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Abraham Lincoln

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Using George McGovern's Abraham Lincoln, write an essay (5-page minimum) that answers all of the following questions:

1. Lincoln’s personal history. What professional and political experience did Abraham Lincoln accumulate before becoming President?

2. The main conflict between North and South that led to war. What was the Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854)? The Dred Scott decision (1857)? Why did each one bring Lincoln out of private life and "rekindle" his political career?

3. Why saving the Union was important. What arguments did Lincoln make against southern secession? In what ways did he repress civil liberties during the war and otherwise "stretch the limits of presidential authority"? 

4. Freeing the slaves. McGovern states that the Emancipation Proclamation "transformed the meaning of the war and redefined…the notion of freedom in America." What was Lincoln's early attitudes toward slavery and racial equality? On what grounds did he justify emancipation? 

5. How the North won the war. McGovern states that Lincoln began the Civil War advocating "limited war" but later replaced it with "total war." What does he mean by these? How did Generals Ulysses S Grant and William Sherman implement the policy of total warfare? 

6. Republican reform. What major domestic reforms were passed during Lincoln's 1st and 2nd terms? 

Further Instructions:

a. Your essay must be typed and double-spaced.
b. Use Question-Answer format—write out the question, then write a short essay answering it. Do that for each question.
c. Use quotes and page citations (essays that don’t will be graded down).
d. Your essay must be a minimum of five pages (one page = roughly 24 lines of essay).
- There is no maximum limit on how much you can write. A-range essays are usually substantially longer.
e. All answers must come from the McGovern biography. Don’t use outside sources.

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Abraham Lincoln-The Statesman He Was

What professional and political experience did Abraham Lincoln accumulate before becoming President? 

Abraham Lincoln grew in poverty. At different times, his family lived in Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois. He neither gambled nor smoked. According to his stepmother Sarah Bush, he was a hard worker; she had nurtured love to reading in young Abraham (pp.30). Lincoln was also a comic storyteller, and he gained admiration and popularity amongst the folks of his age in New Salem. In New Salem, he had joined a debating club. Therefore, he had mastered eloquence and gained oratory skills. He was honest and had acted judge at horse races. Abraham had worked as a postmaster and a deputy county surveyor in New Salem (pp.31). In 1834, he was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives. The Whig Party enchanted him. Lincoln professionally studied law under the mentorship of John Stuart; he was admitted to the bar in 1836 (pp.32). After a landslide victory in 1836, he became a chairman of the finance committee and moved the capital of Illinois from Vandalia to Springfield (pp.34). Lincoln supported the Internal Improvements Act to promote the development of the railroads and canal systems. Later, he and Stuart became legal associates and represented the clients in the local courthouse. He had served in the Illinois House of Representatives for 4 consecutive terms, and despite the turmoil in his marriage, Lincoln was able to bolster his law career. Working in the House of Representatives, he had got the chance to voice briefly his opinion on slavery (pp.35).

What were the Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854) and the Dred Scott decision (1857)? 

The Kansas-Nebraska Act was a proslavery bill, which Stephen Douglas advocated. It had to replace the Compromise Act of 1850. The territories immediately west of Missouri river were divided into two parts: the north was Nebraska, and the south was Kansas (pp.36). The territories had to determine whether they would legalize slavery then or later when they would become states. Two territories were north of the 36o 30’ latitude that had been used to establish the Missouri Compromise Act of 1850. Thus, the Kansas-Nebraska Act violated the regulations of the Compromise Act.

Dred Scott was a black slave who had sued for freedom with Sandford. Taney said, “Blacks are inferior…”. He had even stated that a white man had no obligation whatsoever to honor the black men’s rights since they had none. Expressing his ruling, Taney also said that the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional, which was not relevant at that time (pp. 37).

Why did the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Dred Scott decision bring Lincoln out of private life and “rekindle” his political career? 

