Monday, December 2, 2013

Hold the Applause: Why Abraham Lincoln was No Hero

In history, we learn all about great men who worked to advance some noble cause. Deep down, I think we all realize that history has exaggerated these men's virtues. Nowhere is this more true than in relation to Abraham Lincoln.

History would like us to believe that Abraham Lincoln was a strong idealist who led the nation to a civil war in order to advance the worthy and noble cause for emancipation of African-American slaves. I have no reason to believe Abraham Lincoln was upset at this change, but examining his true intentions with the Civil War, we should not be so quick to herald Lincoln as the great liberator in the American south.

What better way is there to determine Lincoln's motivations than Lincoln's own words? In a 1862 letter to Horace Greeley, Lincoln writes,
"As to the policy I "seem to be pursuing"... I would save the Union... If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it...What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union."

Unfortunately, Abraham Lincoln was not an idealist hero. Instead, he was a political planner, who made every decision because "It helps to save the Union." He only freed the slaves because it became politically expedient for him to do so.

However, history has been most kind to Abraham Lincoln. He is now remembered for this exaggerated virtue, that is, idealistically fighting for freedom, rather than his political plans.

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