Learning Lincoln On-line


Lincoln's Response to Slavery, and What He Thought of it, As expressed through his words and writings throughout his lifetime-- THREE LEARNING ACTIVITIES


Also visit:  Abolitionists Presidential Press-Conference

Slavery, Fugitive Slave Law, the Underground Railroad and
the Black Laws of Illinois.  

Learning On-Line "Abraham Lincoln and Slavery"

       Commonly a learning activity like this is planned to be done chronologically.  In studying Abraham Lincoln and his feelings and response toward slavery could be done in a totally different way than chronologically.  We all know that Abraham was born in Kentucky, and then moved to Indiana.  He lived in Kentucky with his Baptist father, Thomas Lincoln, who adamantly hated the institution of slavery.  Hating slavery had nothing to do with relationships with black people.  The slaves in Kentucky were located mostly on large commercial plantations.   Thomas Lincoln was a sustenance farmer.  Sustenance farmers grew crops and raised live stalk for consumption, not sale.  

       Thomas Lincoln thought slavery was an immoral institution.  His son, Abraham, would witness slaves on the pathway near the Lincoln home, being transported back and forth by slave owners.  Abraham would hear "great" discussions of the evilness of slavery between his father and other visitors of their farm. 

       Thomas and Nancy Lincoln would leave Kentucky and move to the Northern state of Indiana to get away from slavery and other problems in Kentucky. 

       We all know that Abraham, as a young man, travelled to New Orleans twice to deliver products on a flatboat from Indiana and later Illinois. He would personally witness slave auctions, and see slavery in-action in the south. 

       The slavery projects will consider a set of questions, listed below.  In addition, there is a set of "tasks," to help learn more about Abraham Lincoln and the problem of slavery.

Abraham Lincoln considers how to end slavery

    "Abraham Lincoln is often referred to as "The Great Emancipator" and yet, he did not publicly call for emancipation throughout his entire life. Lincoln began his public career by claiming that he was "antislavery" -- against slavery's expansion but not calling for immediate emancipation.  He was not an active "Abolitionist."
However, the man who began as "antislavery" eventually issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed all slaves in those states that were in rebellion. He vigorously supported the 13th Amendment which abolished slavery throughout the United States, and, in the last speech of his life, he recommended extending the vote to African Americans."  Visit the Henry Ford video covering America's history of liberty.   


      Lincoln wasnít an abolitionist.

      Lincoln didnít believe blacks should have the same rights as whites.

      Lincoln thought colonization could resolve the issue of slavery.

      Emancipation was a military policy.

      The Emancipation Proclamation didnít actually free all of the slaves.


      Words of Lincoln are listed at Lincoln NPS Site

--Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858 Activity and Resource Site about Abraham Lincoln's Pre-Civil War views on slavery.

--Letter from Frederick Douglas to Abraham Lincoln concerning the possible emancipation of slaves

--PBS Slavery & the Making of America

--The 19th Century Southern Viewpoint for Slavery (by owners)

--Slave Contraband during the Civil War


Go Here to learn about these topics, and work on four learning activities


Task #1

"The House Divided Speech" (Read the Excerpt from Abraham Lincoln's "House Divided Speech")

This famous speech, given in 1858 encompasses Lincoln's political solution on the issue of slavery, including causes of national division and what will have to happen to end it all.

Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Convention.

If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could then better judge what to do, and how to do it.

We are now far into the fifth year, since a policy was initiated, with the avowed object, and confident promise, of putting an end to slavery agitation.

Under the operation of that policy, that agitation has not only, not ceased, but has constantly augmented.

In my opinion, it will not cease, until a crisis shall have been reached, and passed.

"A house divided against itself cannot stand."

I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free.

I do not expect the Union to be dissolved -- I do not expect the house to fall -- but I do expect it will cease to be divided.

It will become all one thing or all the other.

Either the opponents of slavery, will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new -- North as well as South

Have we no tendency to the latter condition?"

Read the articles and passages as presented in the slavery activities.  Consider the questions listed.  b. Take notes as answers for the questions are revealed.  Use the Article Response Form to record your answers. 

A. Start with a concept called "The Slave Power Conspiracy," concerning the pre 1870's Southern viewpoint and Northern counter-viewpoint of the issue of slavery. and Northern counter-viewpoint of the issue of slavery.

B. Study Abraham Lincoln's politics concerning slavery in our country, and particularly his statements from the Debates with Stephen Douglas in 1858. Click the National Park Service Article on "Lincoln and Slavery."

