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Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)


Although personally opposed to “the monstrous injustice of slavery,” Abraham Lincoln was elected to the presidency in 1860 on a platform pledging non-interference with slavery in those states where it already existed. Faced with the crisis of secession and the onset of Civil War, Lincoln’s first priority as President was the restoration of the Union, but as the war dragged on he gradually became convinced of the necessity to end slavery. With the issuance of his Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, Lincoln not only freed the slaves in those regions under Confederate control but changed the very tenor of the conflict, making it not just a war for Union but for emancipation as well. By the time of Lincoln’s second presidential campaign, his party’s platform called for a constitutional amendment prohibiting slavery. In the months immediately following the election, Lincoln saw the Thirteenth Amendment clear Congress and move out into the states for ratification. By the time the amendment ultimately became law in December 1865, the “Great Emancipator” was dead.


Mathew Brady Studio (active 18441883)
Albumen silver print
Frederick Hill Meserve Collection
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

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