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Lincoln and Freedom

Slavery, Emancipation, and the Thirteenth Amendment

Edited by Harold Holzer and Sara Vaughn Gabbard

Publication Year: 2007

Lincoln’s reelection in 1864 was a pivotal moment in the history of the United States. The Emancipation Proclamation had officially gone into effect on January 1, 1863, and the proposed Thirteenth Amendment had become a campaign issue. Lincoln and Freedom: Slavery, Emancipation, and the Thirteenth Amendment captures these historic times, profiling the individuals, events, and enactments that led to slavery’s abolition. Fifteen leading Lincoln scholars contribute to this collection, covering slavery from its roots in 1619 Jamestown, through the adoption of the Constitution, to Abraham Lincoln’s presidency.

             This comprehensive volume, edited by Harold Holzer and Sara Vaughn Gabbard, presents Abraham Lincoln’s response to the issue of slavery as politician, president, writer, orator, and commander-in-chief. Topics include the history of slavery in North America, the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision, the evolution of Lincoln’s view of presidential powers, the influence of religion on Lincoln, and the effects of the Emancipation Proclamation.

             This collection effectively explores slavery as a Constitutional issue, both from the viewpoint of the original intent of the nation’s founders as they failed to deal with slavery, and as a study of the Constitutional authority of the commander-in-chief as Lincoln interpreted it. Addressed are the timing of Lincoln’s decision for emancipation and its effect on the public, the military, and the slaves themselves.

             Other topics covered include the role of the U.S. Colored Troops, the election campaign of 1864, and the legislative debate over the Thirteenth Amendment. The volume concludes with a heavily illustrated essay on the role that iconography played in forming and informing public opinion about emancipation and the amendments that officially granted freedom and civil rights to African Americans.

             Lincoln and Freedom provides a comprehensive political history of slavery in America and offers a rare look at how Lincoln’s views, statements, and actions played a vital role in the story of emancipation.


Published by: Southern Illinois University Press

Title Page

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

In 1995, The Lincoln Museum opened in its current location to much fanfare and the involvement of Lincolnians everywhere. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History loaned its copies of the Emancipation Proclamation and the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, both signed by Lincoln, for the opening temporary exhibit. Little did I know ...

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pp. 1-6

"A King’s cure for all the evils.” With that exuberant assessment, Abraham Lincoln publicly celebrated congressional passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution abolishing slavery.1 The House and Senate had at last approved and sent the long-awaited amendment to the states. The president’s own home state—Illinois—had already acted with breathtaking speed to become the first...

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1. Slavery during Lincoln’s Lifetime

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pp. 7-19

By the time Abraham Lincoln was born, in February of 1809, African bondage in North America was already almost two centuries old. The first Africans were brought to Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619 by Dutch traders. These captives worked in the tobacco fields, saving the struggling colony from extinction. Their labor helped it to become the first permanent British colony in North America. By the mid-eighteenth century, this informal system of forced labor...

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2. Lincoln’s Critique of Dred Scott as a Vindication of the Founding

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pp. 20-36

The Dred Scott case placed on trial the very moral foundations of the American regime. This pivotal event during the Civil War era compelled a pointed reexamination of the republic’s origins and ends. The very soul of the nation was on trial, not to mention the legitimacy of the Republican Party and its core principle: the containment and ultimate...

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3. Lincoln and the Limits of Constitutional Authority

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pp. 37-47

Abraham Lincoln was a lawyer. He practiced law longer than he did anything else in his fifty-six years of life. Furthermore, the law was not just his profession. It was the means for his escape from rural poverty, his climb to social respectability, and the creation of his identity. In the legal profession, Lincoln found acceptance, friendship, and affirmation of his abilities. Certainly, politics was a career he...

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4. Lincoln, God, and Freedom: A Promise Fulfilled

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pp. 48-64

When Abraham Lincoln assumed the office of the presidency, he declared at the outset of his inaugural address that he had “no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists.” He was quoting from his first debate with U.S. Senator Stephen A. Douglas in August 1858 and added, “I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.” Appealing to ...