Douglas thought that the debates on the issue would be less vehement since the decision would depend not on Congress but on the residents of the territories. The debacle had split the Democrats and the Whigs. The country was divided along political and philosophical lines. For Lincoln, the violation of the Missouri Compromise, which the Nebraska-Kansas Act caused, was an obstacle to the sacredness of the Compromise that ended the discussion of the issue of slavery for forever. He made the question of slavery the driving force of his political ambitions. Abraham Lincoln gave an antislavery speech in Peoria in October, 1856 (pp. 36). It became the turning point of his political life. This speech has marked the entrance into the national politics. Lincoln had tried a Whig path to Senate in 1855 but failed on it. Later, in 1856, he was involved in the formation of the Republican Party, which was a merger between the supporters of antislavery ideas who came from the dead Whig Party and the Democratic Party.

The Dred Scott decision outraged Lincoln. If Congress could not outlaw slavery on the territories, the result would be its legalization everywhere else. The decision was incorrect but binding, which meant that only another decision could nullify it. Lincoln believed that High Court had the last word in handling law issues. This decision marked a difference between Douglas and President Buchanan. The supporters of antislavery ideas seized to attack Douglas. Thus, they nominated Lincoln to compete with Douglas for the US Senate seat in 1858. Lincoln-Douglas debates on slavery followed this decision (pp. 37). His loss to Douglas presented Lincoln a chance to vie for the presidency on the Republican front in 1860 (pp. 39).

What arguments did Abraham Lincoln make against southern secession? 

Secession was an idea of the southern states who did not favor the abolition of slavery. The Chief Justice Taney, President Buchanan, and Senator Douglas wanted the spread of slavery to the northern states. Thus, the country was deemed to split into two parts, and the secessionist blamed the Republicans for their antislavery stand. The southerners felt that if Lincoln was elected, he would use his power to fight slavery and promote the amalgamation of the blacks and the whites. On November 6, 1860, Lincoln won the elections. He revered the Constitution and firmly abhorred the idea of personal liberty, which Thomas Jefferson envisioned in the Declaration of Independence. Lincoln argued that a house divided could not stand (pp. 48-52).

In what ways did Abraham Lincoln repress civil liberties during the war and otherwise “stretch the limits of presidential authority”? 

Lincoln took many unlawful actions to cement his stand. For example, he censored the newspapers that criticized his actions. Lincoln suspended the activity of habeas corpus principle in the vicinity of the military line with an objective to protect Washington from the Confederates and to link with the north (pp. 52). That year, over 13,000 Americans were arrested without the benefit of the habeas corpus. The trials of arrested people were conducted under the martial law rather than the civilian one. The Chief Justice had ruled that the suspension of habeas corpus principle was a reservation of the Congress, not the President. However, Lincoln dismissed this decision. He gave an order to provide the blockade of the southern ports and reimbursed funds to buy and produce weapons (pp. 52). The censorship of the newspapers was combined with the arrest of senior newspapers editors. Lincoln also enforced military conscription, and people were supposed to volunteer their services to the army (pp. 52). Those who did not want to join the army had to pay a $300 substitution fee. Trying to protect the Union, Lincoln presented the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 (pp.53). According to the Constitution, slaves were considered private property, and no one had legal right to confiscate private property.

McGovern states that the Emancipation Proclamation “transformed the meaning of the war and redefined…the notion of freedom in America.” What were Lincoln’s early attitudes towards slavery and racial equality? 

According to Douglas, Lincoln was an advocate of racial equality. However, Lincoln himself said that he did not support the idea of full equality for blacks. He was not convinced that they should have the rights to vote, hold any offices or sit on juries. Lincoln stated, “Just because I don’t want a black woman for a slave doesn’t mean I want her for a wife” (pp. 64). He, therefore, did not express full support of the completely free interaction between the whites and the blacks. He considered odd the fact that people were bought and owned as a labor force. On Lincoln’s opinion, it was not human. The blacks were not equal to the whites in societal issues. He neither supported black-white marriages. Lincoln and the Republican Party did not oppose slavery in the states where it already existed (pp. 65-66). Lincoln did not promote full abolition of slavery because he knew that it was constitutional on the territories where it existed. He had felt vexed due to the annexation of Texas. His stand on slavery had rather moral than political nature; it was a selfish doctrine, which violated the promise of freedom for all of the Declaration of Independence.

