Historical Methods

Historical Methods


Institutional Affiliation:

Abraham Lincoln is famous for leading the country into the civil war that lasted between 1861 and 1865. The leading cause of the civil war was the fact that seven southern states had seceded from the Union, and President Lincoln was determined to persevere the Union at all costs. When the war first began, it was about preserving the Union, but as it progressed, ending slavery became another important goal. The southern states were unwilling to end slavery, while abolition activists pressured Lincoln to declare emancipation. He had always believed that slavery was wrong, but he was willing to maintain the status quo, for the south to keep slaves as long as it did not extend into other states. The main reason why Abraham Lincoln’s goals in the Civil war changed is that he realized that slavery was the central issue that had led to divisions in the country, and thus it had to be addressed.

The primary goal of the Civil War was the preservation of the Union, but the emancipation declaration made the end of slavery another main goal of the war. Pressure from activists and personal beliefs convinced Lincoln to declare the proclamation though he had been reluctant at first. In his address to Congress on the fourth of July, 1861, Lincoln explained that he was willing to stay out of the affairs of the south with regard to slavery. His presidency would not interfere with things as they were; every part of the country was free to run its affairs as it saw fit. He stated that “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…” NOTEREF _Ref23710745 f h 4 However, he later changed his position because of his long-held beliefs that slavery was an evil to the society. During the Civil War, he decided to implement his personal beliefs because they would benefit the country more than slavery would. He was criticized for his change in position, but this does not mean that his own personal beliefs ever wavered NOTEREF _Ref23711328 f h 2. He remained steadfast from the start that he opposed slavery, but he would accept the views of the southern states. The main issue for

Another reason why Lincoln changed the goals of the civil war from maintaining the Union to ending slavery is because he realized that the two goals were complementary to each other. At first, he did not care whether saving the Union would result in freeing slaves or not; his main goal was to maintain the Union at all costs NOTEREF _Ref23711328 f h 2. As the war progressed, Lincoln realized that he could finally put his beliefs against slavery into action while at the same time preserving the Union. The Southern states had defied the government in seceding, and the government would retaliate by declaring an end to slavery in the region. The Emancipation Proclamation was made on the 2st of January, 1863 by President Lincoln. The government would have asserted its authority with these two goals.

Maintaining the status quo shows that the government was weak. In his address to Congress, President Lincoln posed the question, “Must a government, of necessity, be too strong for the liberties of its own people, or too weak to maintain its own existence?” NOTEREF _Ref23711328 f h 2 The main cause of the Civil War was that the Southern states had seceded and the Union was under threat NOTEREF _Ref23711606 f h 3. Lincoln realized that the war was a chance for the central government to prove its might against the seceding states. A government could not be seen to be too weak to maintain its resistance and authority over the land it is supposed to govern. The war proved to the southern states that they had to abide by the rules of the government, and the loss of the Confederate Army drove this point home.

When Lincoln declared war against the Confederates, the main goal of the war was to stop the southern states from seceding and destroying the Union. Lincoln’s main interest was maintaining the Union at all costs. The emancipation proclamation also supported the beliefs of the founding fathers of the country that all men are born equal. Slavery distorted this notion of equality and freedom by subjecting a human being to the whims of another. Lincoln decided that the best thing to do was to make emancipation one of the goals of the war. Maintaining the Union remained the primary focus of the Civil War, but Lincoln made the Emancipation Proclamation to make ending slavery another goal.


Boller, Paul F. Presidential anecdotes. Oxford Paperbacks, 1996.Hyser, Raymond M., and J. Chris Arndt. Voices of the American Past. Vol. 1. Cengage Learning, 2011.

Johnson, Michael P. Reading the American Past: Volume II: From 1865: Selected Historical Documents. Vol. 2. Macmillan, 2012.