Abraham Lincoln was considered to be a moderate Republican. He ran on a platform that was for keeping slavery within the Southern states but would not allow it to expand into the western states. He won in 1860. This set off a chain reaction, by the rich Southern Plantation owners, to force Lincoln’s hand. Coming off a victory in the Senate and House in 1850 in which they forced through the Fugitive Slave Law that led to Blacks who escaped from slavery into a northern state, having to be returned to their masters in the South by northern law enforcement, this led to people such as Harriet Tubman having to start taking runaway slaves into Canada, because they were no longer safe in the United States.
Jefferson Davis and other plantation owners once again threatened to secede from the union if they weren’t given the right to expand their businesses into the new western states, but with the election of Lincoln, this was not going to happen. After a Peace Conference failed they formed the Confederacy, which began with seven southern states that were later joined by four more. This led to war.
Lincoln who never wanted war gave them every opportunity to reconsider to the point of upsetting his strongest supporters. Ending slavery in the Southern states was never put on the table, even though Garrison, Douglass and others strongly encouraged him to seize the opportunity and end slavery. Lincoln refused still believing this would be a disaster to the South, and the country as a whole. Not until the North started losing the war did he start listening to his generals, and others who wanted an end to slavery, and additional troops who would join if ending slavery became a part of the war.
He first threatened the Confederacy by telling them if they didn’t stop the rebellion he would free the slaves in September of 1862. He didn’t want to do it, but he would if there was no other way.
Well, there was no other way. The South continued to fight, thus came the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863, three years into the war.
This did pretty much what most people felt it would do. It encouraged Blacks to fight for their freedom, even though most were not allowed to fight in the Union army and most of all it gave White Americans who were against slavery something to fight for, and support physically as well as financially. Now the war was about ending slavery, which led to the tide changing in favor of the Union under the leadership of Ulysses S. Grant.
The Emancipation Proclamation didn’t free all slaves, just those living in Confederate states. It took the 13th Amendment in 1865 to end all slavery in the United States.
Even though Blacks who heard about it rejoiced all over the South, it really didn’t mean anything until that states were captured by Union troops. When General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Gen. Grant at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865, almost exactly four years after it officially started on April 12, 1861, Blacks were free.
It has been estimated that 200,000 Blacks fought for the union during those two years between Jan. 1, 1863 and April 9, 1865, with 30,000 giving their lives.
Once the war was over the newly freed slaves rejoiced, yet wondered what was going to become of them. They were no longer slaves, but no longer had the protection of their masters from roving Whites. They no longer had jobs. Many packed up what little they had and headed north while the rest remained to face whatever was ahead of them. Within 10 years after the Civil War, the Jim Crow system was implemented by the South, which in many ways reinstituted slavery throughout the south. It just wasn’t called that. This system like slavery became institutionalized throughout the South and became deeper and deeper entrenched until the Civil Rights fight began in the 1950s that finally led to the second Emancipation Proclamation, called the Civil Rights Act of 1965.
One of the most important friendships that developed during the Civil War was the one between President Abraham Lincoln and abolitionist Frederick Douglass.
Immediately after the Civil War began Douglass started to call for the use of Black troops to fight the Confederacy. He argued for the establishment of Colored regiments in the Union army. President Lincoln’s first concern was preserving the Union, however, so Douglass’ call at that time was not heeded.
Lincoln believed the primary directive of the North was to preserve the Union and not to end slavery. He proclaimed: “If I could save the Union, without freeing the slaves, I would do it. If I could do it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would do that. What I do about slavery and the Coloured race, I do becau
se I believe it would help to save the Union.”
In spite of the seeming pro-slavery policy of the Lincoln administration, Douglass was earnestly working in the President’s support. Douglass always emphasized “the mission of the war was the liberation of the slaves as well as the salvation of the Union.”
“I reproached the North that they fought with one hand, while they might fight more effectively with two; that they fought with the soft white hand, while they kept the black iron hand chained and helpless behind them; that they fought the effect, while they protected the cause; and said that the Union cause would never prosper until the war assumed an anti-slavery attitude and the Negro was enlisted on the side of the Union,” he said.