Lincoln’s Presidency Inaugural address (March, 1861)



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Lincoln’s Presidency
Inaugural address (March, 1861)

  • Issues Lincoln faced

    • Seven states had seceded and formed Confederate State of America, Civil War Likely

    • 8 More slave states remained in the Union

    • What Lincoln said…

  • Slavery would not be touched

  • ``I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.''

  • War would not be started by North

  • “The Union… will constitutionally defend and maintain itself. In doing this there needs to be no bloodshed or violence; and there shall be none, unless forced upon the national authority. The power confided to me, will be used to hold, occupy, and possess the property, and places belonging to the government…“In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The government will not assail you. You can have no conflict, without being yourselves the aggressors.”


Inaugural Address goals

  • Soothe the South, reassure slave states that had not seceded, and prevent war if possible

    • “I am loth to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, streching from every battle-field, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”


Ft. Sumter (April 12, 1861)

  • Issues: Union fort in Charleston South Carolina was running out of supplies, surrounded by Confederate artillery, and advisors and generals suggested the fort be abandoned.

  • Lincoln had pledged to maintain existing federal territories.

  • Lincoln sent supplies only and notified South Carolina’s governor.

  • Jefferson Davis ordered attack. Ft. Sumter surrendered.

  • Consequences

  • Confederacy looked like aggressor to world

  • Union outraged, Lincoln calls for 75,000 troops

  • Four more slave states secede (Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas), but four do not (Kentucky, Missouri, Maryland, Delaware.



Bull Run (21 July 1861)

  • Pressure for war was high.

  • Northerners expected quick victory, newspapers were crying, “On to Richmond!”

  • 75,000 Volunteers were nearly finished with 90 day term

  • Union Lost

  • People realized war might be much longer


Trent Affair (8 November 1861)

  • Confederate ambassadors James Mason and John Slidell were heading to England aboard and English Ship (San Jacinto)

  • Union Ship Trent fired across the British ship (an act of war technically) and took Mason and Slidell Prisoner

  • Britain calling for war, many Northerners want war as well with Britain

  • Lincoln releases Mason and Slidell, but sends a non-apology to Britain so Union saves face

  • “One war at a time” says Lincoln to Sec. of State Seward


Border States (Maryland, Kentucky, Missouri, and Delaware) 1861-1862

Why they are essential

  • If Maryland seceded, Washington D.C. would be located in the Confederacy.

  • If Kentucky went, the Union would lose control of the Ohio River.

  • If Missouri seceded, the Union loses access to the Mississippi.

  • If all three of those states seceded, the Confederacy would increase its white population by 45% and its ability to manufacture goods and weapons would increase 80%. Thus, Lincoln needed these states, and he especially feared that if Kentucky seceded, the other two would go.

  • “I hope to have God on our side, but I must have Kentucky.”

How Lincoln maintains them

  • In general

  • Lincoln is careful to avoid making them angry or fear they will lose slaves in the beginning of the war when their loyalty is uncertain.

  • Maryland

  • Suspends writs of habeas Corpus to prevent Confederate sympathizers from destroying railroads, arrests legislators who were meeting to potentially form their own Union.

  • Kentucky

  • -Ignores Kentucky’s (technically illegal) neutrality proclamation, does not allow troops to enter into Kentucky until Confederate forces do first. Kentucky sees Confederacy as aggressor

  • Missouri

  • -Reverses Fremont’s order to emancipate slaves of those who aid rebellion

  • -Lincoln’s reversal of Fremont’s order keeps both Missouri and Kentucky in Union hands.



Progress of War (August 1861-August 1862

  • In the East, little happens as McClellan trains and parades troops, but always fears being outnumbered. When he does attack, Army of the Potomac mostly retreats and loses even though outnumbering Confederates.

  • In West, Grant wins victories at Ft. Henry, Ft. Donelson, and barely wins extremely bloody Battle of Shiloh in April, 1861

  • Shiloh proves to everyone the war will be neither quick nor bloodless

  • Grant is rumored to be a drunk, Lincoln refuses to replace him.

  • “I can’t spare this man. He fights.”


Moving Toward Emancipation

  • May, 1861--General Butler take slaves who enter Union Army lines as “contraband.” Lincoln accepts this, does not have slaves returned to their master

  • August 1862--Lincoln meets with group of free black people to propose colonization (the moving of African Americans to Liberia or the Caribbean)

  • This suggests Lincoln might be thinking of freeing the slaves even though he is talking about removing black people from U.S.

  • Message to Congress on March 6, 1862--Lincoln once again recommended that Congress pass a resolution offering to pay owners in the border states or any other states for their slaves in return for the freeing of slaves.

