Lincoln, Abraham

Lincoln, Abraham
   Sixteenth President of the United States and commander-in-chief of the Union during the American Civil War (1861–1865). Lincoln’s nomination by the Republican Party for the presidency and subsequent election was itself prominent among the reasons for the secession of Southern states and the outbreak of civil war, insofar as his policy of opposition to the spread of slavery to new states was well known. Lincoln also publicly identified the survival of slavery to be the singular source of the national crisis and linked his opposition to its expansion to an implied willingness to use force to preserve an indissoluble constitutional union.
   After the creation of the Confederate States of America on February 4, 1861, and the capture of the federal Fort Sumter in April of the same year, Lincoln took an active interest in the prosecution of the Union war effort. He was ill-suited to the issuance of strategic orders to Union commanders in the field, but until Lincoln discovered the fighting qualities of Ulysses S. Grant, few successive Union commanders were well-suited to the aggressive prosecution of the war. Lincoln’s blockade of the southern ports gave the Civil War an international dimension - quite apart from the anticipated predations of European powers in the Americas in the event of the disintegration of the Union. It led to a confrontation with Britain in the Trent Affair, a diplomatic crisis adroitly defused by Lincoln’s Secretary of State William Seward.
   Yet as the war progressed, Lincoln’s understanding of its military imperatives became evermore sophisticated, and his appreciation of the importance of the political dimension to the strategic balance was brilliant. Lincoln followed the Union victory at Antietam with the Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863, in which he proclaimed the freedom of slaves solely in the secessionist states and thereby kept the loyalty of four slave states that had remained in the Union. The war thereafter became a crusade for liberty, in which Lincoln forced the United States to live up to the ideals of its constitution and preserved its unity in its hour of maximum peril, just as the growing industrial and military might of the Union laid the foundation for the emergence of a Great Power.
   See also <>.
    Donald, David. Lincoln. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995;
    McPherson, James. Battle Cry of Freedom. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988;
    Oates, Stephen B. With Malice toward None. New York: Harper Perennial, 1977.

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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