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Posted at 9:47 AM ET, 01/10/2011

Lonnie Bunch: Why was Abraham Lincoln so silent following his election?

By Lonnie Bunch

Founding director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture.


Abraham Lincoln recognized that his election was a pivotal moment in history. First and foremost, his goal was always to preserve the Union. He wanted to ensure that the North and South would stay together in order to maintain the continued growth and dominance of the United States. Part of his silence was because he was worried about the Border States like Tennessee, Kentucky and Missouri. He felt it was really important that, as the Confederacy, or what we now know as the Confederacy, began to move toward secession, the Border States remained a part of the Union. Keeping the Boarder States part of the Union would weaken a new Confederacy. Also, many of those Border States were crucial to the economic growth of the United States because, among other things, they controlled some of the rivers.

The second reason was that Lincoln was also trying to consolidate his position within the Republican Party. Even though he was now the President, he only received 39% of the vote. So, he was really trying to make sure that he had the continued support of some of the people who also supported William Henry Seward, a leading contender for the nomination Lincoln eventually won. He was, in essence, trying to make sure that he could consolidate his position as President.

Thirdly, part of Lincoln’s silence was because he recognized that his upcoming inauguration was going to be so important. He wanted to figure out what he should say to try to keep the Union together and to make it clear that ending slavery was not his priority.

By Lonnie Bunch  | January 10, 2011; 9:47 AM ET
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Next: Harold Holzer: Why was Abraham Lincoln so silent following his election?

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