  • May 19, 1862 Lincoln cancelled Hunter’s proclamation freeing slaves in parts of Georgia and South Carolina. Lincoln argued that no commander in the field was authorized to make such a decision. But Lincoln did go on to say that the president, as commander in Chief could decide if freeing the slaves became necessary in order to win the war.

  • 13 July 1862--Lincoln tells two cabinet members he has decided on emancipation. “We must free the slaves or be ourselves subdued.... The Administration must set an example, and strike at the heart of the rebellion.”

  • On July 22, 1862, Lincoln met with his cabinet telling them that he had decided to emancipate the slaves. (Most think Lincoln decided by July to emancipate the slaves). Seward advised him to wait for a Union victory so it would not look desperate.

  • A month after he had definitely decided to issue the emancipation proclamation, Lincoln wrote a letter to Horace Greeley (August 22, 1862), the editor of a major New York newspaper.

  • “I would save the Union…. 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; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union… I have here stated my purpose according to my views of official duty; and I intend no modification of my…. personal wish that all men every where could be free.”

  • Since Lincoln had already decided to free the slaves, and since his last sentence suggests he always wanted personally for slaves to be free, this letter may show that Lincoln was simply trying to maximize support for emancipation and did really care more about ending slavery than the first part of letter suggests.

“Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history. We of this Congress and this administration, will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance, or insignificance, can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation. We say we are for the Union. The world will not forget that we say this. We know how to save the Union. The world knows we do know how to save it. We---even we here---hold the power, and bear the responsibility. In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free---honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best, hope of earth. Other means may succeed; this could not fail. The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just---a way which, if followed, the world will forever applaud, and God must forever bless.

–December 1, 1862. ABRAHAM LINCOLN in Annual Message to Congress


Antietam 17 September 1862

  • Battle takes place at Antietam Creek, Maryland

  • Bloodiest single day of fighting in the war as 6,000 soldiers died and 17,000 were wounded.

  • Significance: Confederacy retreated, so Lincoln had the victory he needed to issue Emancipation Proclamation.

  • On September 22nd, Lincoln issued a preliminary proclamation, and the official Emancipation Proclamation was published on January 1, 1863. Between September 22nd and January 1, any states willing to return back to the Union could avoid having their slaves freed. After January 1, all slaves within any state that was still rebelling would be “then, thenceforward, and forever free.”


Emancipation proclamation (January 1, 1863)

  • Freed only slaves in areas still in rebellion (no border state slaves were freed)

  • Justified freedom as a military necessity so president could issue it as command and chief

  • Allowed black people only the right to join the military

Why Emancipation Proclamation is so cautious in its wording, but of major historical significance

  • It set goal of Union war effort to free the slaves

  • Slaves in border states would obviously become free if slavery ended in Confederacy.

  • Allowing black people to join the military was a major civil right and avenue for black people to win more rights and respect

  • 180,000 black people would play a major role in helping North win.

  • Cautious language was less threatening to those who did not support emancipation, which was also Lincoln’s most unpopular act as president



Turning Point

  • Gettysburg July 1-3, 1863--Battle was the bloodiest in U.S. history, it was a major Confederate defeat and the South would never again invade the North.

  • Vicksburg July 4, 1863 Union now controls Mississippi River.


Election of 1864

  • McClellan ran as Democrat, Democrats wanted peace and to abandon emancipation.

  • Lincoln refused to abandon emancipation though he was urged by many

    • “If they stake their lives for us, they must be prompted by the strongest motive---even the promise of freedom. And the promise being made, must be kept.”

    • “I should be damned in time and eternity for so doing. The world shall know that I will keep my faith to friends and enemies, come what will.”

  • Sherman captured Atlanta, boosting morale and insuring Lincoln’s reelection.

  • Lincoln wins, most of the soldiers do not vote for McClellan


13th Amendment

  • Lincoln made deals with key Democrats to insure 2/3 vote in Congress for the 13th Amendment on Jan. 31, 1865.

  • Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

  • Section 2. Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.


Lincoln’s Plan for Reconstruction

Lincoln’s 10% Plan

-In 1863, Lincoln proposed that a state could form new Constitution as soon as 10% of population pledged loyalty to United States

-Lincoln pocket vetoed Wade-Davis Bill which would require 50% of state’s population to pledge loyalty and only non-Confederates could vote for new constitution.

Lincoln’s Last Speech

-Favored working with existing Louisiana Government, but suggested that intelligent black people and Union army veterans be allowed to vote.



-Lincoln’s plans for reconstruction were evolving, his original plan was a wartime measure, but as a whole he favored conciliation with Southerners along with an insistence on certain rights for freedmen.







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