Lincoln and the Politics of Slavery

The Other Thirteenth Amendment and the Struggle to Save the Union

By Daniel W. Crofts

368 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 24 halftones, 1 tables, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-6394-4
    Published: February 2021
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-2731-1
    Published: April 2016
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-2732-8
    Published: February 2016
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-5025-6
    Published: February 2016

Civil War America

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Awards & distinctions

2017 Bobbie and John Nau Book Prize in American Civil War Era History, John L. Nau III Center for Civil War History at the University of Virginia

In this landmark book, Daniel Crofts examines a little-known episode in the most celebrated aspect of Abraham Lincoln’s life: his role as the “Great Emancipator.” Lincoln always hated slavery, but he also believed it to be legal where it already existed, and he never imagined fighting a war to end it. In 1861, as part of a last-ditch effort to preserve the Union and prevent war, the new president even offered to accept a constitutional amendment that barred Congress from interfering with slavery in the slave states. Lincoln made this key overture in his first inaugural address.

Crofts unearths the hidden history and political maneuvering behind the stillborn attempt to enact this amendment, the polar opposite of the actual Thirteenth Amendment of 1865 that ended slavery. This compelling book sheds light on an overlooked element of Lincoln’s statecraft and presents a relentlessly honest portrayal of America’s most admired president. Crofts rejects the view advanced by some Lincoln scholars that the wartime momentum toward emancipation originated well before the first shots were fired. Lincoln did indeed become the “Great Emancipator,” but he had no such intention when he first took office. Only amid the crucible of combat did the war to save the Union become a war for freedom.

About the Author

Daniel Crofts is the author of Reluctant Confederates: Upper South Unionists in the Secession Crisis.
For more information about Daniel W. Crofts, visit the Author Page.


“[An] intelligent and absorbing book. . . . Challenges the dominant emancipationist narrative and forces a new look at the dynamics and directions of politics and public interest during the secession crisis.”--Library Journal

“Meticulously detailed. . . . A thorough look at the dissension that tore the country apart.”--Kirkus Reviews

"A well-written and exhaustively researched study"--Civil War Monitor

“A highly readable account of a seldom-remembered feature of early Civil War history. Highly recommended.”--Choice

"A well researched and thought-provoking book about Abraham Lincoln and his position on slavery."--North Carolina Historical Review

“An essential study of Republican ideology and the political efforts to prevent secession in the months following Lincoln’s election.” --The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

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