Abraham Lincoln's position on freeing the slaves was one of the central issues in American history. Though Abraham Lincoln was one of the people identified as most responsible for the abolition of slavery, his position evolved over the years, and while he early went on record as being personally opposed to slavery, he did not initially take the position that it was appropriate that federal laws be passed to abolish the practice in states where it already existed. Most Americans agreed that slavery had to expand to maintain its political power, and by ending that expansion, Lincoln proposed to put slavery on a course of gradual extinction.
Before the American Civil War and even on the war's early stages Lincoln said that the Constitution prohibited the federal government from abolishing slavery in states where it already existed. His position and the position of the Republican Party in 1860 was that slavery should not be allowed to expand into any more territories, and thus all future states admitted to the Union would be free states. In this manner, he expected that slavery would be put on a path to eventual extinction.