On what grounds did Lincoln justify emancipation? 

Basing on the grounds of the Declaration of Independence, Lincoln hated slavery. Neither black nor white people had the right to enslave others. He argued that those who denied the freedom of others were too not entitled to be free (pp. 66). It was a step to entice the southerners to start a war. In a state of war, as a President, Lincoln would be able to apply the authority of a Commander-in-Chief. Therefore, the military action for stopping the aggression did not limit the protection of Constitution.

Emancipation was a motive, which had to lure the black people to support the unionists’ calls (pp. 67-70). It was also a quick route to ending the debacle that had led to the rebellion of the Confederate States. Lincoln believed that the European nations where slavery had been abolished would support the move of the White House.

McGovern states that Lincoln began the Civil War advocating “limited war” but later replaced it with “total war.” What does he mean by these? How did Generals Ulysses S Grant and William Sherman implement the policy of total warfare? 

Lincoln adopted the limited war tactic to minimize collateral damage. It was a war that focused on the armed forces of the rebels. Lincoln hoped that limited war could be ended with minimum level of disruption and bloodshed; however, this policy failed (pp. 80). It did not work due to the reluctance and incompetence of Lincoln’s generals. This action forced Lincoln to take an active role in the war through formulating strategies, influencing movements, and supervising the fields of the operation. At this point, he realized that limited war could not be an appropriate decision. Thus, he opted for replacing it with a total war (pp. 80). After implementing the total war plan, Lincoln adopted the anaconda strategy that would cut off the supplies to the enemy camp. Meanwhile, the building of the strength of his camp continued.

William Sherman, on the other hand, also liked the idea of total war and adopted the strategy of dismantling the economic power of confederates. Sherman advocated for a conquest where people would feel the “hard hand” of war. He used the full force applying the scorched earth tactic: his army destroyed almost everything including civilians’ supplies, food, and property.

What major domestic reforms were passed during Lincoln’s 1st and 2nd terms?

One of the major reforms that Lincoln’s administration advocated for was the implementation of Legal Tender Act (pp. 119). The war on the territory of America needed spending 2 million dollars a day for covering the expenses. It had to help continue to fund the war. The Department of the Treasury under the guidance of Jay Cooke, a banker, issued war bonds. The bonds were expected to raise about 3 billion dollars, which constituted 65% of the total revenue required for war funding. However, to realize this reform, the administration needed unrestricted currency supply, which would fuel the bond program. For this reason, the Congress agreed to pass the Legal Tender Act in 1862. According to McGovern, the Act “authorized the production and distribution of paper money, known as greenbacks.”

Another reform that Lincoln’s administration passed was the implementation of the Internal Revenue Act of 1861 (pp. 120). McGovern states that it became the first federal income tax in the American history. Several amendments to this act were made in 1862 and 1864: the tax brackets were set at 5%, then, at 7.5%, and, lastly, at 10%. This reform saw at least one out of ten Americans especially those who lived in the affluent states and were wealthy to pay income taxes. The Internal Revenue Act also stated that a third of the new notes had to have the backing of the federal bonds for supporting the ongoing war.

The Homestead Act made public land available for the small farmers in the west (pp. 121). It provided any adult citizen heading a homestead with a possibility to win a title for 160 acres of land provided that he/she would live on that land and farm it for five years. Another important reform was the passage of the Pacific Railway Acts of 1862 and 1864 (pp. 122). These acts provided the construction of a railroad and a telegraph line that were used for the transportation of passengers and cargo from Omaha to Sacramento.

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