The outlet online sale Crooked Path to high quality Abolition: Abraham Lincoln and the Antislavery Constitution outlet sale

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The outlet online sale Crooked Path to high quality Abolition: Abraham Lincoln and the Antislavery Constitution outlet sale

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An award-winning scholar uncovers the guiding principles of Lincoln’s antislavery strategies.

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 brilliant 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.

Lincoln adopted the antislavery view that the Constitution made freedom the rule in the United States, slavery the exception. Where federal power prevailed, so did freedom. Where state power prevailed, that state determined the status of slavery, and the federal government could not interfere. It would take state action to achieve the final abolition of American slavery. 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. As a congressman in 1849 Lincoln sponsored a bill to abolish slavery in Washington, DC. He reentered politics in 1854 to oppose what he considered the unconstitutional opening of the territories to slavery by the Kansas–Nebraska Act. He attempted to persuade states to abolish slavery by supporting gradual abolition with compensation for slaveholders and the colonization of free Blacks abroad.

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 affect what Lincoln called the "King’s cure": state ratification of the constitutional amendment that in 1865 finally abolished slavery.

Review

"With this superb book, Oakes opens the way for a thorough retelling of the nation’s history from the American Revolution to the Civil War."
Sean Wilentz, author of No Property in Man

"Eleanor Roosevelt used to say, ‘If you must compromise, compromise up.’ The champion compromiser up was Lincoln, as Oakes proves, avoiding the simple views of him as just opportunist or just emancipator. He knew where he was going, even when he had to obscure the goal."
Garry Wills, author of Lincoln at Gettysburg

"A diamond of historical scholarship, with deep research and understanding shining brilliantly in every facet."
Sidney Blumenthal, author of The Political Life of Abraham Lincoln

"With crisp and lucid prose, Oakes provides a map that guides the reader through the zigs and zags of the path to freedom."
James M. McPherson, author of Battle Cry of Freedom

"Brilliant…A landmark contribution."
David S. Reynolds, author of Abe: Abraham Lincoln in His Times

"On Lincoln, on the Civil War, on slavery’s downfall, on constitutional change―this is an indispensable book."
Amy Dru Stanley, author of From Bondage to Contract

"No other scholar has shed more light on Lincoln’s way of dealing with slavery."
Michael Burlingame, author of Abraham Lincoln: A Life

"Cogently argued, by one of our foremost historians of emancipation."
Manisha Sinha, author of The Slave’s Cause

"I read this remarkable book with pleasure and admiration. Oakes writes like a dream."
Don Herzog, author of Sovereignty, RIP

About the Author

James Oakes is one of our foremost Civil War historians and a two-time winner of the Lincoln Prize for his works on the politics of abolition. He teaches at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

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Jason Park
5.0 out of 5 stars
What If Lincoln Wasn’t A White Supremacist?
Reviewed in the United States on January 12, 2021
There are two ledges that amateur and professional historians alike can veer toward in their analysis of Abraham Lincoln. The first is a hagiography of Lincoln that unabashedly celebrates him as “the Great Emancipator” at the forefront of the abolition movement who saw... See more
There are two ledges that amateur and professional historians alike can veer toward in their analysis of Abraham Lincoln. The first is a hagiography of Lincoln that unabashedly celebrates him as “the Great Emancipator” at the forefront of the abolition movement who saw black and white equality exactly the same as many of us do today. This is not true. But the counter-narrative, that Lincoln was a white supremacist who used abolition of slavery only as a political tool and was only antislavery when it behooved him, is also not as supported as it may seem. James Oakes takes aim especially at the second of those narratives in his new book, The Crooked Path to Abolition. He accomplishes this by looking at the full picture of Lincoln in his context.

It is important to note, and Oakes is clear, that Lincoln was not a part of the abolitionist movement, even as many of his political enemies claimed he was. “As Eric Foner writes, Abraham Lincoln was not an abolitionist and never claimed to be. But Lincoln always hated slavery as much, he once said, as any abolitionist.” The key, however, is that Lincoln read the constitution as an antislavery document. This was the big political argument of the day: Does the constitution support slavery or is it antislavery? Different people read the Constitution in different ways, and they ascribed different motivations to the founders to support their views. This all was happening less than 60 years after the Constitution was ratified, so it is no wonder that we still do the same sort of thing today. But the truth is, the Constitution could easily be read as pro-slavery or anti-slavery, and there is a reason for that. Oakes explains:
"Given that the Constitution was the handiwork of men who disagreed about slavery, it is hardly surprising that it could be — and was — read as both proslavery and antislavery. Even today scholars disagree over whether the compromises of 1787 produced a Constitution that was fundamentally proslavery. My own view is that, depending on which clauses you cite and how you spin them, the Constitution can be read as either proslavery or antislavery."

Oakes spends a lot of time on the arguments about whether the constitution was proslavery or antislavery, and they are a big part of why the book is worth reading, so I will only outline them here. The proslavery constitution argument boils down to the fugitive slave clause and the three-fifths compromise, both of which assume slavery as the norm and institute, respectively, the right of enslavers to recapture runaway slaves in another state and the ability of southern states to count slaves as three-fifths of a person for representation purposes. These clauses in the constitution are seen as showing support for slavery as an institution, even though the word “slave” is not mentioned.

