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New Perspectives on the Union War$
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Gary W. Gallagher and Elizabeth R. Varon

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780823284542

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823284542.001.0001

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Waiting for the Perfect Moment

Waiting for the Perfect Moment

Abby Kelley Foster and Stephen Foster’s Union War

Chapter:
(p.9) Waiting for the Perfect Moment
Source:
New Perspectives on the Union War
Author(s):

Frank J. Cirillo

Publisher:
Fordham University Press
DOI:10.5422/fordham/9780823284542.003.0002

Unlike most abolitionists, Abby Kelley Foster and Stephen Foster refused to support the Union war. This chapter locates their antiwar motivations in their idiosyncratic brand of nationalism. The Fosters, like all abolitionists, desired to create a more perfect Union bereft of slavery and moral prejudice. The couple, however, led a hard-line faction that also emphasized moral rigidity—the need for reformers to avoid compromise, lest they corrupt the antislavery mission. This radical vision led the Fosters to oppose the Union war as an imperfect—and therefore unacceptable—vehicle for antislavery reform. Abraham Lincoln, in their view, would never fulfill abolitionists’ desires for total emancipation and black rights. Even after the Emancipation Proclamation, the pair continued to oppose the Lincoln administration as an obstacle to true reform. This chapter thus opens a window onto the meanings of the Union war for those Northerners who never saw wartime emancipationist progress as inevitable.

Keywords:   abolitionism, emancipation, Emancipation Proclamation, Abraham Lincoln, Abby Kelley Foster, Civil War, moral rigidity, Republican Party, Stephen Foster

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