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Scott A. Sandage

Abraham Lincoln is an ambiguous figure in history and literature, with much disagreement centered on his beliefs and actions regarding African Americans. Lincoln hated slavery but equivocated in public statements about racial equality. He considered his 1863 Emancipation Proclamation the most historic act of his presidency, but many critics interpret the order freeing Southern slaves during the Civil War as a military measure, not a humanitarian one. In a famous 1862 letter to the editor Horace Greeley, Lincoln explained that his “official duty” in the war was to “save the Union” but added that this stance signaled “no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men every where could be free.” Near the war's end, Lincoln vetoed a congressional bill to codify emancipation and insisted instead that the permanent end of slavery be written into the Constitution as the Thirteenth Amendment.

Assassination elevated Lincoln to national martyrdom but ...