In the 1850s leading up to the War, the issue of slavery was at the forefront of political debate with the Missouri Compromise and the Kansas-Nebraska Act. The issue went beyond the Biblical affirmation of slavery to the contrasts between the rapidly industrializing North and the agricultural economic system of the South which drove the contrasting labor systems. In the 1850s the abolitionists demanded the end of slavery and even the overthrow of the United States to accomplish that goal ignoring or vehemently arguing against the authority of the Constitution and the Bible and ignoring the deplorable working conditions of the factories in the “free” North and the system of immigrant indentured servitude common in their New England states. Today, the issues of welfare, abortion and gay rights are social hot points on the front pages with Biblical basis for moral dictates with the Southern Bible Belt again taking a more conservative position on these current social issues. Today, these issues are driving legislative debate in regards to entitlement funding and reform, federal earmarks and state and federal Constitutional civil rights.
The worth of each human life was at the forefront of the arguments which led to the 3/5th Compromise in the US Constitution, the subsequent Compromise of 1850 and Crittenden Compromise of 1860 and, the eventual 13th Amendment in regards to the issue of slavery. More recently, the Defense of Marriage Act, states passing Constitutional Amendments for and against same sex marriages, and court decisions like Roe v Wade with states enacting legislation to limit the breadth of that court decision and defunding Planned Parenthood highlight the legislative and judicial battlegrounds for these current social issues. It is documented that a US House of Representatives, Speaker of the House in the mid 1850s stated that although he didn’t own a slave, he would never stand in the way of another man’s legal right to own one. The argument went on that the blacks were not a real person (as could be inferred by the Constitutions 3/5th Compromise), the same arguments given today by the liberals in justification of the abortion of living babies in the name of a woman’s right to choose. And today, in another parallel, a hazy moral foundation is excused where the President routinely alters his stated support for political expediency such as his recent exuberant endorsement of same sex marriages. Lincoln in the 1850s stated he would not interfere with the institution of slavery and did not conceive of the equality or integration of the races but, when it became politically and militarily expedient, he issued the Emancipation Proclamation to rally his base and attempt to fuel an insurrection in support of his war effort. But, in President Lincoln's first inaugural address, he had said, "I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so." During the war, in an 1862 letter to the New York Daily Tribune editor Horace Greeley, Lincoln said, "My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and it is not either to save or destroy slavery." But it is politics as usual to say whatever is necessary to rally the base or the troops.