Quizlet: Was Lincoln an Abolitionist?

Was Lincoln an Abolitionist?

Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, is often hailed as the Great Emancipator for his role in the abolition of slavery. However, the question of whether Lincoln was an abolitionist is a topic of debate among historians. In this article, we will explore the different perspectives and evidence surrounding this question.

Understanding Abolitionism

To determine whether Lincoln was an abolitionist, it is crucial to understand what abolitionism represents. Abolitionism was a social and political movement that sought to end slavery in the United States during the 19th century. Abolitionists believed that slavery was morally wrong and fought for its immediate and unconditional abolition.

Lincoln’s Views on Slavery

Lincoln’s views on slavery evolved throughout his political career. While he personally opposed slavery and believed it to be morally unjust, he initially did not advocate for its immediate abolition. Instead, Lincoln’s primary goal was to prevent the spread of slavery into new territories.

During the Lincoln-Douglas debates in 1858, Lincoln famously stated, “I have always hated slavery as much as any abolitionist.” This statement highlights his personal opposition to slavery. However, Lincoln also acknowledged the limitations imposed by the Constitution and the political realities of his time.

The Emancipation Proclamation

One of the most significant actions taken by Lincoln regarding slavery was the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862. This executive order declared that all slaves in Confederate-held territory were to be set free. However, it is important to note that the Emancipation Proclamation did not free all slaves in the United States, as it only applied to areas under Confederate control.

The Emancipation Proclamation was a strategic move by Lincoln to weaken the Confederacy and gain support for the Union cause. While it did not immediately abolish slavery, it laid the groundwork for the eventual passage of the 13th Amendment, which formally abolished slavery throughout the United States.


In conclusion, while Abraham Lincoln held personal beliefs against slavery and took significant steps towards its abolition, whether he can be classified as an abolitionist is a matter of interpretation. Lincoln’s primary focus was on preserving the Union and navigating the complex political landscape of his time. Nevertheless, his actions, including the Emancipation Proclamation and support for the 13th Amendment, played a crucial role in the ultimate abolition of slavery in the United States.

So, was Lincoln an abolitionist? While the answer may not be a straightforward yes or no, it is undeniable that his presidency marked a turning point in the fight against slavery and the advancement of civil rights in America.



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