Why it is true that Abraham Lincoln set the slaves free

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Whyit is true that Abraham Lincoln set the slaves free

Thecontribution made by Lincoln towards the freedom of the slaves hasbeen questioned by different scholars. Allen Guelzo argued thatLincoln set the slaves free while Vincent Harding held that the endof slavery was brought about by the struggles that they made for manyyears. Guelzo provides a discussion indicating that the Proclamationof Emancipation was one of the greatest political gambles thatAbraham Lincoln did during his political career. He understood thathis efforts to provide a legal instrument that could free the slaveswould face a lot of opposition, especially from the Southern states.Guelzo introduce his article by analyzing some of the criticisms ofthe Lincoln’s Proclamation of Emancipation. Harding, on the otherhand, introduces the article “The blood-red ironies of God” bystating that the onset of the war in 1862 was a fulfillment ofprophecy made in the past by people who projected that slaves couldat one point in time fight back until they get their freedom. Whenthe war broke up, the blacks understood that they had to make theircontribution in support of the Union in order to earn their legalfreedom. AlthoughHarding’s held that slaves had fought for their freedom for manyyears, it is evident that they could not get the freedom without thecontribution of Lincoln, who provided a legal instrument that setthem free in the face of the law.


Guelzosupports the idea that Lincoln played the most crucial role in theabolition of slavery in the U.S. Guelzo opposes the theory ofself-emancipation by stating that slaves had tried to fight for theirfreedom for many years. However, the lack of legal instruments thatcould guarantee their freedom resulted in their oppression. Thisleads to an argument that the African Americans would have remainedunder slavery in the absence of the Emancipation Proclamation signedby Lincoln. In addition, Guelzo provides several examples indicatingthat Lincoln had demonstrated his objective of freeing the slaves,even before he became the president. For example, Lincoln stated in1858 (four years before the emancipation) that he hated slaverybecause it deprived the republican example of a just influence to therest of the world. In addition, Guelzo states that Lincoln wasdetermined to ensure that he does not leave the office of thepresident at the end of his term without establishing a comprehensivelegislative policy that could provide slaves with freedom in the faceof the law. This suggests that he understood that slaves would neverbe free unless the country had the law to provide them with thefreedom. Itis evident that Lincoln set the slaves free through the EmancipationProclamation that gave them the legal freedom.


Hardingpresents an argument that the outbreak of war in the 1862 was part ofthe long-term struggle that had been made by the slaves to freethemselves from their masters, which implies that they were notrescued by Lincoln. Harding argues that the slaves had made enoughstruggles and acquired sufficient courage to engage in the war thatculminated in their freedom. For example, Harding states that theoutbreak of war was a fulfillment of the prophecies made bypersonalities (such as David Walker) that the oppressed slaved couldonce fight for their freedom. In addition, Harding argues that theNorthern states were not fighting for the freedom of slaves, but theywere interested in their nationalism. The author portrays the blackpeople as opportunists who took advantage of the war to push fortheir freedom. This is confirmed by Harding’s statement that theblack men surged forward and volunteered to pursue the union’scause while repressing their bitter memories. This implies that theblack slaves took advantage of the conflict between the North and theSouth to fight for the liberation. FromHarding’s article, it is evident that the freedom of slaves in theU.S resulted from the struggles and the long waged justice by theblack people, who had been oppressed for many years.

BothGuelzo and Harding made reasonable arguments to defend theirpositions. However, Guelzo’s essay is stronger because the authorsupported its thesis with the primary sources. These sources helpedGuelzo proof that Lincoln had stated in public that he hated slavery,which suggests he signed the Emancipation Proclamation to pursue hislong-term strategy of ending slavery. One of the key weaknesses ofHarding’s essay is its failure to apply credible sources to supportor discredit the role of the Emancipation Proclamation in the processof ending the slavery.


Therole of Lincoln in the process of abolition of slavery in the U.S.has been a source of controversy for many years. Harding’s argumentthat the end of slavery can be attributed to the struggles thatslaves had made for several years has no basis. This is because itfails to acknowledge the fact that the signing of the EmancipationProclamation provided the legal protection of the freedom of slaves.Therefore, an argument that Lincoln set the slaves free, as Guelzoholds, cannot be disputed.