Seeing the Round Corners

HEADS UP, the new day for Seeing the Round Corners “GOING LIVE” is Tuesday each week. 

August 30-September 6, 2022

Former President Lincoln’s intentions as to the slaves were not at the front of his  presidential preparation prior to being elected, at least not that this writer could find any solid evidence of – only his writings to friends, colleagues and mention in his speeches. Solid Lincoln supporters are not real happy when this is pointed out, but it is an aspect that adds to the somewhat two-sided Lincoln obvious in his personality as historical scholars have made much of. It may also be an issue as those people of color press for payment of reparations. 

Now for today’s “column from the archives.” Note the similarity President Biden seems to follow in flip-flopping on his positions.

December 11, 2017 


Abraham Lincoln was a person of little formal education as is often pointed out. Perhaps this may have been a weakness not easily overcome, but it made Lincoln more reliant on those in his administration than a highly educated president would be.    

That being said, Allen Guelzo (author of Abraham Lincoln:  Redeemer President and Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation:  The End of Slavery in America), makes quite a different case for Lincoln issuing the Emancipation Proclamation.    

The complexity of the Emancipation Proclamation made for various interpretations of why Lincoln issued the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation and the Emancipation Proclamation at the time he did. The scenario Guelzo paints is quite the opposite of historical scholars as previously presented in earlier columns in this series.    

First, the case is made that ending slavery was originally a commitment of Lincoln’s but then attempts to interpret Lincoln’s action in the “context of political events,” even “noting with particular sadness the defection of African-Americans from the view of Lincoln as the Great Emancipator.”    

Guezlo attempts to give Lincoln vaulted recognition as a statesman in his (Lincoln’s) issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation when and in the way he did based on prudence-- a virtue Aristotle explained as “the practical wisdom that seeks the best means for achieving fixed ends.” If so, the question rises, what were Lincoln’s “fixed ends?”    

In historical accounts, there is a dearth of Lincoln’s plans to “pursue a policy of legislated, gradual, compensated emancipation from the outset of his presidency,” and “believing he could convince Congress to appropriate funds for compensating slave owners to gradually free their slaves.” Lincoln’s idea was to start “where slavery was weakest – the northern most slave states, especially Delaware.”    

To accomplish such a feat would have meant overcoming         obstacles such as: 1) state statutes would have to be changed by state legislators because the U. S. Constitution left the issue of slavery to the states at the time; and 2) the issue of slavery would need to be kept out of the federal court system for fear of what a potential judgment could mean.    

When the outbreak of the Civil War derailed Lincoln’s original plans of “shrinking slavery,” he continued to believe he could “end the rebellion, restore the Union and begin the end of slavery.” The border states rejected Lincoln’s efforts to pursue “compensated emancipation,” resulting in Lincoln issuing the Emancipation Proclamation.    

Lincoln’s decision to use the Emancipation Proclamation also proved to be disastrous for the elections in the 1862 elections with votes for Republicans declining by 16 percent. Perhaps demonstrative of Lincoln’s lack of experience was his failure to invoke his “war powers to declare a national emergency and suspend elections,” well within his authority as President.    

Present-day African-Americans are somewhat divided as to what the Emancipation Proclamation actually did with regard to freeing the salves. So many questions arise as to the constitutionality and whether Lincoln had authority over those States seceding from the Union.    

Perhaps African-Americans look at the way Lincoln treated the American Indians and take note of what Lincoln wrote to Horace Greeley included in last week’s column:  “. . . my paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and it is not either to save or 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.”


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