Lincoln Blog Entry

During his life, Abraham Lincoln’s views on the topics of slavery and the degree to which the executive branch could exercise its power were subject to the most change. On the issue of slavery, Lincoln believed it to be “founded on both injustice and bad policy” as early as 1837. However, he expressed his position, which remained consistent pre-war, that the government had no constitutional right to interfere with slavery in the states.[1] Lincoln’s position on slavery changed somewhat when the Dred Scott decision declared the enslaved negro was not legally a citizen and could be taken as property into any of the western territories regardless of those territories’ wishes. Lincoln now viewed this extension of slavery as a “moral, political, and social wrong” because it could extend across the nation, and not be left to die out as the founders intended.[2] Before the emancipation proclamation, Lincoln remained committed to a policy of noninterference with slavery. This changed after he became convinced emancipation could hasten the end of the war.[3] Before the war, Lincoln believed in a strong government that protected and did not interfere with individual rights whenever possible.[4] This position changed drastically in wartime as Lincoln fully committed himself to preserving the union at any cost, and he suspended Habeas Corpus “as a necessary measure for suppressing [the rebellion.]”[5] Lincoln believed that “the constitution invests in its commander in-chief, with the law of war, in time of war.”[6] In his view the survival of the union justified such an increase in executive power.


[1] Gineapp, 8.

[2] Gineapp 58.

[3] Gineapp 152.

[4] Gineapp 27.

[5] Gineapp 138.

[6] Gineapp 177.