The President of the United States is not a descendant of former slaves, which may make it easier for him to draw analogies to what President Lincoln once said — see David Dayen’s post on Obama’s last lecture — about his willingness to make compromises about freeing slaves to advance his goal of preserving the Union.
Let’s recall what Lincoln actually wrote in his letter of 1862 to Horace Greeley in which he explained his Emancipation policy as it related to saving the Union:
. . . I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can be restored the nearer the Union will be “the Union as it was.” If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time save Slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy Slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or destroy Slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that. What I do about Slavery and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save this Union, and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. . . . Read the rest of this entry →