Abraham Lincoln: A Revolutionary

North American politician (near Hodgenville, Kentucky, 1809 - Washington 1865).

Abraham Lincoln

In 1816, his family settled in Indiana, and in 1830, they translated to Illinois. Lincoln was, as a consequence, a man from the west who carried the print of Jackson's democracy. He worked in different posts, but he didn't abandon his law studies, which allowed him to enter the Bar Association. In 1837, he opened a buffet in Springfield, city which he managed to transform into the capital of the state. Tall, strong, with an ungrateful face, unworried about elegance, Lincoln was a simple and humble man. Moreover, he didn't try to hide his simplicity and humbleness. However, he wasn't short of powerful friends. After his marriage, he was linked to a very rich family. The businesses which he took up, were mainly related to commerce houses and to transports societies. In 1834, he made his entry in politics: he was elected in the Illinois General Assembly, occupying a seat for 8 years. In 1846, he arrived to the House of Representatives. He wasn't a candidate in 1848, so he returned to his bar association, at the same time that he participated in the electoral campaign of 1852. He was a great admirer of Andrew Jackson and didn't resign from being a member of the Whig Party, where he managed several financial and military issues. At this point, he hadn't showed any signs of revolutionary yet.

At that time, the discussion about slavery disrupted the United States and the Whig Party was abolished in 1852. After this, Lincoln re-emerged in the political scenario and punished in his speech of Peoria (Illinois) the organization law of the territories of Kansas and Nebraska. In 1856, he campaigned endorsing John Ch. Frémont, the candidate of the new-created Republican Party (created in 1854). Lincoln was nearly chosen as candidate for the vice-presidency. 2 years later, Illinois had to elect one of his two senators. Lincoln presented his candidacy. His adversary, the democrat Stephen A. Douglas, was one of the main heads of the federal policy regarding slavery. 7 debates later, Lincoln lost, but he became a national hero.

Why? Because he was completely against slavery but he maintained the silence until 1854. Lincoln declared: "Slavery is founded in the selfishness of man's nature - opposition to it is in his love of justice." He believed that in the long term the problem could finish with the Republic and he refused to accept the extension of the particular institution. "Either the opponents of slavery, will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become alike lawful in all the states, old as well as new -- North as well as South". If the South wants to keep slavery, it is the only responsible, and should decide when and how would change its social organization. But the new territories should be free of slaves. Lincoln claimed in Peoria: "We want them for the homes of free white people. This they cannot be, to any considerable extent, if slavery shall be planted within them. Slave states are places for poor white people to remove from; not to remove to. New free states are the places for poor people to go to and better their condition. For this use, the nation needs these territories". However, Lincoln was not very sympathetic to the black people. Like the citizens of his state of Illinois, he was a moderate abolitionist but profoundly negrophobic. "Therefore, I shall say I'm not in favor of political and social equality between the black race and the white race, that I don't want, and never I wanted that the negroes became justices, electors or authorized to hold political responsibilities or allowed to marry white people [...] "As far as the two races cannot live this way, should exist, while they stay together, an inferior position and a superior position. I desire, like anyone else, that the white race occupied a superior position.

For Lincoln, the Declaration of Independence, which claims the equality between men, marks the objective to accomplish: the Constitution, which relented to slavery, establishes the principles of the action. And if the Republican Convention of 1860 chose this moderate as candidate for the presidential elections, was because he was able to gather a big portion of the electorate. However, the Republican Party rested on separated forces, in the alliance between the West and Northwest. That's how Lincoln was elected, despite having obtained only 38% of the votes. In the South, people thought that an extremist was going to enter the White House, further argument of the exaltation of the minds.

When he took charge of his presidential functions, on March 4, 1861, president Lincoln should deal with the 7 southern states that were in favor of recession. Later on, 4 other states would join them. A month later, the Civil War broke out. Five days after the capitulation of general Robert E. Lee, which marked the end of the tensions between the North and the South, Lincoln was murdered in a Washington theater by John Wilkes Booth. During those 4 years, he dedicated his time to defend the Union, to command the war and finally, contributed to strengthen the presidential function.

The Defense of the Union

For Lincoln, the states were indissolubly united. He declared this, the first day he was in Office. He refused until the last moment to use guns. He didn't encourage the slaves from the south to rebel against their owners. His purpose was not to emancipate the black people. In 1861, general Frémont shouted a proclamation of independence in the state of Missouri. Lincoln didn't approve it. In May 1862, general David Hunter declared free the slaves in the states of Georgia, Florida and South Carolina. Lincoln, surprisingly voided his actions, saying that his objective was not to save or abolish slavery, but to save The Union. If he could save The Union without liberating any slaves, then he would do it. But he found the only way to save it was to abolish slavery. But, as they have to satisfy the British popular opinion, the president delivered a preliminary proclamation, which would later become in January 1, 1863, the emancipation proclamation. This proclamation meant that all slaves living in the rebel states were to be emancipated, despite the fact that the federal government didn't have any control on those states. Lincoln end up recognizing that emancipation was something unavoidable, but the 13th amendment which prohibited slavery in all states was passed 8 months later, after the end of the combats.

If the safekeeping of The Union continued to be for him the main objective was because it was also the best guarantee for popular sovereignty. Lincoln declared in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania: "This Nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and the government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth".

The War Direction

On directing the War, Lincoln soon showed he was capable for carrying out his tasks pretty well. The military commanders in the South lacked imagination and energy: the general Winfield Scott had got older: the general George Brinton McClellan carried out an effective war but his successors were very incompetent. So, Lincoln imposed his strategy. The combats developed in two fronts: in Virginia, the troops from The Union wanted to hold Richmond, the rebel capital; at the west, they planned to take control of the state of Tennessee, dividing The Confederation in half. In all fronts, they defeated the adversary. Lincoln knew very well that the South People was fighting in their territory, defending their families and goods. Only the war of attrition, where the North was going to use all their resources, could shrink the resistance of the confederates and allow them to save The Union.

In 1863, Lincoln finally found the appropriate man: general Ulysses S. Grant, which was already famous in Vicksburg, took the rank of commander-in-chief of The Union Army. His successful victories in 1864 in Wilderness, Spottsylvania, Court House and Cold Harbor, as well as the devastating march leaded by general William Tecumseh Sherman through Georgia exhausted the resources of the South, now isolated from the exterior world.

The Interior Issues

Lincoln imposed a new style of government. In his cabinet, composed by democratic unionists, old whigs, and moderate and radical republicans, imposed a formidable authority. Indisputable chief of his party, he carried out the essentials of his program: protectionist tariffs, national bank system, free adjudication of 160 acres of land in the West, the construction of a transcontinental... With the Congress emerged two friction points: On one part, he made efforts to apply post-war policies to the rebels. On December 1863, the president proposed an amnesty for the South, to which was determined to sign an Oath of Loyalty and the recognition of the state governments that supported the abolishment of slavery and accepted the emancipation of former slaves. The Congress was more demanding and its law proposal was voided in 1864 by Lincoln. As the end of the combats was gradually getting closer and closer, the influence of the radicals increased, as well as the bitterness of the Congress regarding the extension of the presidential powers.

"Professional" on politics, moderate abolitionist, Lincoln never stopped being a statesman, whose qualities were confirmed over time. He disappeared from the political scenario when he was murdered by a fanatic author when the conflict between the government and the congress seemed inevitable and when the benefits obtained from the war were going to accelerate the industrial development in the North. His successors, weak, hesitant, surrounded sometimes by people of doubtful reputation, contributed to extolling his strong personality.

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