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Does Lincoln Deserve the Title "The GREAT Emancipator"?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 8/2/2017 Category: Politics
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Debating Period
Viewed: 5,994 times Debate No: 103378
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While many have viewed Abraham Lincoln as an almost god-like figure to be revered as the man who freed the slaves, it has come to my attention that history has smoothed over many of Lincolns faults. Lincoln is shown, in some legitimate documents and letters that for much of the civil war he stated the main reason for war was to unite the country and had nothing to do with slavery. In other documents, he talks about not allowing the black population to associate with whites, hold any positions of power or even vote. Lincoln does not deserve the title "The GREAT Emancipator" because there is a dark side to his presidency. Maybe he should be called just "The Emancipator", but he certainly was not great, and he did not free the slaves in every way.

I hope my opponent and I can uncover the truth behind the figure.


Well, this is an unconventional topic for me, but challenge accepted. Yes, Lincoln was a great president. No historian doubts that - he led America through one of it's biggest wars and passed the three Civil Rights amendments.
He did suspend Habeas Corpus and he did have a hard time picking generals, but those are generally considered minor compared to his positive achievements.
Claims that he was a dictator, in other words, were and are highly exaggerated.
Debate Round No. 1


This is not necessarily a question of whether or not Abraham Lincoln was a great president, but rather, a great emancipator. To do this, it is important to look at the side of his presidency that dealt with African American affairs. His suspension of Habeus Corpus and trouble picking generals, while might have weakened his presidency somewhat, have nothing to do with his policies regarding African Americans. In a letter to Horace Greeley, the Editor of The New York Tribune, Lincoln wrote, "my paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery." Many believe for Lincoln, this war was only about slavery. They title him the Great Emancipator because it is believed his intentions were pure from the start. But Lincoln did not care either way. As the letter continues, he writes "If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it". Lincoln did not have the best interests of the slaves at heart. His goal was not to free the slaves, but to save the Union, and he makes it abundantly clear in this text. So calling him the Great Emancipator seems to be a misjudgement of what his true policies were.


Freeing the slaves to save the Union was also the opinion of the Republican party establishment at the time. This is why, when rumors of a Confederate peace offer surfaced, moderate Republicans pulled their support.
Lincoln did not agree, however. He denied there being a peace offer in a letter to Congress. Why did he do this if his intentions in passing the 13th amendment was to save the Union?
Debate Round No. 2


Actually, freeing the slaves was a goal shared by the more radical Republicans. The majority of the Republican party were fighting the war to keep the Union together, but not to end slavery. In fact, many would not have fought if they believed they were putting their lives on the line to free and give rights to African Americans.
Your argument seems a little muddled, so I will try to offer the best rebuttal I can, given what you have stated.

1. This debate is not whether or not Lincoln freed the slaves, but if he deserves the title "The Great Emancipator".

2. Lincoln's first and foremost need was to save the Union. The war was fought to recapture nations that had succeeded from the Union.

3. As the war grew on, and many blacks had fled from the south, Emancipation was used as a military policy to undermine the South while providing a new workforce of freed slaves for the North. This gave more power to the North and left the South, whose economy was mainly based on exports produced by slave labor, in a very vulnerable economic position. This made recapture and forcing the South to reenter the Union much easier. So passing the 13th Amendment was more of a power move that further forced the nation together than a play to free the slaves that would push the nation apart.

4. The war had come far enough, and the North was in a position to take the South. Any attempts to make a peace offer would have been in Southern interests, not Northern. In fact, there was an election during the war and Lincoln went up against McClellan. McClellan promoted ending the war and allowing the South to keep its power, but Lincoln proved to the North that the war was winnable. The northerners were not going to back off, the war had gone on long enough and they could win. There would not be any peace offers or mediation. So Lincoln won the election, taking the majority of the military vote as well and won the war. Peace offerings were so unpopular that McClellan - a peace offering on a silver platter - was not elected by the North.

5. But peace offers are still beside the point. Lincoln freed the slaves for interests that had more to do with military and economic power than with morals or ethics. Lincoln does not deserve the title "The Great Emancipator" because his policy that freed the slaves was not based on great ideals or great beliefs. It was tactical and not as heroic as many believe. And the Amendments to the constitution that he made were easily sidestepped with sharecropping and black codes that basically forced the black population back into slavery. He did not set up African American for success, and even after the 13th Amendment, they had very few civil, economic and political freedoms.


1. It is. And I argued that Lincoln wanted to free the slaves for several reasons, among them that he thought slaves were unjustly treated.
2. Clearly Lincoln was on the side of peace earlier on - he only began the war after an attempted Confederate capture of Fort Sumter. However, it may have been true that he simply rejected the peace offer.
3. Undermining the South by taking their slave workforce away was the purpose of the executive order, the Emancipation Proclamation. However, this was not the purpose of the more extensive 13th Amendment.
4. McClellan lost the election for various reasons, among them the anti-secession, abolitionist vote.
5. In order to prevent workarounds to the 13th amendment, Congress passed the 14th and 15th amendments. The Republican Establishment was trying to pass these bills after the war - so even the Republican establishment seemed to have a kind of support for former slaves.
Debate Round No. 3
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Debate Round No. 4
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