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Lincoln and the Politics of SlaveryThe Other Thirteenth Amendment and the Struggle to Save the Union$
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Daniel W. Crofts

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781469627311

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469627311.001.0001

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The Republican Party, Abraham Lincoln, and the Problem of the Constitution

The Republican Party, Abraham Lincoln, and the Problem of the Constitution

(p.56) 3 The Republican Party, Abraham Lincoln, and the Problem of the Constitution
Lincoln and the Politics of Slavery

Daniel W. Crofts

University of North Carolina Press

Chapter Three shows that the Republican Party, established in the mid-1850s, was dominated by moderates—most notably, Abraham Lincoln. They insisted that the territorial issue alone best demonstrated the party’s antislavery principles while at the same time respecting the Union and the Constitution. Republicans of all types distanced themselves from abolitionists and emphasized that they posed no threat to slavery in the states where it existed. Lincoln endlessly professed confidence that stopping the spread of slavery to the territories would be the first step toward ultimately ending it. But his private surmise was more pessimistic. In 1855 he wrote an anguished lament to George Robertson, an eminent Kentucky jurist, who several decades before had looked forward to “the peaceful extinction of slavery.” Lincoln sadly suggested that history had taken a wrong turn and that there was “no peaceful extinction of slavery in prospect for us.” One must conclude that territorial restriction was, for Lincoln, a barren hope, a necessary ploy to secure the allegiance of voters who yearned for slavery’s demise.

Keywords:   Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Pierce, William Henry Seward, Republican Party, Stephen A. Douglas, Illinois, John A. Bingham, US Constitution, Union, slavery in the territories

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