On January 1, 1863, Lincoln declared free all slaves found in states rebelling against the Union. This epochal event is popularly regarded as the definitive triumph of abolition and earned Lincoln the title "The Great Emancipator." Yet in the midst of the war, Lincoln wrote that his "paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or destroy slavery." Klingaman (1929: The Year of the Great Crash; etc.) explains that Lincoln's bedrock principle on emancipation was to use it only if it would advance the cause of winning the war. Emancipation was not undertaken out of moral necessity, although Lincoln certainly disapproved of slavery, even despised it. Klingaman's study of emancipation demonstrates the complexity of the pressures brought to bear on Lincoln, not only from the virulently antagonistic forces in the nation as a whole, but also from within Lincoln's own mind. Klingaman fairly sets forth the evidence for his thesis (emancipation as a war measure), drawing on Lincoln's writings, including the Emancipation Proclamation itself. Perhaps the most convincing part of the book is the author's analysis of how Lincoln sifted the risks and benefits of emancipation in the early phases of the war. Freeing the slaves too soon could backfire by alienating the border states, such as Kentucky, and by stiffening the South's resolve. Klingaman shows how Lincoln agonized over these risks, finally choosing a militarily and psychologically apt moment for the proclamation. Lincoln emerges from this study not as a heroic advocate of racial equality, something he never was, but as an astute, troubled and effective defender of the Union. (Mar. 19) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This work examines the military, political, social, and economic events that mandated Lincoln's issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. Klingaman (Encyclopedia of the McCarthy Era) retraces the Great Emancipator's futile adherence to a program of gradual compensated emancipation and overseas colonization for the freedman, attributing these chimerical schemes to the President's passive nature and his penchant for allowing historical circumstances to overtake him and limit his executive options. Only the poor showing of Lincoln's armies, argues the author, compelled him to seize emancipation as a weapon of war. Klingaman ably demonstrates that the Proclamation, while driving away some elements from the commander-in-chief's original Civil War coalition, nevertheless undermined the rebel war effort, forestalled European recognition of the Confederacy, boosted Northern morale by offering a humanitarian ideal to undergird the preservation of the Union, assured the continued support of Radical Republicans, and allowed for the recruitment of African American troops. The conclusion emphasizes what this landmark document meant to both free and enslaved blacks and how its great legacy has been ill served by subsequent generations. Klingaman's story, although perhaps familiar to many readers, is nonetheless tightly focused and engagingly written. Recommended for all libraries.--John Carver Edwards, Univ. of Georgia Libs., Athens Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Neither biography nor history of the Civil War, this is an account of Lincoln's tactics between the 1860 election and his announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862. Historian Klingaman (The First Century, 1990) points out that the abolitionists, although heroes to us, were looked upon by most of their contemporaries as a noisy minority, irresponsible and perhaps crazy. Lincoln disapproved of them, knowing that most Northerners opposed slavery but usually despised Negroes nevertheless. The conflicts leading to the Civil War, in the author's view, had less to do with abolition than with the spread of slavery to the West, where (alarmists feared) slave labor would depress wages and monopolize the cheap land. During his presidential campaign, Lincoln took pains to assure the South that he had no interest in abolition, and even after secession he believed the departed states would return if he could convince them that slavery would be legally protected. He was also obsessed with keeping the slaveholding Border States (Maryland, Kentucky, Missouri, and Delaware) from seceding. Unfortunately for Lincoln, however, the Republican leaders of the new Congress were enthusiastic abolitionists. The author draws a fascinating portrait of Lincoln's political maneuvering during his first two years in office: on one side he fended off civic, congressional, and even cabinet pressure for immediate abolition; on the other, he faced growing antiwar sentiment, encouraged by the North's persistent defeats. When the time seemed ripe, he issued the proclamation: a turgid, legalistic document announcing abolition as a strictly military measure (it abolished slavery only in rebel-heldterritory). Itsreception was mostly bad: abolitionists considered it a feeble gesture, and there was widespread anger in the Midwest and Border States that the war was now"for the Negroes" instead of for the Union. Republicans did badly in the 1862 elections. Yet, as time passed, most anti-Negro Northerners accepted emancipation as a harsh but necessary measure to strike at the South, and Lincoln's faith that the proclamation's practicality and absence of moral fervor offered the only chance of success was eventually vindicated. A fine account of a brilliant piece of political strategy.