Without Abraham Lincoln, There Would Be No United States.
By Seth Grossman
In 1968, President Lyndon Johnson and Congress adopted the Uniform Monday Holiday Law and made Columbus Day a new national holiday. Washington’s Birthday is now part of ”Presidents Weekend” and no longer a national holiday on February 22. Abraham Lincoln’s birthday on February 12 is almost forgotten.
A recent study by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) found that only 9 percent of fourth graders correctly identified a photograph of Abraham Lincoln and could state two reasons for his importance.
This is a tragedy. Every American child should know that Abraham Lincoln was important and why. Like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln is a classic example of how one individual can change the course of history.
Had there been no George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, there would be no United States. Without the United States, there would be no democracy strong enough to defeat the Nazis and Japanese in World War II, or Communist Russia or China during the Cold War.
Abraham Lincoln also has special importance for Americans today. He had a unique understanding and talent for applying conservative American traditions to bring about revolutionary change.
Abraham Lincoln was born in 1809 in Indiana, nearly ten years after George Washington died in Virginia. In his first known speech to a group of young people in 1838, 29 year old Abraham Lincoln recognized that his generation of Americans was lucky to be “in peaceful possession of the fairest portion of the earth” with “a system of political institutions” with more “civil and religious liberty” than any other nation in history. However, Lincoln feared Americans were in danger of losing everything because they were forgetting the principles of the people who created America.
At age 29, Abraham Lincoln was deeply committed to respect for the Constitution and laws of the United States. Lincoln also opposed slavery. Lincoln believed that the enslavement of blacks in the South was an evil that violated natural law, and that would destroy America if it continued.
This was a problem for Lincoln. Slavery was permitted by the U.S. Constitution and the laws and state constitutions of the southern states.
Lincoln’s genius was pursuing a consistent and non-violent way to end slavery, while still respecting our Constitution and laws.
Abraham Lincoln knew that America was created by our Declaration of Independence. That document clearly opposed slavery. It held these truths to be self-evident: “All men are all created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain ‘unalienable’ rights.
Abraham Lincoln also carefully examined letters and documents written by the Founding Fathers who signed our Declaration of Independence and framed our Constitution.
Lincoln found that most delegates who framed our Constitution in 1787 opposed slavery, and wrote the Constitution with its “ultimate extinction” in mind.
For example, most them specifically voted for federal laws that banned slavery in the Northwest Territories in 1787, which ended the ending the importation of new slaves after 20 years.
It seems likely that slavery was on the verge of gradually being abolished until Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin in 1793. Then cotton and slavery became too profitable to stop.
Lincoln knew that opponents of slavery did not and could not legally and constitutionally end slavery in the South. .Lincoln did not support revolutions or slave rebellions in the southern states.
However, Lincoln did oppose the expansion of slavery into new territories like Kansas and Nebraska. He opposed the Dred Scott decision of the Supreme Court which allowed southerners to bring their slaves with them in and out of any non-slave state or territory they wanted. Lincoln also helped form the Republican Party in 1854 to support these policies of containment.
Southern leaders agreed with Lincoln. They also knew that slavery would die out if it did not expand. When Lincoln was elected President and Republicans took control of both houses of Congress in 1860, the legislatures of eleven of the fifteen slave states immediately adopted resolutions stating that their states were no longer part of the United States.
At this point, Abraham Lincoln nor Congress still had not power under the Constitution to free any slaves.
However, on April 12, 1861, the South Carolina militia opened fire on federal soldiers on Fort Sumpter outside of Charleston. That began the Civil War. That war gave Union soldiers and President Lincoln, their commander-in-chief, the Constitutional right to free slaves.
Under military law, soldiers can seize “contraband” or property used by enemy soldiers. Since the Confederate Army used black slaves to bring them food, ammunition, and equipment, President Abraham Lincoln for the first time had the power under military law to “seize” those slaves as “contraband of war” and then free them.