Abraham Lincoln

September 22, 1862 – US President Lincoln proclaimed abolition of slaves

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The United States of America was a divided nation when Abraham Lincoln was elected to the US House of Representatives in Washington in 1846 . In the southern United States , people do not want to be deprived of the right to own slaves. Because the owners of the tobacco, sugar cane and cotton plantations do not want to give up their luxurious lifestyle based on the exploitation of slaves as cheap labour. In contrast, in the northern states, where industrial production is expanding, slavery has largely been abolished.

Even if they are not safe from slave hunters in the North, many African Americans are trying to flee the South. With the help of the ” Unterground Railroad “, an underground network of helpers, around 100,000 black people made it north in the first half of the 19th century. The country is held together by the so-called Missouri Compromise of 1820. Accordingly, slavery is not permitted north of the 36th parallel – with the exception of the state of Missouri .

Liberated blacks should return to Africa

When the USA grew in the middle of the 19th century and the newly settled territories in the west wanted to become federal states, the dispute over slave ownership came to a head. “Abraham Lincoln was clearly of the opinion that western expansion should take place without slavery,” says history professor and Lincoln biographer from the University of Jena. For a long time, however, the later US President considered the colonization of the American West by free blacks to be absurd. He is one of the supporters of the recolonization idea: Blacks should voluntarily leave the USA for Africa. At the time, Lincoln’s racially tinged motto for the social status of blacks was: freedom yes, equality no.

This attitude does not go far enough for pro-slavery advocates. When Lincoln was elected the 16th President of the USA in November 1860, the state of South Carolina left the Union in December, followed by other southern states. In April 1861, a month after Lincoln was sworn in, Southern troops attacked Northern garrisons. Civil war ensues. Lincoln’sThe ultimate goal is now to restore the Union as quickly as possible. For him, the abolition of the slave trade is secondary: “If I could preserve the Union without freeing a single slave, I would do it. And if I could preserve it by freeing all slaves, I would do it. And if If I could preserve it by freeing some and leaving others, I would do that too.”

“Far from equal to the white race”

North and South fought each other for two years. Then Lincoln changes his tactics. He makes the decision to abolish slavery in the south – to weaken the enemy. On September 22, 1862, he presented the so-called “Executive Order ” to the cabinet , which was published the following day: From January 1, 1863, “all slaves in those states or territories which are in rebellion against the United States, be free”. The document also recalls the possibility of freeing slaves for compensation. With his announcement, Lincoln was signaling to the renegade South that “I’m giving you 100 days to reconsider everything,” says historian Nagler.

But the southern states did not give in and the interim proclamation went into effect: In January 1863, nearly 500,000 slaves who were in the vicinity of northern troops took flight. In the autumn of the same year, the first black regiment is founded. Lincoln is now lobbying Congress to get the slavery ban into the Constitution – although as late as August 1862 he told a group of prominent African-Americans in the White House, “Even if you stop being slaves, you’re a long way from being to be equal to the white race.” Lincolnmeanwhile considers the integration of blacks into American society to be possible. However, only after a long transition phase in which – according to his paternalistic view – the Afro-Americans should be brought up and educated.

Ban on slavery becomes a constitutional amendment

Lincoln lived to see the 13th Amendment passed in February 1865, and was assassinated in April. The southern states capitulated a week earlier. The four-year civil war that killed at least 650,000 people is over. All states must ratify the amendment. The state of Mississippi , deep in the south, takes its time – until 1995.

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