Images from the Secession Crisis1861 Cartoon

Historians have labored to show that most Republicans were not “radical abolitionists,” that they did not immediately threaten slavery in the fifteen states where it was legal. Lincoln wearily reiterated this point in his Inaugural, disavowing any intention to “interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists.”  But Republicans did endorse an antislavery agenda calculated to contain slavery and facilitate its eventual collapse. The fact that this would be entirely constitutional was of little comfort to those with an economic, political, or social stake in slavery as a labor system and a means of racial domination, and in the billions of dollars invested in four million enslaved people. Antebellum Republicans acknowledged that slavery was a state institution which Congress could not touch. Most abolitionists actually agreed, leading some of them to denounce the Constitution as a wickedly proslavery compact. But Republicans combined a variety of antislavery policy proposals to craft a strategy for bringing slavery to a gradual end. —Michael Woods, Causes of the Civil War

Lincoln’s Secession Crisis, And Ours

April 1861