Poems on the Abolition of the Slave Trade, James Montgomery et al., 1809

Contradictions of Slavery

By the time of Lincoln’s birth an international antislavery movement had succeeded in passing legislation to end the transatlantic slave trade. Thomas Clarkson’s history of the movement includes a river-like diagram of activist networks on both sides of the Atlantic. Despite the prohibition of the international slave trade, the institution of slavery within the United States remained strong. The paradox of slavery thriving within a nation dedicated to ideals of freedom and equality shaped American politics throughout Lincoln’s lifetime.