Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) served as the 16th President of America. He is widely recognized because of his influence during the American Civil War. He became the president at a time when America was experiencing diverse political and social challenges. Given the state of enslavement and evolving conflicting ideas, the Union had become mostly divided and was about to split. Therefore, Lincoln faced one of the biggest challenges in America’s history as he struggled to address the challenges in the Union. Eventually, he led America until the end of the Civil War, united the southern and the northern and ended slavery. Lincoln took charge of the issues in the midst of the challenges offering lasting solutions that could later present a constructive influence in the United States (McGovern 3-7). Several historians have examined President’s Lincoln contribution and influence to America’s history and development. Some historians consider him the greatest American president; others consider him the Great Emancipator while others consider him both.
I agree with the historians that President Abraham Lincoln remains to be America’s greatest president. Lincoln served as America’s president for 5 years, between 1861 and 1865. Because of his contribution to American history and being the first incumbent president to be assassinated, the name Abraham Lincoln is embedded in not only the collective memory and conscience of all Americans but also in other historians and people across the world. Despite his sudden death, which occurred by assassination, his name has remained iconic in America’s history because of his huge impact. He led America in a very divisive period. American was going through a bad Civil War, and the south and north were divided on the issue of slavery. While the north grew fast to an industrial region proving its aggressiveness than the south, the south’s economy relied on cotton and used forced slave labor. For the north, enslavement was immoral and unethical, but the southerners considered it central to their culture. Given Lincoln’s election to the presidency, the southern states started to withdraw from the union, which subsequently led to the start of the Civil War that claimed the lives of about 620,000 soldiers (McGovern 11-4). During his presidential campaigns, Lincoln vowed to abolish enslavement. He also suggested how the Union would maintain its relations with the southerners in the aftermath of the emancipation.
President Abraham Lincoln is the greatest American president since he played a central role to preserve the union, end slavery, as well as enact many new policies. A key unique feature he demonstrated is that of never giving up and prioritizing the needs of American citizens. Besides being confident and strong, he had confidence in his philosophies to create a united America. Unlike the other former American presidents, Abraham Lincoln died leaving behind a united and transformed nation. Lincoln set America in a new course at a time when the Americans coming to terms with the effects of the Civil War and the abolition of slavery. In a great way, he inspired confidence among Americans, both the white people and African Americans; thus, meeting the requirement of his greatness. His efforts to unite the North and South defined the foundations and philosophies of American politics, as well as democracy. By amassing political coalition of northern and southern states, Lincoln successfully enabled America to advance into a new era (McGovern 27-9). The reason why Lincoln stands out is that the transformation he pioneered has proved the most lasting and profound compared to the other past presidents. That is why he continues to influence the minds and hearts of many Americans to this day.
While I support the historians’ view that Abraham Lincoln was America’s greatest president, I reject their view that he was also the Great Emancipator. After his election, he implemented measures to end existing separation of the Southern states from the Union. The fact that his efforts of uniting the Southern States coincided with the Emancipation can be viewed as a coincidence. The term emancipator refers to a person who frees slaves from oppression and enslavement. For Lincoln, his primary priority when he became president was to unite the Southern and Northern states and not to end slavery. Like the other white supremacist, Lincoln believed on the superiority of the white people over the African-Americans. One can view his efforts to end slavery as an issue of publicity and politics. In a way, Lincoln advocated the end of slavery in Southern states since he wanted to get the approval of the public(Press53). Although he signed the Emancipation Proclamation, he was not the Great Emancipator.
As America’s President, Lincoln wanted to unite the South and North, creating one America. The majority of people tend to believe that the American Civil War was a cause to freeing slaves and ending slavery. The fact is that the Civil War was geared towards creating one Union. Lincoln viewed that the Union would split permanently if he did nothing; thus, the need for the Civil War to unite the states. That means President Lincoln undertook any measure to ensure that he saved the Union. For instance, in one of the letters from 1862, President Lincoln is noted proclaiming that he wanted to help and liberate the Blacks and end slavery in the South since he viewed that it would be fundamental in saving the Union. What better way to save a Union about to collapse than to address one of the dominant social challenges of his time and win the public’s support. Once the people realized Lincoln’s nobility in ending slavery, they also supported his efforts to include the Southern States in the Union. He led people to believing that the Civil war could liberate slaves(Press 67). He considered that the South would stop resisting from joining the Union when their control of slaves and enslavement was threatened. From such a view, Lincoln did not care about the end of slavery but rather the Union.
Largely, it is wrong to label President Lincoln the Great Emancipator since he also viewed and supported the idea that the white people were superior to African-Americans. A leader cannot have such an opposing view while at the same time engage in the emancipation process. Besides, President Lincoln supported that there were distinct differences between the African-Americans and the white people. For instance, during the Lincoln-Douglas Debate President Lincoln explains his views how Blacks are inferior in terms of academic and moral talent. Lincoln also viewed that African-Americans were unequal in political and social aspects; thus, his opposition of them to become office holders, voters, and jurors or intermarry with the whites(Press 82). Since he believed that the whites were superior, he was ok with the African-Americans being treated unequally. Therefore, his proposal and signing of the Emancipation proclamation was directed at pleasing the masses and not to free African-Americans.
My analysis has proved that President Lincoln was the greatest American president but not the Great Emancipator. He was a Great president because of his huge impact he had on American’s union and history. He played a central role to preserve the union, end slavery, as well as enact many new policies. He also supported all citizens and prioritized their needs. He ultimately united and transformed nation. I reject the idea that Lincoln was the Great Emancipator. He believed on the superiority of the white people. He ended slavery since he wanted to get the approval of the public. Lincoln supported the distinct differences between the African-Americans and the white people and inequality.
McGovern, George S. Abraham Lincoln: The American Presidents Series: The 16th President, 1861-1865. Times Books/Henry Holt and Co., 2009.
Press, David Paul. Abraham Lincoln: the Great Emancipator. Crabtree Publishing Company, 2013.