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Abraham Lincoln did believe that slavery was morally wrong, but there was one big problem: It was sanctioned by the highest law in the land, the Constitution. Abolitionistsby contrast, knew exactly what should be done about it: Slavery should be immediately abolished, and freed enslaved people should be incorporated as equal members of society.

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Though Lincoln saw himself as working alongside the abolitionists on behalf of a common anti-slavery cause, he did not count himself among them. Only with emancipationand with his support of the eventual 13th Amendmentwould Lincoln finally win over the most committed abolitionists. His views became clear during an series of debates with his opponent in the Illinois race for U. In their fourth debate, at Charleston, Illinois, on September 18,Lincoln made his position clear. What he did believe was that, like all men, Black men had the right to improve their condition in society and to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

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In this way they were equal to white men, and for this reason slavery was inherently unjust. In the last speech of his life, delivered on April 11,he argued for limited Black suffrage, saying that any Black man who had served the Union during the Civil War should have the right to vote. For much of his career, Lincoln believed that colonization—or the idea that a majority of the African American population should leave the United States and settle in Africa or Central America—was the best way to confront the problem of slavery. His two great political heroes, Henry Clay and Thomas Jeffersonhad both favored colonization; both were enslavers who took issue with aspects of slavery but saw no way that Black and white people could live together peaceably.

Nearly a decade later, even as he edited the draft of the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation in Black women Lincoln men ofLincoln hosted a delegation of freed Black men and women at the White House in the hopes of getting their support on a plan for colonization in Central America. After he issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln never again publicly mentioned colonization, and a mention of it in an earlier draft was deleted by the time the final proclamation was issued in January The Civil War was fundamentally a conflict over slavery.

However, the way Lincoln saw it, emancipation, when it came, would have to be gradual, as the most important thing was to prevent the Southern rebellion from severing the Union permanently in two. Emancipation, Lincoln saw, would further undermine the Confederacy while providing the Union with a new source of manpower to crush the rebellion.

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In July the president presented his draft of the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation to his cabinet. Secretary of State William Seward urged him to wait until things were going better for the Union on the field of battle, or emancipation might look like the last gasp of a nation on the brink of defeat.

Lincoln agreed and returned to edit the draft over the summer.

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On September 17 the bloody Battle of Antietam gave Lincoln the opportunity he needed. He issued the preliminary proclamation to his cabinet on September 22, and it was published the following day. Missouri actually had two competing governments; one loyal to, and recognized by the Union, and one loyal to the Confederacy. Lincoln also exempted selected areas of the Confederacy that had already come under Union control in hopes of gaining the loyalty of white people in those states.

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Slavery's Mark on Lincoln's White House