Abraham Lincoln

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Abraham Lincoln : biography

February 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865

There were attempts at compromise. The Crittenden Compromise would have extended the Missouri Compromise line of 1820, dividing the territories into slave and free, contrary to the Republican Party’s free-soil platform.White, pp. 360–361. Lincoln rejected the idea, saying, "I will suffer death before I consent … to any concession or compromise which looks like buying the privilege to take possession of this government to which we have a constitutional right."Donald (1996), p. 268. Lincoln, however, did tacitly support the proposed Corwin Amendment to the Constitution, which passed Congress before Lincoln came into office and was then awaiting ratification by the states. That proposed amendment would have protected slavery in states where it already existed and would have guaranteed that Congress would not interfere with slavery without Southern consent.Vorenberg, p. 22.Vile (2003), Encyclopedia of Constitutional Amendments: Proposed Amendments, and Amending Issues 1789–2002 pp. 280–281 A few weeks before the war, Lincoln sent a letter to every governor informing them Congress had passed a joint resolution to amend the Constitution.Lupton (2006), , Retrieved 2013-01-13 Lincoln was open to the possibility of a constitutional convention to make further amendments to the Constitution.Vile (2003), Encyclopedia of Constitutional Amendments: Proposed Amendments, and Amending Issues 1789–2002 p. 281

En route to his inauguration by train, Lincoln addressed crowds and legislatures across the North.Donald (1996), pp. 273–277. The president-elect then evaded possible assassins in Baltimore, who were uncovered by Lincoln’s head of security, Allan Pinkerton. On February 23, 1861, he arrived in disguise in Washington, D.C., which was placed under substantial military guard.Donald (1996), pp. 277–279. Lincoln directed his inaugural address to the South, proclaiming once again that he had no intention, or inclination, to abolish slavery in the Southern states:

The President ended his address with an appeal to the people of the South: "We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies … The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature."Donald (1996), pp. 283–284. The failure of the Peace Conference of 1861 signaled that legislative compromise was implausible. By March 1861, no leaders of the insurrection had proposed rejoining the Union on any terms. Meanwhile, Lincoln and nearly every Republican leader agreed that the dismantling of the Union could not be tolerated.Donald (1996), pp. 268, 279.

Beginning of the war

The commander of Fort Sumter, South Carolina, Major Robert Anderson, sent a request for provisions to Washington, and the execution of Lincoln’s order to meet that request was seen by the secessionists as an act of war. On April 12, 1861, Confederate forces fired on Union troops at Fort Sumter, forcing them to surrender, and began the war. Historian Allan Nevins argued that the newly inaugurated Lincoln made three miscalculations: underestimating the gravity of the crisis, exaggerating the strength of Unionist sentiment in the South, and not realizing the Southern Unionists were insisting there be no invasion.Allan Nevins, Ordeal of the Union (1959) vol 5 p 29 William Tecumseh Sherman talked to Lincoln during inauguration week and was "sadly disappointed" at his failure to realize that "the country was sleeping on a volcano" and that the South was preparing for war.Sherman, pp. 185–186. Donald concludes that, "His repeated efforts to avoid collision in the months between inauguration and the firing on Ft. Sumter showed he adhered to his vow not to be the first to shed fraternal blood. But he also vowed not to surrender the forts. The only resolution of these contradictory positions was for the confederates to fire the first shot; they did just that."Donald (1996), p. 293.