Abraham Lincoln has been depicted as the American Hero who abolished slavery. The American public, even today still believe that ‘Honest Abe’ was exactly that. Modern historians though have started to question this myth. Was Lincoln using the slavery issue to promote a ‘United States of America’? Was he really bothered about the slaves or was he a closet racist? The one thing that is unquestionable is that after the civil war slavery was abolished and America was united. Unfortunately, Lincoln did not see this as he was assassinated on 14th April 1865. The fact that Lincoln was President for only five years has left a lasting impression on Americans’ even today.
Even today, Americans still look to Abraham Lincoln as the Icon of Americas’ past. They believe that they are right, honest and lawful in all their actions, especially on moral grounds. This indoctrination starts virtually at birth, continues throughout their academic careers and beyond. It is now even shown in animated television programmes like “The Simpsons”. The crowd around Lincoln’s memorial asking for his advice is huge., however when the character “Lucy” went to Jefferson’s memorial there was nobody around. The answer to her question, which she had to reproduce in class, caused uproar. This shows that the writers of this program see Lincoln as the ideal role model for American society today and possibly as their First President.
The morality of slaves is not an issue. We all know that it is wrong. The truth though is that approximately twelve million slaves were exported from their homelands, against their wishes across the Atlantic. The slave trade started to die out in the 1830’s after Britain abolished slavery and used the Royal Navy to police the high seas to enforce this decision. Unfortunately, the southern states of America already had a self sustaining slave population. Slave owners had no inhibitions about slaves reproducing as after just a few years they had another slave to either work for them or to be sold on. These rich southern slave owners did not want to lose there free labour. As new states were formed they were given the choice on whether to be a ‘Free state’ or ‘Slave state’. Both sides of the argument rushed people into new territories in the hope of swaying the vote. Even a ‘Free State’ hurt the southern slave owners as this enabled runaway slaves a respite from persecution. Abraham Lincoln a Republican was elected President in 1860. The southern states were concerned that Lincoln would abolish slavery and consequently started to leave the Union. As far as they were concerned, the constitution had elected,
“…a man to High Office of President of the United States whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery…”
Lincoln however was not an abolitionist and he refused to compromise on keeping slavery out of the territories. He had throughout his campaign opposed any other anti slavery policies, and also promised to enforce the highly unpopular (in the north) Fugitive Slave act and respect the existing slave states. None of the politicians that ran for the presidency at that time advocated the abolition of slavery. They all thought that to do so would have been political suicide. Lincoln was elected President of the United States of America with 40% of the popular vote, but did not carry any of the southern ‘slave’ states. In his first inaugural address, he announced,