The antislavery constitution argument, however, starts with the idea that “Freedom is the rule, slavery the exception.” Therefore, enslavers have no rights that are not spelled out in the Consitution itself, which means that there is no “property in man”, as slavery proponents believed, and no one could be coerced to provide a fugitive slave to their enslaver. The enslaver simply had the right to take the runaway for himself.

It is in these crevices of historical context that The Crooked Path to Abolition gets lost, and I mean that in the best possible way. Oakes is able to get the reader so engrossed in the political arguments of the day that you begin to see where Lincoln came from and what he was all about. You begin to see how someone could be so committed to the antislavery constitution and federalism itself that he would not take the opportunity to free every slave with the stroke of his pen (a power he did not actually have) but at the same time took every opportunity to emancipate slaves when he could, persuade others when he couldn’t, and devote his presidency after the Emancipation Proclamation to convincing states it was in their best interests to abolish slavery themselves. This, not the Emancipation Proclamation, is what led to the Thirteenth Amendment and thus the end of slavery in the United States. As Oakes writes, “Lincoln’s sustained effort to get states to abolish slavery, after the Emancipation Proclamation had been issued, remains one of the least-understood features of his presidency.”

There were only two sections of the book where I thought anything substantial was missing, and even those were minor qualms. The first deals with whether Lincoln was a white supremacist or not, and employs the most famous quote in which Lincoln seems to evoke white supremacy outright:
"I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, [applause] — that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will for ever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race."
Sounds pretty much like white supremacy, right? Then Oakes writes in defense:
"This was Lincoln’s single most overt endorsement of racial discrimination, yet several historians have noted the oddly negative phrasing Lincoln used here. He didn’t actually say he supported the various forms of inequality he listed; he simply said he had never endorsed the several forms of racial equality he specified. He said there was a “physical difference” between blacks and whites, but he didn’t say what the difference was. Lincoln was clearly aware that many people believed those physical differences — whatever they were — necessitated the superiority of whites and the inferiority of blacks. But Lincoln didn’t say whether he believed that. What he did say was that as long as blacks and whites “must be” assigned a position of superior and inferior he would naturally prefer to be “assigned” to the superior category. But who could disagree with that? Who would “favor” being “assigned” to the inferior position?"

Where Oakes’s defense falls apart, for me, is that Lincoln doesn’t say “as long as blacks and whites must be assigned a position of superior and inferior”. He says “while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior”. That tells me that Lincoln couldn’t imagine a world where true equality exists. And I really don’t blame him for that, given his context. We can see that world much easier from our vantage point, even though it doesn’t yet exist. But I tend to think that, as antislavery as Lincoln was, he couldn’t quite grasp a United States where racial hierarchy didn’t exist. So I mostly agree with Oakes even on this point, and he doesn’t push too hard on it, saying afterward that:
"At the very least Lincoln’s remarks at Charleston paid cowardly deference to the racial prejudices of his listeners. A more straightforward reading is also less exculpatory: Lincoln did not support allowing blacks and whites to “intermarry.” He did not support allowing black men to vote. He did not support allowing blacks to sit on juries, thereby diluting his commitment to due process rights for accused fugitive slaves. In a state that discriminated against African Americans on explicitly racial grounds, to declare that you’d prefer to be assigned to the superior race is to virtually, if not literally, endorse the racial hierarchy. No doubt Lincoln’s defenses of black humanity and fundamental equality were more consistent, more frequent, and quite unambiguous compared to his periodic bowings and scrapings before the racist peanut gallery. But the contradiction is still there, and it cries out for explanation."
So I guess I agree with Oakes completely after all.

The last point is just one I wish he had explained more because I don’t understand why so many slave states would abolish slavery at the end of the war. They ended up abolishing slavery and ratifying the Thirteenth Amendment without any federal incentives. I kept waiting on a full explanation of how this happened, and Oakes writes this paragraph in explanation:
"None of these states abolished slavery because Abraham Lincoln told them to abolish slavery. Rather, Lincoln and the Republicans in Congress had taken advantage of the war to undermine slavery in those states, shifting the balance of power to favor those who opposed slavery and, as often, opposed the long-standing domination of their states by the slaveholding class. Each state was different, but in all of them the agency of the slaves, the empowerment of the non-slaveholders, and federal policy came together to create conditions that made abolition possible."
This is a good broad explanation, and maybe I missed the specifics throughout the second half of the book that would make all of it come together. Then he gets to the meat of it:
"In the last year of the war, six slave states — Arkansas, Virginia, Maryland, Missouri, Louisiana, and Tennessee — abolished slavery on their own — though under enormous pressure from the federal government to do so. To be sure, some of these “states” were barely even states. Virginia’s legislature was entirely a creature of the federal government and at best claimed sovereignty over a handful of counties in proximity to Washington, DC. Louisiana’s legislature was scarcely more representative of the state. Tennessee’s even less so. But as far as the Lincoln administration was concerned, the only legitimate state government was a loyal state government, and in the president’s accounting six “loyal” slave states had abolished slavery."
So that makes a little more sense. But I still feel like something important is missing here. Even with governmental pressure, even with only the loyal parts of the states getting a vote, even with the balance of power shifted (however that worked), I can’t imagine enough votes in, say, the Arkansas state legislature to abolish slavery in 1864. Maybe that’s a failure in my imagination, but I was waiting for a more complete answer and I didn’t find one.
Small nuanced takes aside, The Crooked Path to Abolition is simply a wonderful, detailed account of the political scene before and during the Civil War and how Lincoln led the nation to a place where slavery no longer existed. It helped me see much more clearly how antislavery political leaders used the Constitution as it was to bring about the world they knew was right. That is a highly important message for us today, as it provides a blueprint to create a better America.