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5. “Sublime in Its Magnitude”: The Emancipation Proclamation

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pp. 65-78

Which would you rather memorize? This sentence: “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” Or this: ...

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6. Lincoln’s Summer of Emancipation

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pp. 79-99

The question sounds simple. When did Abraham Lincoln write the Emancipation Proclamation? Yet the answer is complicated, depending not only on definitions (which proclamation?) but also on historical method. Some of the nation’s finest historians disagree rather sharply over which account of Lincoln’s mysterious drafting process offers the most credibility. On the apparently prosaic matter of exactly when and where...

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7. The Role of the Press

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pp. 100-112

The importance of the press, the medium during the nineteenth century, is well known. Popular knowledge of major events was disseminated by the newspapers throughout the country, and although they often copied from one another and reported matters in similar language, when friendly to Lincoln and stressing his progressive actions, their contribution to his reputation for giving freedom to African Americans, supporting...

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8. Marching to Freedom: The U.S. Colored Troops

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pp. 113-129

President Abraham Lincoln had guided the nation through a harsh and bloody civil war caused by the nation’s inability to solve the problem of slavery. In 1863, he had issued a historic antislavery document, the Emancipation Proclamation, but its validity after the war’s conclusion was uncertain. There was need for something more definitive, and the result was the Thirteenth Amendment, passed in January...

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9. Lincoln and the Rhetoric of Freedom

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pp. 130-142

Jubilant crowds surged towards the White House on the evening of February 1, 1865, one day after the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment. Residents and visitors to Washington converged along the driveway that led to the north portico of the White House. They were coming to offer their thanks to President Abraham Lincoln for his leadership in the successful effort to pass the new amendment that outlawed slavery...

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10. Ballots over Bullets: Freedom and the 1864 Election

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pp. 143-159

Abraham Lincoln ran for election many times in his life. Never would his victory at the ballot box be as important to the future of the nation as it was in 1864. Few moments and events in American history would so test the political will of the American people—and their resolve to be free—as the presidential canvass of 1864. It was a critical test of democracy, the final proof that a nation, not so overbearing...

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11. The Constitution, the Amendment Process, and the Abolition of Slavery

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pp. 160-179

Apeculiar ambiguity appears in scholarship concerning the abolition of slavery in the United States. The principal agency of slave emancipation and the means by which it was accomplished are unclear. The Emancipation Proclamation, once the most famous freedom document in American history, is routinely questioned with...

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12. The Thirteenth Amendment Enacted

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pp. 180-194

With his overwhelming victory in the election of 1864, Abraham Lincoln found his pockets full of political capital, and he chose to spend much of it making sure that the constitutional amendment abolishing slavery was enacted as quickly as possible. He declared the vote a sign that the people now were united behind the emancipation program he had helped to launch more than two years earlier. “It is the voice ...

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13. “That Which Congress So Nobly Began”: The Men Who Passed the Thirteenth Amendment Resolution

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pp. 195-212

An otherwise ordinary session of the House of Representatives was disrupted on June 27, 1922. The House adjourned for five minutes to receive an honored guest. Cornelius Cole, visiting the U.S. Capitol for the first time in more than fifty years, stood to address the chamber. The members sat respectively attentive to the frail man, who was one of their own. Just shy of his one hundredth birthday, this former ...

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14. The End of the Beginning: Abraham Lincoln and the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments

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pp. 213-232

When Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence, he eloquently defined the promise of America—freedom and equality for all. But putting this simple and cherished concept into practice required the blood and sweat of countless individuals in succeeding generations, black and white alike. Perhaps no other leader in American history fully appreciated the import of this human struggle more...

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15. Picturing Freedom: The Thirteenth Amendment in the Graphic Arts

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pp. 233-258

An unusual and “profound silence” gripped the bustling House of Representatives on January 31, 1865, as members of Congress began casting their history-altering votes on whether to approve the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution abolishing slavery. But as soon as the final tally was announced—119 yeas to 56 nays, more ...


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pp. 259-262


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pp. 263-271

The Lincoln Museum

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p. 272-272

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780809387533
Print-ISBN-13: 9780809327645

Publication Year: 2007