As president, he made the only morally correct decision: to end the evil of slavery. He accepted the result: to fight with the southern states, which were slave.
It is an unambiguous, ethical structure. In this way, Lincoln stands alone – against our politicians, who play the political game.
Of course, Lincoln did not end all slavery – some states that supported him in the war allowed slavery to continue. That was politically smart: he didn’t want to argue with his political friends. In addition, abolition in 1862 freed many southern slaves, who could strengthen the northern army. The army was in bad shape. This was also politically wise, and brought him more support from his friends in the north.
So reality is different from appearance. What do we learn from that?
A. We tend to make up the past with more doubt than it really is. Then there was the political game.
Two. It can assure us. Lincoln, like our politicians, played a political game – but he was able to make a historical and moral decision.
Three. We should not shout about that political game. Lincoln was able to make a historic and moral decision because he knew how to play the political game.
Hans de Bruijn is a public administration and debate expert. Every week he analyzes the guiding language of politicians. Read all his contributions on composing here.
This article is part of a special issue of Letter&Geest about the slavery museum. Read more? See Trouw.nl/slavernij.