Even before the Rebs fired on Fort Sumter, there were two distinct motivations for the Feds to go to war. One reason was slavery--the "peculiar" institution already erased from most Western societies and cultures, but still very much alive and kicking here.
More than a century later, it's helpful to remember that opposition to slavery, however, was not the most pressing motivation for going to war. Keeping the Union together was. The Union Army was full of men who went to their deaths believing that no black man would or should ever be granted the right to vote.
Abraham Lincoln himself was thoroughly anti-slavery and said his much for years before becoming President in 1860. Although he came from a region of southern Illinois known for its sympathy for its slave-holding neighbors, as early as 1837 Lincoln and one other Illinois legislator were the only reps who objected to an anti-abolition measure that passed overwhelmingly.
So many years later, it may come as a surprise--it did to me!--to know that significant differences existed between those who opposed slavery and those who campaigned for abolition. Some historians argue that when Lincoln was inaugurated he hated slavery, opposed it, wanted it ended. He was anti-slavery.
But he wasn't an abolitionist, wasn't someone who wanted equal rights for the slaves, for the millions of African-Americans who'd been brought here against their will, treated and regarded as animals.
In 1860, President Abraham Lincoln simply believed, like many others, that the end of American's "peculiar" institution was soon to come. He wasn't in league with John Brown or any of the wild-eyed New England abolitionists, or those passionate believers who carried the cross of Christ into battle. Equal rights was simply unthinkable.
But in office, during the war, Lincoln changed. Why? Some historians argue that when the Union effort included over 200,000 former slaves, it became impossible for him to believe that those patriots (as in the 1989 film Glory) could be anything less than American citizens once the fighting ceased.
Lincoln himself believed that his signing the Emancipation Proclamation was his most important contribution to American history and culture. “I never, in my life, felt more certain that I was doing right, than I do in signing this paper,” he said. “If my name ever goes into history it will be for this act, and my whole soul is in it."
Those of us who believed Donald Trump was not fit to be President have no choice now but to trust that what happened to Abraham Lincoln can happen once again when we inaugurate this nation's 47th President. Trump is not about to be deposed or to quit. He is our President, as hard as that is for me to say. His disdain for the CIA does not mark any progress down that road. He continues to lie about most everything.
But people grow into the offices they hold. Even Lincoln did. That's what I have to continue to tell myself.