Abraham Lincoln and a New Birth of Freedom: The Union and Slavery in the Diplomacy of the Civil War

By Howard Jones | Go to book overview

Prologue: To Preserve the Union

Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable! Daniel Webster, 1830 Abraham Lincoln, 1856

Why another book on Abraham Lincoln? Admittedly, numerous writers have discussed nearly every conceivable aspect of his life. Yet no one has fully examined his impact on Civil War diplomacy, particularly as it derived from his constantly evolving views toward slavery and the way these ideas fitted into his concept of the Union. In 1945 Jay Monaghan published his classic work, A Diplomat in Carpet Slippers: Abraham Lincoln Deals with Foreign Affairs, but it rested almost entirely on American sources and reflected both a Union and a Lincoln bias. Moreover, Monaghan brought insufficient focus to Lincoln's efforts to tie antislavery to the creation of a better Union. This gap in the historiography of the period provides the rationale for this book.

Lincoln realized early in his presidency that the slavery issue proved that domestic and foreign affairs were inseparable. He had always found slavery morally objectionable, but not until a year or so into his presidency did he regard the demise of that institution as integral not only to the preservation of the Union but to its betterment. Emancipation, Lincoln also insisted, became a crucial ingredient in Britain's deliberations on whether to intervene in the Civil War, thereby making slavery a vital element in U.S. foreign relations from 1861 to 1865. Only when the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect on January 1, 1863, did the Lincoln administration finally end southern hopes for a British intervention. The French threat, however, lingered throughout the remainder of the war. Even though the British decision seemed irrevocable, Emperor Napoleon III appeared ready to act on his own. At stake was his puppet regime in Mexico, which he intended to use as a magnet for reestablishing monarchical governments all over the Americas. Throughout this intricate and weblike series of events, President Lincoln sought above all else to save the Union by using the growing popular sentiment against slav

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