Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Booknotes: Lincoln and the Abolitionists

New Arrival:
Lincoln and the Abolitionists by Stanley Harrold (SIU Press, 2018).

As its title suggests, the Concise Lincoln Library series offers "short, fresh, accessible books on the life, times, and legacy of Abraham Lincoln." At over two dozen titles, the series is one of the more prolific ones out there and shows no signs of slowing down. The latest release is Stanley Harrold's Lincoln and the Abolitionists, which "traces how, despite Lincoln’s political distance from abolitionists, they influenced his evolving political orientation before and during the Civil War."

From the description: "While explaining how the abolitionist movement evolved, Harrold also clarifies Lincoln’s connections with and his separation from this often fiery group. For most of his life Lincoln regarded abolitionists as dangerous fanatics. Like many northerners during his time, Lincoln sought compromise with the white South regarding slavery, opposed abolitionist radicalism, and doubted that free black people could have a positive role in America."

However, secession and Civil War fostered a more radical turn in (now President) Lincoln's attitude toward the abolition of slavery and black citizenship. "Lincoln’s original priority as president had been to preserve the Union, not to destroy slavery. Nevertheless many factors—including contacts with abolitionists—led Lincoln to favor ending slavery. After Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and raised black troops, many, though not all, abolitionists came to view him more favorably."

More: "Providing insight into the stressful, evolving relationship between Lincoln and the abolitionists, and also into the complexities of northern politics, society, and culture during the Civil War era, this concise volume illuminates a central concern in Lincoln’s life and presidency."

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