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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Lincoln's Goal



Thoughts inspired by the new movie of Kushner and Spielberg: Very well, Lincoln wanted to free the slaves. He did indeed hope that the American civil war would result in "a new birth of freedom". However, the emancipation was clearly not his highest priority. Lincoln did not fight slavery, he fought secession. His first and foremost motive was to show the world that "government of the people, by the people, for the people" - democracy - has the power to survive. We have a problem understanding the importance of that goal; today we see democracies thrive almost everywhere in the world. At Lincoln's time, however, the general opinion was that democracies can not long survive. The shelling of Fort Sumter was for Lincoln not only a threat to American unity, but to the idea of self-government. Why then did he, as shown in Spielberg's movie, fight so hard to finalize the Emancipation Act by an constitutional amendment? My guess is he was convinced that a democracy tolerating slavery could not endure. He was not a saint, he was a politician.

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