Lincoln's Leadership Style IIThe vexed question of whether emancipation should be a goal of the Union side in the Civil War has led many to question Lincoln's sensitivity to the need to correct the obvious injustices of slavery and racism. In Lincoln and His Admirals, the book cited in yesterday's post, author Craig Symonds offers this summary and anecdote:
"Conservative Republicans supported the president so long as it was evident that his primary goal indeed, his only goal was saving the Union. They were lukewarm to the idea that the party should ensure the permanence or universality of emancipation, and most of them opposed the proposition of granting citizenship or other civil rights to the former slaves. More progressive Republicans, such as Chase [the treasury secretary] pressed Lincoln not only to make emancipation permanent and universal but also to make a commitment to civil rights for blacks. Lincoln was entirely committed to emanicipation in the rebellious South, and encouraged programs by which the border states could undertake voluntary emancipation, but he made no specific commitments either way about civil rights for blacks. On this, as on other issues, Lincoln kept both branches of his party in the fold by postponing the moment when he had to choose between them.
In a cabinet meeting later that winter [of 1863], Lincoln told a story about a black preacher who told his parishioners that there were 'two roads for you' and they must 'be careful,' for one road led 'straight to hell,' and the other went 'right to damnation.' Upon consideration of this warning, the parishioner responded: 'Josh, take which road you please, I go troo de wood.'" (p.269)
I think it's safe to say that Lincoln's anecdote has relevance to just about any factional struggle that threatens achievement of a critical mission.