Lincoln’s View of Slavery Before and During Civil War

Subject: History
Pages: 3
Words: 876
Reading time:
4 min
Study level: College


The United States of America has proceeded a long way toward eliminating racial prejudice and stereotypes. The Civil War marked the start of this process, and President Lincoln became a symbol of the struggle for the country unit and the abolition of enslavement. However, his vision of slavery and the actions to repeal it were influenced by external circumstances. Although the president was not eager to free the slaves at the beginning of the war, as the conflict became more prolonged, their emancipation became not just a moral duty but a necessity.

Main body

Lincoln’s view of the slavery problem may seem detached or cold. His home state was Kentucky, the most pro-slavery state, which could significantly affect the president’s worldview. Lincoln clearly stated his position by saying that he always hated slavery in 1958 during his Senate run (McPherson, 2015). However, he did not recognize such feelings towards slaveholders and was confused about what would happen after emancipation – whether the situation would improve. His contradictory view is justified by these reflections, as well as his aspirations as a politician to unite the lands competently.

Although the Northern States opposed slavery, at the same time, they were against the African-American population. The northerners were afraid of the prospect of the appearance of a large number of freed slaves. Moreover, Lincoln could not ban slavery without losing the favor of the border slave-owning states within the Union. Since the president’s main goal was to save and reunite the Union, the abolition of slavery was not on the agenda. Moreover, Lincoln ordered to return of the refugee slaves to their owners. However, later, in August 1861, Congress passed the first Confession Act, proclaiming the release of all enslaved who came to Union representatives (Gallagher & Waugh, 2019). In July 1862, a second Confiscation Act was signed, although Lincoln reluctantly approved it (Gallagher & Waugh, 2019). Thus, at the dawn of the Civil War, the president preferred not to raise the issue of slavery abolition since he believed that such actions at that moment would have negative consequences.

It is important to note that Lincoln considered such a solution to the problem of slaves as colonization. The president believed that the relocation of African Americans to Central America would save them from prejudice and allow them to build a new society. He presented this idea to African-American leaders at a Washington meeting in 1862 (Gallagher & Waugh, 2019). They did not like the proposal, and the subsequent attempt to colonize Haiti was a failure. As a result, Lincoln abandoned this idea, but the situation demonstrates his tendency to racism, besides his hatred of slavery.

The civil war by 1862 had already lasted longer than politicians expected. Moreover, the Northern States lost several battles in a row. Lincoln concluded that at such a moment, emancipation is a decision that can provide more people in the army and allies from Europe (Bromwich, 2017). Nevertheless, guided by supporters’ advice, he could not declare a decision on emancipation after a series of losing battles. In this case, the pronouncement would look like a step provoked by despair. For this reason, President Lincoln was forced to wait for the winning fight, which became the Battle of Antietam. It gave the prerequisites for speaking from a position of strength.

At first, the possibility of emancipation acted as an instrument of pressure on the Confederacy. On September 22, 1862, President Lincoln issued a military order, according to which, if the Southerners did not return to the Union before the New Year, all slaves would be freed (Gallagher & Waugh, 2019). When the southern states did not surrender on January 1, 1863, the president signed the Emancipation Proclamation (“The Emancipation Proclamation,” 2020). Although the decree did not free the slaves, it became a victory for abolitionists. The end of slavery became inevitable when the confederation was defeated in 1865.

Another expected result was also achieved – Proclamation attracted black soldiers to the army of the northerners. Such an outcome of events met resistance, both from the army of the Confederation and the Union. The southern states promised to shoot all the officers of the opponent and return the slaves. At the same time, the army of the Northern States perceived the new soldiers ambiguously, allowing prejudice. They were primarily seen as working battalions, as white officers believed that African-Americans might not be smart enough to serve as a soldier. However, the new employees showed good results and became the undeniable advantage of the Union army.


In conclusion, President Abraham Lincoln, as the majority of the population of the northern states, although opposed to slavery, showed a tendency to racism. He feared that many liberated African-Americans would create an adverse environment in the country and could not find a solution to improve the situation for a long time. In the early years of the Civil War, the need to maintain the Union’s slave states’ favor was another critical factor, which overshadowed slavery abolition. For Lincoln, the priority task was to save the Union and reunite lands. Protracted hostilities forced the president to reconsider positions and sign The Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. This action attracted new African-American soldiers and initiated the end of slavery in America.


Bromwich, D. (2017). Lincoln as realist and revolutionist. Raritan, 36(4), 1-21. Web.

Gallagher, G. W., & Waugh, J. (2019). The American war: A history of the Civil War Era (2nd edition). Flip Learning. Web.

McPherson, J. M. (2015). The war that forged a nation: Why the Civil War still matters. Oxford University Press, Incorporated.

The Emancipation Proclamation. (2019). Web.