Reaction Paper Primary and Secondary Sources


Summary: Secondary Source

The article, “The Emancipation Proclamation: Abraham Lincoln’sConstitutionally Modest Proposal” is a secondary source, whichprovides a historical review of the emancipation. Nichols (2013) doesnot only provide a summary of the emancipation letter, ratherrevisits its arguments. In the review, the author attempts todemonstrate the boundaries that exist amid the authority of thenational administration and that of states, the extreme andrestrictions of the president’s constitutional power, and thepossibility of differentiating amid lawful as well as politicaldecision making. According to the Nichols (2013), Lincoln endeavoredto demonstrate the above issues during the Emancipation Proclamationdefense. The article argues that Lincoln accepted that theconstitution granted the southern states their freedoms however, itwas also correct in providing safeguard for slavery within the stateswhere it was widespread. In addition, though Lincoln agreed to thesuggestion that the constitution comprised embedded safeguards forsouthern slavery, he supposed that there existed a differentconstitutional provision, pushing him in the opposite direction. Thisis to mean that emancipation was necessary for military triumph andas the commander-in-chief he had the power to make constitutionalamendments resulting in the freeing of slaves.

In making his argument, Nichols (2013) often refers to EmancipationProclamation as presented by Lincoln. This is apparent through theuse of direct quotations obtained from the primary source. The authorbegins the article by providing a summary of the date and reasons forthe proclamation. He then proceeds to present the arguments that willbe discussed in the article. When making the arguments, the authorinitially makes reference to what Lincoln said, and uses the quotesto expand on his argument. This happens all through the article. Theauthor does not only expound on the quotes, but uses them as astarting point to discuss other arguments, which derive from theproclamation, for instance, in discussing the constitutionality ofAbraham Lincoln freeing of slaves from southern states.

Evidence in Primary Source Fits and Alters

The evidence provided in the primary source, fits as well as altersthat presented in the secondary source. The primary source is theEmancipation Proclamation as presented by Lincoln in 1862. The sourceprovides the exact public statement as was presented. The main reasonwhy the primary source fits in well with the secondary source is thatthe primary source provides the basis for argument to the secondarysource. This means that Nichols (2013) depends on the proclamation inthe exact manner that it was presented by Lincoln in making hisargument. Another reason is that both sources make clear the periodwhen the proclamation was issued, its purpose and what it meant forthose involved. The secondary source begins the argument bypresenting the main argument as, “all persons held as slaves withinany state or designated part of a state, the people shall then be inrebellion against the United States…and forever free” (Nichols,2013 Lincoln, 1862). This fits in well with the primary source,which also introduces the proclamation in the similar manner. Itbecomes apparent that both articles argue on the issue of freeingslaves, under what circumstances and after what period.

In addition, the evidence provided by the primary source alters thatprovided by the secondary source. The primary source provides thereader with the content of the public statement that Lincoln made inhis endeavor to free slaves. The article does not go into detail, orprovide further analysis of the proclamation, for instance arguing onits constitutionality or not. Instead, it presented the authority ofLincoln, as then commander-in-chief in his public address to ensurethe victory of Americans, which could then free slaves. On thecontrary, the secondary source aimed at discussing the extreme towhich the proclamation was constitutional. Nichols (2013) does notjust provide a summary of the proclamation, but further argues ifLincoln had a constitutional freedom to command that southern statesfree their slaves. This is the basis of the argument for thesecondary source. While the primary source presents the rights of thepresident in making such a public statement, the secondary sourceaims at presenting the differences between the constitutionalprovisions and the rights of Lincoln in giving the proclamation. Inthe primary source, the president adheres to the constitution whilein the secondary source the argument presents some alterations to theconstitution, which favor the US.


The primary source provides more understanding on the EmancipationProclamation. It becomes possible to read and understand the precisestatement as presented by Lincoln. The source also providesunderstanding on the circumstances resulting in the public statementand states that were expected to free their slaves. As a primarysource, it is not possible to feel the time difference between theaddress and now. The argument in the secondary source is convincing.This is because, in addition to referring to the primary source, theauthor uses different sources and presents an argument andcounterargument for the claims made.


Lincoln, A. (22 Sep. 1862). Abraham Lincoln’s EmancipationProclamation. Civil War Trust. Retrieved from

Nichols, D. (1 Jan. 2013). The Emancipation Proclamation: AbrahamLincoln’s constitutionally modest proposal. Library of Law andLiberty. Retrieved from lincolns-constitutionally-modest-proposal/