Gilder Lehrman Book Breaks features the most exciting history scholars in America discussing their books with host William Roka live, followed by a Q&A with home audiences.
Join us online on Sunday, January 24 from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. ET (11: 00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. PT) with James Oakes as he discusses his book "The Crooked Path to Abolition: Abraham Lincoln and the Antislavery Constitution."
The long and turning path to the abolition of American slavery has often been attributed to the equivocations and inconsistencies of antislavery leaders, including Lincoln himself. But James Oakes’s history of Lincoln’s antislavery strategies reveals a striking consistency and commitment extending over many years. The linchpin of antislavery for Lincoln was the Constitution of the United States. With this understanding, Lincoln and his antislavery allies used every tool available to undermine the institution. Wherever the Constitution empowered direct federal action—in the western territories, in the District of Columbia, over the slave trade—they intervened.
President Lincoln took full advantage of the antislavery options opened by the Civil War. Enslaved people who escaped to Union lines were declared free. The Emancipation Proclamation, a military order of the president, undermined slavery across the South. It led to abolition by six slave states, which then joined the coalition to effect what Lincoln called the "King’s cure": state ratification of the constitutional amendment that in 1865 finally abolished slavery.
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