C. Study where and how Abraham Lincoln got his philosophy and ideas about the "final solution of the problem of slavery--its' gradual extinction."  Click the National Park Service on "Emancipation and the Quest for Freedom."

D. Study how Abraham Lincoln's early life helped to formulate his attitudes and beliefs about slavery.  Click the articles on Lincoln's attitude toward slavery in the early years.

E. Study President Abraham Lincoln's evolving during his Presidency concerning slavery.  Go to the Gilder-Lehrman Site to read about "Allies for Emancipation? Black Abolitionists and Abraham Lincoln."


Task #2


It is difficult now to understand why slavery was ever allowed in the United States.  Why did it grow and become so important in the South?  Why did some Northerners fear the ending of slavery in the South?  What did President Lincoln do about slavery?
Through reading the selected readings and quotes from Abraham Lincoln, throughout his career, you can see a change in his attitude and feelings about slavery/equality/individual rights. 

It is difficult to understand how the 1850's political leader, even Abraham Lincoln, could think the way they did.  America was in a totally different value system in the mid nineteenth century. 

Slavery was a very important economic issue in the South, especially after development of the Cotton Gin.  The slave was basically treated as an investment, a tool, and a work-horse (not human).  The Southern politicians were staunch about protecting the right to own slaves.


A.  Take on the role of a U.S. President, a Southern plantation owner/farmer with slaves, a northerner, a poor white farmer in the north and border states, and make decisions where you stand on the subject of SLAVERY or ABOLITIONIST. 

B.  Study your role choice and then decide on the issues of expansion of slavery into the new Territories, later to be states and the morality aspect, taking the side of your role choice.

C.  Complete the table below for the role you chose.  Be careful to not mix opposing thoughts and opinions in your responses.  In a debate, you often will get the side you don't agree with, but have to support it anyway.  You can find information on the Resource List given earlier.


Task #3


RESOURCES-- Use the resources listed in the Introduction &

PBS Slave Memories Timeline  &/or   PBS Timeline

Answer the Questions:

A. 1626-- What happened at Jamestown (New Netherlands)?

B. 1641-- What law was passed concerning run-away slaves?

C.  1663-- What did a group of slaves do?

D. 1682-- What declaration did Virginia set-forth concerning black servants?

E. 1708-- What had happened to South Carolina's population numbers?

F. 1696-- What happened to the slave business in New England?

G. 1733-- what did the Quaker, Elihu Coleman publish?

H. 1770-- Crispus Attucks, died for what reason?

I. 1773-- Slaves started this, as a first for them. What was it?

J. 1784-- Thomas Jefferson tried to get a proposal through concerning slavery, but failed.  What was the proposal?

K. 1788-- The U.S. Constitution considers slavery and the 3/5th's clause.  What is the 3/5th's clause?

L. 1819-- What happened to the slave trading industry?

M. 1831-- A runaway slave safety program gets it's name.  What is this program?

N.1842-- An old 1792 slave law was brought up in (Prigg v. Pennsylvania), and became the law of the land.  What was that law?

O. 1848-- A new Anti-slavery group organizes a political party. What was the name of the party, and what was their major platform (thing they wanted stopped)?

P. 1857-- Slavery proponents gain much in a Supreme Court Decision.  What was the case, and what did it say about slavery in the territories?

Q. 1860-- How many slaves were there in the U.S.?   A new President is elected.  Who was he?

R. 1861-- What war starts, and where?

S. 1862-- Blacks were now allowed to obtain "free land" from what Act?

T. The first Black (Colored) unit was organized to fight in the Civil War.  What was the name of this famous unit?

U. 1865-- A constitutional amendment is passed to abolish slavery.  What number is the amendment.

V.  Slavery ended in 1865.


Task #4


Go to the State Codes Site to learn of the effect of these harsh laws.  Click Here to enter the "Black Code of Illinois Picture Study Puzzle."  This TASK will have multiple reading and "question/answer" components.

Answer the Questions:

A.  Why didn't Abraham Lincoln become an abolitionist? 

B. Why did President refuse to end slavery by any means other than a Constitutional Amendment?  3. Why did President Lincoln declare that slavery was not the reason for the Civil War? 

C. Why did he hold back on emancipating the slaves of the Confederate States? 

D. Why did he think he could organize a project to send free slaves to South America or Liberia (Africa)? 

E. Why did Abraham say, in 1858, at Charleston, Illinois that there could not be equality of blacks and whites?

F. Why did free blacks in Richmond, Virginia, after Richmond fell call President Abraham Lincoln "Father Abraham?


Lincoln and Slavery 16th President Activity

Slavery Resources

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