The consensus view of the Civil Warthat it was first and foremost a war to restore the Union, and an antislavery war only later when it became necessary for Union victorydies here. Oakes's groundbreaking history shows how deftly Lincoln and congressional Republicans pursued antislavery throughout the war, pragmatic in policy but steadfast on principle.
In the disloyal South, the federal government quickly began freeing slaves, immediately and without slaveholder compensation, as they fled to Union lines. In the loyal Border States the Republicans tried coaxing officials into abolishing slavery gradually with promises of compensation. As the devastating war continued with slavery still entrenched, Republicans embraced a more aggressive military emancipation, triggered by the Emancipation Proclamation. Finally it took a constitutional amendment on abolition to achieve the Union's primary goal in the war. Here, in a magisterial history, are the intertwined stories of emancipation and the Civil War. Preeminent Lincoln historian Eric Foner says, "This remarkable book offers the best account ever written of the complex historical process known as emancipation. The story is dramatic and compelling, and no one interested in the American Civil War or the fate of slavery can afford to ignore it."
James Oakes is the Graduate School Humanities Professor and Professor of History at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He is also the author of The Radical and the Republican, which won the Lincoln Prize.
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