When Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated as President of the United States on March 4, 1861, seven states in the South had already declared their secession from the Union. Despite what you may have heard or read to the contrary, the reason for secession was the question of slavery. Lincoln stated it in his inaugural address: “One section of our country believes slavery is right, and ought to be extended, while the other believes it is wrong, and ought not to be extended. This is the only substantial dispute.”
While whether slavery should be extended or not was the immediate political issue of the moment, the contention actually went deeper. There were many abolitionists who felt that slavery such as it existed in the United States at the time was a moral wrong, an evil that should be not just limited but abolished. Many abolitionists had in fact supported the proposition in the 1840’s that states favoring the abolition of slavery should separate from the South (en.wikipedia.org, “Secession in the United States,” retrieved July 17, 2020).
There were two starkly different views, as Lincoln said, of right and wrong. Who is to decide what is right and wrong?Continue reading