoln and the Abolitionists, a frank look at Lincoln, warts and all, provides an in-depth look at how these two presidents came to see the issues of slavery and race, and how that understanding shaped their perspectives. In a far-reaching historical narrative, Fred Kaplan offers a nuanced appreciation of both these great men and the events that have characterized race relations in America for more than a century—a legacy that continues to haunt us all.
The book has a colorful supporting cast from the relatively obscure Dorcas Allen, Moses Parsons, Violet Parsons, Theophilus Parsons, Phoebe Adams, John King, Charles Fenton Mercer, Phillip Doddridge, David Walker, Usher F. Linder, and H. Ford Douglas to Elijah Lovejoy, Francis Scott Key, William Channing, Wendell Phillips, and Rufus King. The cast includes Hannibal Hamlin, Lincoln’s first vice president, and James Buchanan and Andrew Johnson, the two presidents on either side of Lincoln. And it includes Abigail Adams, John Adams, Henry Clay, Stephen A. Douglas, and Frederick Douglass, who hold honored places in the American historical memory.
The subject of this book is slavery and racism, the paradox of Lincoln, our greatest president, as an antislavery moralist who believed in an exclusively white America; and Adams, our most brilliant statesman, as an antislavery activist who had no doubt that the United States would become a multiracial nation. It is as much about the present as the past.
Facing facts about Lincoln and his views on slavery
Abraham Lincoln did believe that slavery was morally wrong, but there was one big problem: It was sanctioned by the highest law in the land, the Constitution. Abolitionists , by contrast, knew exactly what should be done about it: Slavery should be immediately abolished, and freed slaves should be incorporated as equal members of society. Though Lincoln saw himself as working alongside the abolitionists on behalf of a common anti-slavery cause, he did not count himself among them. Only with emancipation , and with his support of the eventual 13th Amendment , would Lincoln finally win over the most committed abolitionists. His views became clear during an series of debates with his opponent in the Illinois race for U. What he did believe was that, like all men, blacks had the right to improve their condition in society and to enjoy the fruits of their labor.
The Emancipation Proclamation, they also learned, was a critically important step in achieving that goal. Many historians have called this old conventional wisdom into question, arguing that Lincoln was not really motivated by commitment to end slavery. How come it took him two whole years to free the slaves? His pen was sitting on his desk the entire time. It did not apply to slaves in the loyal slave states or in those parts of the Confederacy under Union control.
Abraham Lincoln's position on slavery is one of the most discussed aspects of his life. Lincoln . Lincoln was morally opposed to slavery and politically opposed to any expansion of it. . that it would not stop the federal government from adopting a host of antislavery policies, without actually violating the Federal Consensus.
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Books about Abraham Lincoln often tell us as much about the authors and their times as about their subject. Although Lincoln died a century and a half ago, we see him as our contemporary. When optimism about race relations wanes, so does adulation of Lincoln. Fred Kaplan, who insists that even Lincoln could never bring himself to embrace racial equality, concludes his new book with references to Ferguson, white nationalism and the rise of the alt-right. The author of several well-regarded biographies, including one of Lincoln, Kaplan is at his best with his brief portraits of a diverse cast of characters. Others, including the black abolitionist H.
Last week, writing about the Bloomington event to celebrate Dred Scott, I threatened to come back to the topic to explore the importance of the U. But no abolitionist could ever have become president in He represented clients on both sides of the issue. In the worst instance, he represented a Kentucky slaveholder seeking to have his slaves returned to him by the courts of Illinois. Lincoln lost the case, by the way. In letters and occasional remarks that have been preserved, he expressed his view that it was morally wrong for one human to own another.
Part 1: Part 2: Part 3: Resource Bank Contents. On November 6, Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States -- an event that outraged southern states. The Republican party had run on an anti-slavery platform, and many southerners felt that there was no longer a place for them in the Union.