I received a review copy of The Crooked Path to Abolition courtesy of W.W. Norton Company and NetGalley, but my opinions are my own
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Brian Lewis
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
The Antislavery Fight Before the Civil War
Reviewed in the United States on May 14, 2021
This is a great view of Lincoln''s political fight against slavery, most of it in his pre-Presidential years, but also including the early years of his Presidency. In recent years, I have become intensely interested in the years running up to the Civil War, and... See more
This is a great view of Lincoln''s political fight against slavery, most of it in his pre-Presidential years, but also including the early years of his Presidency.

In recent years, I have become intensely interested in the years running up to the Civil War, and have seen Oates become one of the leading scholars of the period. He has also written about this period in The Radical and the Republican, about Frederick Douglas and Lincoln; and in Freedom National, about the fight to recognize freedom as the condition expected for American citizens, unless otherwise specified.

The themes of Oates'' works may sound like lawyers'' nitpicking squabbles, and in a sense they are, but the nation went to war over them and Oates does a great job of conveying their importance, both at the time and for the future.

Highly recommended for students of the time period. Maybe a bit difficult for those unfamiliar with the issues discussed.
3 people found this helpful
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John W
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Lincoln''s project continues
Reviewed in the United States on March 23, 2021
Read this book before you rename your school. The process of ending slavery was torturous and heroic. Lincoln began the transformation of the nation which continues today. He was transformed in the process.
7 people found this helpful
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GMB
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Abraham Lincoln and the slave years.
Reviewed in the United States on March 27, 2021
I gave this story a rating of 4 because I knew it would take another reading or so to clearly understand what’s being said. I got the narrative part because I knew I’d have a hard time reading it and would have to read it a couple more times to understand it. I enjoyed it... See more
I gave this story a rating of 4 because I knew it would take another reading or so to clearly understand what’s being said. I got the narrative part because I knew I’d have a hard time reading it and would have to read it a couple more times to understand it. I enjoyed it and think others will also. I learned a lot about how sly Lincoln could be to get what he wanted done. An eye opener.
3 people found this helpful
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Kindle Customer
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
One of the most relevant Civil War books I''ve read in a while.
Reviewed in the United States on May 4, 2021
This book was one of the best Civil War books that I have read in a long time. I am always looking for a good Civil War book to read, and I am not always able to find them, but this one really hit the spot. One of the finest written books to hit the shelves in a long time.... See more
This book was one of the best Civil War books that I have read in a long time. I am always looking for a good Civil War book to read, and I am not always able to find them, but this one really hit the spot. One of the finest written books to hit the shelves in a long time. Really a well written book. I really appreciated the subject matter, and the discussion was very relevant at a time such as this, when so much is getting blurred by the current events, I think that it is important that we stop to remember where we did come from.
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G Reader
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A dense book that makes a few points
Reviewed in the United States on June 12, 2021
This is second book by Oakes I’ve read, and as much as I enjoyed his other, this was hard to get through. I found the writing sense and slow and the primary point was that Lincoln’s opinion and tactics evolved. I think this might have made for an excellent... See more
This is second book by Oakes I’ve read, and as much as I enjoyed his other, this was hard to get through. I found the writing sense and slow and the primary point was that Lincoln’s opinion and tactics evolved.

I think this might have made for an excellent journal article, but seemed stretched to fill 200 pages. The breadth of research and thought are evident, but the payoff was less than I’d have hoped
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Nessim Levy
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A truly concise revealing look at how Lincoln’s views on race evolved.
Reviewed in the United States on March 5, 2021
In a relatively short book the evolution of Lincoln’s views on slavery and abolition are clearly laid out. It is a very nuanced analysis avoiding broad generalizations
2 people found this helpful
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Jerry Fields
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Strong scholarship on a neglected aspect of our collective moral and political history.
Reviewed in the United States on August 10, 2021
This piece does not hesitate to get into the weeds In order to restore our understanding of how emancipation came to be. Understanding how we first came to partially overcome our national original sin in the 19th century may inspire us to finally complete the job in the... See more
This piece does not hesitate to get into the weeds In order to restore our understanding of how emancipation came to be. Understanding how we first came to partially overcome our national original sin in the 19th century may inspire us to finally complete the job in the 21st.
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