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The History of President Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln, by contrast, took an activist stance, writing, "The legitimate object of Government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done but cannot do at all or cannot do so well for themselves in their separate or individual capacities." Saying this in the context of his position as Chief Executive, Lincoln left no doubt as to his pro-federal intentions.

It was a stance that, essentially, led to the Civil War. Slavery may have been the headline issue during the hotly contested presidential race between Lincoln and Senator Stephan A. Douglas - but it was not the only issue. Indeed, Lincoln's election-race position on the institution of slavery, had that been the only divisive issue at stake, should have been reassuring to the Southern states. Lincoln did not challenge the status quo. Despite the fact that the sole issue which united the young Republican party was opposition to slavery, even this anti-slavery party conceded that there was no constitutional warrant for federal interference with the institution in the Southern states.

But what Lincoln did advocate was just as threatening: that the federal government had the right to restrict the extension of slavery into the frontier territories. Slavery may have been the buzzword of the 1860 presidential campaign but, to borrow a phrase from the modern media, when one asked "Where's the meat?" - States Rights was the issue, rare and tender. Lincoln was no abolitionist, that is clear, but his position regarding the federal government's dominance over states' interests vis-a-vis the territories was uncompromising. Even during the winter of 1860-61, when the President-elect might have tempered the evolving secessionist crisis with politic reassurances to the Southern states, Lincoln stated categorically to Republicans in December 1860: "Let there be no compromise on the question of extending slavery. ... Stand firm. The tug has to come, and better ...

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The History of President Abraham Lincoln. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 00:13, August 20, 2017, from
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