The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery

The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery

Eric Foner

Language: English

Pages: 448

ISBN: 039334066X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


“A masterwork [by] the preeminent historian of the Civil War era.”―Boston Globe

Selected as a Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times Book Review, this landmark work gives us a definitive account of Lincoln's lifelong engagement with the nation's critical issue: American slavery. A master historian, Eric Foner draws Lincoln and the broader history of the period into perfect balance. We see Lincoln, a pragmatic politician grounded in principle, deftly navigating the dynamic politics of antislavery, secession, and civil war. Lincoln's greatness emerges from his capacity for moral and political growth. 16 pages of black-and-white illustrations; 3 maps

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confiscation of Confederate property. This raised thorny political, legal, and constitutional questions. Early in December 1861, Lyman Trumbull introduced a bill for the 舠absolute and complete forfeiture forever舡 of 舠every species of property舡 of 舠rebels,舡 including their slaves, who would be 舠made free.舡 Trumbull舗s proposal envisioned a far more radical attack on slavery than the first Confiscation Act, which applied only to slaves used for military purposes. Most members of the Republican

Bates agreed. The Dred Scott decision, he boldly declared, had 舠no authority舡 outside the specific circumstances of that case. Bates added that citizenship did not imply either equality before the law or political rights (women and children, after all, were citizens). Nonetheless, Salmon P. Chase, who had requested Bates舗s ruling, immediately dispatched it to Louisiana, where free black activists had been demanding civil and political rights. The opinion, a striking change in public policy, was

fight for liberty, in that New Jerusalem.舡 In the North, blacks gathered in their churches. 舠I have never witnessed,舡 the abolitionist Benjamin R. Plumly wrote to Lincoln from Philadelphia, 舠such intense, intelligent and devout 舖Thanksgiving.舗舡 The mention of Lincoln舗s name 舠evoked a spontaneous benediction from the whole Congregation舡 and the singing of 舠The Year of Jubilee.舡 舠The Black people all trust you,舡 Plumly reported. 舠They believe you desire to do them justice.舡 When one person

draft riots of July 1863, when black residents were 舠literally hunted down like wild beasts舡 and forced to take refuge in Central Park or New Jersey. But two months later, a Washington newspaper wrote of 舠the dissolving prejudices against the colored man,舡 attributing this development to the service of black soldiers. The widely publicized exploits of black troops helped to shatter long-standing images of docile or barbaric slaves. Even in New York, the presentation of colors to a black regiment

of fugitive slaves. The following month, William C. Smedes, a member of the Mississippi legislature, mentioned this report in a letter justifying secession to Henry J. Raymond, the editor of the New York Times. Raymond forwarded the letter to Lincoln, who replied by describing Smedes as a 舠mad-man.舡 舠I was never in a meeting of negroes in my life,舡 Lincoln insisted. This was a revealing comment. Unlike Chase and other white abolitionists and Radical Republicans, Lincoln had no real contact with

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