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 Posted: Thu Sep 11th, 2008 11:05 pm
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Wrap10
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"One section of our country believes slavery is right, and ought to be extended, while the other believes it is wrong, and ought not to be extended. This is the only substantial dispute."

That's from Lincoln's first inaugural speech. It's about as succinct, and accurate, an explanation of what caused secession and war as anyone could have made, then or now.

The previous quote, referring to Lincoln's letter to Horace Greeley, is an accurate reflection of Lincoln's priorities relative to the Union itself. But there are two things that I think are usually missed when folks quote that passage to 'prove' that slavery was not the cause of secession and war. First, that it does not alter anything that took place prior to secession, which is where we have to look for the cause of secession. And second is what I consider to be an important point that Lincoln made in his letter - " My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and it is not either to save or to destroy slavery."


That's my emphasis, above. But I think that phrasing is significant. Lincoln's primary goal in the war was to restore the Union. Once that was done they could talk about the future of slavery. But the threat to the Union was being caused by slavery, or more specifically, the argument over slavery's future. Lincoln's ultimate goal for slavery was its extinction, but his preferred method was a gradual extinction, for several reasons. But the war created its own dynamic, and of necessity greatly accelerated his approach to slavery's extinction.

But the point here is that, as he indicated in his inaugural speech, Lincoln understood that the root cause of the war was the sectional friction over slavery. And it's worth noting that Lincoln held the entire country, and not only the South, responsible for the institution.

As for the original question, concerning whether Lincoln was a tyrant - no, not to me.

Perry

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