‘The hallmark of Lincoln’s greatness was his capacity for growth,” says Eric Foner, in the keystone statement of “The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery.” Coming from an unapologetic Marxist, this observation has an unexpectedly sympathetic ring to it. After all, Lincoln may have been the Great Emancipator, but he was also a commercial lawyer and the friend of railroads and corporations. And his notion of emancipation went only as far as abolishing the legal institution of slavery; what happened to the freed slaves afterward was a point on which Lincoln was vague.
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