Every civilized person believes that slavery is wrong. The elimination of slavery in the United States needed to happen. However, the way Abraham Lincoln accomplished it is open to criticism.
We must realize that when slavery was being eliminated the southern states wanted to start their own country. Yes, slavery was a major reason of the Civil War. But we must remember too that the firecracker was for the states wanting to secede from the Union.
The events in those days leading to the Civil War were actually two. An end to slavery and the union’s rebuttal against the southern states attempts to secede. This was a wrestle between state rights and federal rights. We still contend with that issue. Originally the creation of the federal government and its authority was very limited leaving most decisions to each state.
In the middle of all of these events, Abraham Lincoln made several mistakes.
- He never consulted with the southern states to see if they could reach a resolution peacefully. Some people in leadership urged him to do this but he never had any face-to-face consultation with any group.
- Even though it was right to free the slaves by the Emancipation Proclamation, yet in a technical way it was illegal. This did not go to Congress which the Constitution required.
- He did not take into consideration the ramifications and consequences that resulted from emancipating slaves. There was no plan to evolve the southern owners of slaves to a financial and workforce means to run their plantations.
- There was no plan to support the Blacks as free men to earn a living and have their own housing. I was in the South in the mid-1950s and still saw shanties where the Blacks lived in absolute poverty.
- The first shot that was fired allegedly started the Civil War, but Lincoln did not need to respond in full force. He still could have arbitrated with the South and he did not.
- Freeing the slaves was a good thing, but they had no identity at that moment to call themselves and gain respect among the whites.
- He could have immediately put a halt to importing Blacks from Africa and elsewhere. Then he could have developed a plan in which the Blacks were integrated into society.
Today we suffer the consequences of Lincoln’s failures to effectively resolve the slavery issue in a more methodical way that gave respect to the Southerners and the Blacks. We still wrestle with the integration issues. We still have poverty and unemployment among the Blacks. We still have state authority versus federal authority.
It is true that Lincoln’s intentions made him a great president. He deserves to be honored for what he did. It is just unfortunate that he did not more effectively resolve the ramification of the issues and make a way for the Blacks and Whites to live together as free men. Probably one answer to this is what Morgan Freeman said, “The best way to resolve racism is to stop talking about it.” The best resolution for both the Blacks and the Whites would be to follow the Scripture that says, “Be kind one to another.”