Rise of Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln is now the best known American in history, but until he won the Republican presidential nomination in 1860 he was a comparatively obscure political leader and attorney from Springfield, Illinois.  Yet James Oakes argues in the second chapter of his book, The Radical and the Republican (2007) that if Lincoln was little known, he was nonetheless entirely representative of an emerging antislavery consensus that was increasingly binding together the opponents of slavery on the basis of free soil principles.  Students in History 117 should be able to explain Lincoln’s antebellum views about slavery and why both the Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854) and the Dred Scott Decision (1857) proved to be so pivotal in shaping his antislavery positions.  Students should also use this opportunity before the field trip on Saturday to explore the House Divided website “Lincoln Douglas Debates Digital Classroom” which offers an array of tools for understanding Lincoln as a politician in the 1850s.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Rise of Lincoln

  1. Natalie says:

    In Chapter 2 of Oakes’ book, he concisely summarizes Lincoln’s views on slavery: “Slavery is wrong; its expansion should therefore be restricted” (p. 54) However, during his earlier phase in politics, Lincoln did not focus his energy solely on the slavery issue. Similar to Henry Clay, Lincoln believed that, in time, the American people would come to realize the evil of slavery and end it voluntarily. Henry Clay played a significant role in shaping and influencing Lincoln’s feelings toward the institution of slavery. I also found it interesting that even though Clay took a firm stance against slavery, he could not separate himself from the practice.

    The repeal of the Missouri Compromise was a turning point for Lincoln. He began to speak out against slavery instead of waiting around for the people to abolish it themselves. With this, Lincoln established the Republican Party. He hoped to unite all politicians with similar views, however, he realized later on that they were still not unified in their core beliefs. Oakes goes on to explain Lincoln’s reasoning as to why slavery is wrong. He places a large emphasis on upward mobility. Because Lincoln grew up in the backcountry with limitations on opportunities for education, this issue was Lincoln’s core argument against slavery.

  2. Cory says:

    Lincoln was an opponent of slavery be cause the story of a slave rising through society is not unlike his own story. Lincoln was born in rural Illinois, and brought up with a very blue-collar background. Lincoln believed in he plausibility of “upward mobility” because he himself exemplified its potential. Lincoln was gradual in voicing the extent of his disdain for slavery. Through Oakes’ book, we can bare witness to Lincoln’s evolution as a politician. However, I would surmise that it’s destruction was Lincoln’s objective throughout the conflict. Lincoln, to Douglass’ dismay, took a very politician-like approach to the abolition of slavery. Lincoln knew that resorting to radical means from the onset would spell instant defeat for the idea. Lincoln knew that a slow methodical process would be the only cure for the virus that was slavery.
    The Dred Scott case was a particularly damaging decision. It was a case that attempted to interpret the constitutions views on a subject that was simply not addressed in the document. Justice Roger Taney (a Dickinson graduate) ruled harshly against the slaves, repealing the Missouri compromise and stating that slaves could never be considered citizens. This, along with input from associates like Henry Clay, contributed to Lincoln’s progressive and “antebellum” view of slavery.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>