“Emancipation: Touchstone of ‘hard war'”

                 In The Hard Hand of War, Grimsley describes “hard war” as “operations aimed at the destruction of enemy economic resources (whether publicly or privately owned), forced evacuations, or confiscation of property without recompense” (Grimsley, The Hard Hand of War, 5). The Northern forces came to choose such a war policy due to the failure of the conciliatory policy towards southern civilians which was enacted in an effort to subdue the rebels while maintaining the loyalty of the southern civilians and unionists. “The success of the conciliatory policy depended on two variables: the willingness of Northern soldiers to leave [southern] civilians alone and the willingness to leave soldiers alone” (46) neither of these conditions was a priority during the early stages of the war. In some cases, southern civilian property was stolen and occasionally destroyed. This became a precursor to harsher “hard war” policies to come later (119).

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                   One such “hard war” policy that was widely controversial in the North was the president’s Emancipation Proclamation signed on January 1st 1863. Grimsley points out that “No Union foray against Southern property was more far reaching in its effects than the decision to attack slavery” and while such establishments as factories, or fields of corn, even the demolition of whole towns can eventually be restored, “emancipation, however, carried implications that went well beyond the immediate subduing of the rebellion” (120).

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Lincoln’s Evolved Stance on Congress’ Role

       Abraham Lincoln evolved abundantly through his career as a politician, especially during his years as president. While this area of change for Lincoln may be seen as one of the most obvious; I believe that Lincoln evolved most on his opinions towards the constitution’s and the United States Congress’s role in abolishing slavery. Lincoln stated that he could not recall a time when he was not against slavery (Gienapp, This Fiery Trial, 8). Although Lincoln was always opposed to slavery he did not always feel that the federal government had a role in eradicating it. Throughout many years in public office Lincoln dealt with countless public debates that, in regards to, would find the united states divided. One such issue was in 1837 that pertained to the United States Congress’ role relating to abolishing slavery in states and territories. Lincoln stated in a letter of protest that while “the institution of slavery is founded on both injustice and bad policy…the congress of the united states has no power, under the constitution, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the different states” (8-9).

       In later years Lincoln, somewhere along the line, changed his opinion on the role of the U.S. Congress’ role in this matter. In August of 1862 Lincoln is quoted in a letter to Horace Greeley, an anti-slavery advocate, stating “If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it” (135). Lincoln explains that his chief goal in the war was to preserve and re-unify the Union (135). Around a month later Lincoln issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, giving the rebelling states until January first to return to the Union or he would free the slaves contained within these states. On January first he did so and declared the slaves in the rebelling states free. As well as this proclamation, in 1865 Congress passed the 13th amendment to abolish slavery in the United States. Lincoln had decided in the years of through the war that the federal government, indeed, had a role to play in abolishing slavery even though he had explicitly stated that this was not congress’s role.

IMAGE: http://quotes.lifehack.org/media/quotes/quote-Abraham-Lincoln-to-sin-by-silence-when-they-should-40963.png

SOURCE: Gienapp, W.E. (2002). This Fiery Trial: The Speeches and Writings of Abraham Lincoln. Oxford: Oxford University Press.