This letter is a summary of a conversation which President Abraham Lincoln had with three Kentuckians: Governor Thomas E. Bramlette, former United States Senator Archibald Dixon and Albert G. Hodges, editor of the Frankfort Commonwealth. The letter provided a glimpse into Lincoln's balancing act between his personal views on slavery and his constitutional responsibilities as president. Lincoln reveals that ultimately each step in the process of emancipation was in the interest of saving the Union, and thus preserving the Constitution itself. Lincoln closed his letter by providing a preview of his second inaugural address, when he suggested the Civil War was God's punishment for slavery in America.
- What were President Abraham Lincoln's personal views on slavery? Why, according to him, did he originally not use the presidency to act on those personal views?
- Explain Lincoln's amputation metaphor. How did it relate to his approach on handling slavery?
- Why did Lincoln change his original position of non-interference with slavery where it existed, such as in his first inaugural address, to one of emancipation?
- For Lincoln, what was the connection between God, the Civil War and slavery in the last section of his letter?
Lincoln, Abraham, "Letter from the President to Albert Hodges," Burlington Weekly Hawk-eye, pp. 3, 30 April 1864. Courtesy of Library of Congress