When Lincoln Risked It All

President Abraham Lincoln

President Abraham Lincoln

Philip B. Kunhardt III made the point in his article ‘Lincoln’s Contested Legacy’ (Smithsonian, Feb. 2009) that President Lincoln risked his political career and his reelection in 1864 by staking his “campaign on a controversial platform calling for the 13th Amendment,” and “just for his work on behalf of the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery in the United States, ” Lincoln “has earned a permanent place in the history of human freedom.”
 
Lincoln didn’t think he was going to be reelected to a second term as president. The war had not gone well. There was talk of even suspending elections. But Lincoln insisted that the elections take place, partly to show that the rebellion could not and would not frustrate that most important American right-to vote in free elections.
 
When Lincoln won reelection by an overwhelming victory in November 1864, “he obtained a mandate to carry through his program” (the 13th Amendment). W.E.B. DuBois said this about Lincoln:
 
“Lincoln is to me the most human and lovable. And I love him not because he was perfect but because he was not and yet triumphed.”
 
The passage of the 13th Amendment was personally signed by President Lincoln. He was not required to sign it, by the way. He believed in it so strongly that he wanted to sign it as a testament (at least that’s what I’m thinking) to say: “It’s done-the evil of slavery is finished in the United States.” And that’s the reason he risked it all in the first place. 
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2 Responses to “When Lincoln Risked It All”

  1. B. Nash says:

    Yes, there will be more on the 13th Amendment. People tend to totally leave that momentous Lincoln acheivement out of the discussion when being critical of him on race!

  2. Chris says:

    Thanks for making a post about this! There’s a lot of misunderstandings about Lincoln and emancipation, slavery, and race. Lincoln’s efforts to end slavery and his adherence to the belief that “all men are created equal” were one of the reasons why I began to admire Lincoln in the first place. It is still one of the aspects of Lincoln that interests me the most. People need to realize that when Lincoln dealt with the slavery issue he was often dealing with a public that did not necessarily support him.

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