Lincoln, Christians, & Slavery

The observations made by the friends and associates of Lincoln as a youth and young adult are consistent with letters and speeches later written by him. As a skillful writer, lawyer and politician, Lincoln, crafted documents. In several of Lincoln’s writings leading up to and through his Presidency, it can be seen that his decision to fight for the emancipation of the slaves was not based on him being a believer of the Christian faith. In a letter from Lincoln to Senator Stephen Douglas, he wrote:

“I have not allowed myself to forget that the abolition of the Slave-trade by Great Britain, was agitated a hundred years before it was a final success; that the measure had it’s open fire-eating opponents; it’s stealthy “don’t care” opponents; it’s dollar and cent opponents; it’s inferior race opponents; its negro equality opponents; and its religion and good order opponents; that all these opponents got offices, and their adversaries got none.[1]

The true meaning behind the statement can not be stated with absolute certainty by the writer, but could Lincoln be presenting his view of Christians? Could he wonder how those Bible-thumping Christians accept slavery as a way of life? “Religion” is often used synonymously with “Christianity.” Is it possible that all the pious Christians that Lincoln attended Church with as a youth and young adult, he felt, were hypocrites? His letter, one of his first anti-slavery writings places “religion and good order opponents” in a category characterized by groups that are contradictory to Christian principles.


[1] – Abraham Lincoln, “The Higher Object of This Contest,” in In Lincoln’s Hand His Original Transcripts, Eds. Harold Holzer and Joshua Wolf Shenk, (New York: Bantam Dell, 2009) 54.

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