Thursday, October 22, 2009

Monograph #13 Hayden White

Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War, and Emancipation Proclamation

In narrating History, it is quite important matter for Historians what poetic strategies or literary strategies they are going to take to describe certain events in History. Hayden White proposes four modes of explotment, in narrating Historical events: Romance, Tragedy, Comedy and Satire. Each one of them would have different view and emphasis on a single event.

Romance, according to White, is drama of self-identification, including a hero's triumph over evil. Tragedy is wherein a hero, through a fall or test, learns through resignation to work within the limitations of the world, and the audience learns as well. Comedy is in which there is harmony between the natural and the social; causes for celebration. Satire is the opposite of romance. In satire, people are captives in the world until they die.

I would like to write my monograph about the life of Abraham Lincoln who was the one of the greatest leaders of America in four different views, modes of explotment: Romance, Tragedy, Comedy and Satire.


Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery,
I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.

-Abraham Lincoln

It was so heated argument. The 1858 campaign featured the Lincoln-Douglas debates, a famous contest on slavery. Lincoln warned that "The Slave Power" was threatening the values of republicanism, while Stephen A. Douglas emphasized the supremacy of democracy, as set forth in his Freeport Doctrine, which said that local settlers should be free to choose whether to allow slavery or not. (Wikipedia)

Although it was Douglas who was reelected as the senate, Lincoln became emerging a national political star by this debate. There were a lot of obstacles for Lincoln to achieve his dream which is to free slaves and make equal society. However, his brilliant speech impressed public and he was elected as a president of America in 1860. It was the first victory of anti-slavery over slavery.

However, even after he became president, his opponents who advocated slavery did not stop being against Lincoln, their new leader. Finally the seven states- Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, and Arkansas declared themselves to be a new nation, the Confederate States of America.

It was a great challenge for Lincoln. Did he have to give up his passion to free slaves? It was now time for him to answer to challenge of his opponents. He decided to fight. He did not compromise. Then Civil War in America has begun in 1861. Even during the war, he continued his work on freeing slaves and in July 1862, Congress passed the Second Confiscation Act, which freed the slaves of anyone convicted of aiding the rebellion. The goal was to weaken the rebellion, which was led and controlled by slave owners. Finally The Emancipation Proclamation, announced on September 22, 1862 and put into effect on January 1, 1863, freed slaves in territories not already under Union control. As Union armies advanced south, more slaves were liberated until all of them in Confederate territory (over three million) were freed. Then Lincoln said “I never, in my life, felt more certain that I was doing right, than I do in signing this paper.” (Wikipedia)

After 2-3 years, Northern America defeated Southern America. And finally Lincoln succeeded to reunite America and completely abolish slavery in America.


It was terrible. The war in one nation produced about 1,030,000 casualties which was 3% of the population. Based on 1860 census figures, 8% of all white males aged 13 to 43 died in the war, including 6% in the North and an extraordinary 18% in the South.

Lincoln could see this. It was a tragedy. People who had same nationality and blood had to fight just because of differences in their ideas and ideologies. While 4 million black slaves were freed in 1861-65, a number of white men died. It was too expensive to be a cost for freeing slaves. Lincoln succeeded to free the slaves but he failed to save the lives of a number of people in his country.

Anyway, after the victory, Lincoln attended the play Our American Cousin on April 14, 1865. As a lone bodyguard wandered, and Lincoln sat in his state box (Box 7) in the balcony, by John Wilkes Booth crept up behind the President and waited for what he thought would be the funniest line of the play ("You sock-dologizing old man-trap"), hoping the laughter would muffle the noise of the gunshot. When the laughter began, Booth jumped into the box and aimed a single-shot, round-slug 0.44 caliber Deringer at his head, firing at point-blank range. (Wikipedia)

Lincoln died in 14 April 1865. It was not long after his victory. His life was just ended before he enjoyed his victory.


Civil war was actually a great conflict between South and North. Lincoln saw how terrible the war was and right after the war he tried to reconstruct Unite States. In early April, Grant took Petersburg and the Union army entered Richmond. Lincoln made a short trip to the fallen Confederate capital, and he was cheered wildly by freed slaves and Union soldiers. A Union general asked Lincoln how the conquered people of Richmond should be treated, and Lincoln answered, “If I were in your place, I'd let 'em up easy, let 'em up easy.” On April 9, 1865, just as Lincoln returned to Washington, Lee surrendered his army to Grant at Appomattox Court House, a village in Virginia. The war was all but over. (Encarta)

On April 11, 1865, Lincoln addressed a celebrating crowd gathered outside the White House. Again he called for national unity and goodwill toward the defeated South. He appealed to his audiences to “join in doing the acts necessary to restoring the practical relation between states and Union.” (Encarta)

Under the leadership of Abraham Lincoln, North and South rapidly recovered their friendship. Although they had lost a lot of things by the war, there became strong United States. Then the Unity among states brought great development in politics, economy, and society.


It seemed to be going right. It seemed to be successful. The war ended as Lincoln’s North defeated South. Lincoln showed his will to reconstruct United States, and friendship between North and South. His work was great, he proclaimed Emancipation, and won the war.
However, in fact, it was not like what was shown and seen. Just 3 days after the Civil War was completely over, Lincoln was assassinated by actor John Wilkes Booth.

Lincoln died in 14 April 1865. It was not long after his victory. His life was just ended before he enjoyed his victory. Lincoln’s death showed that a man was nothing but captive of the world until he died. Lincoln may have thought that he just succeeded in everything but it was the time for him to die.

So what happened after Lincoln’s death? What happened then after a great struggle of Lincoln and United States under his leadership? Nothing had changed. Blacks returned to a state of debt peonage which was even worse than slavery.

Everything was done, but nothing had changed. A number of people died and everything was ruined in America. All of them were for change. However, changes United State was given were too small for their sacrifices. And they were facing a new challenge.


Abraham Lincoln (October 6, 2009). In Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia Retrieved 04:37 October 6, 2009 from

American Civil War (October 6, 2009). In Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia Retrieved 00:21 October 6, 2009 from

Abraham Lincoln Retrieved from Encarta Encyclopedia (1993-2003): Microsoft Corporation

White, H. (1973). Metahistory: The historical imagination in nineteenth-century Europe.
Baltimore: John Hopkins University.

Rea, V. Metahistory. Retrieved October 10, 2007, from

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