Eric Foner Sets Us Straight on Lincoln and Slavery

peteanddelmar

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I wonder if Lincoln just became convinced that blacks, who in his mind had been behind, had somehow in his thinking quickly caught up with whites in their ability to be full citizens? Or did he just think they deserved the chance to start immediately and learn on the fly, in his new thinking? Or was he manufacturing voters as the Radicals were accused of?

Years ago I thought Lincoln was a life long "free-er of the slaves" type person and learned that wasn't always the case.

I wonder what specifically changed his thought process in 4 years? Just the circumstances? Knowing that the institution itself had to die for the nations sake? That "partly free" blacks would become slaves again?

I just wonder.
 

War Horse

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That was the best use of just under 2.5 minutes that I have seen for some time. I considered starting a thread on the colonization period but decided against it as I was afraid it might be thought in poor taste. It is history It did happen and you can read about it in Doris Kearns Goodwin's book, Team of Rivals. The idea was even pitched to prominent Blacks at the Whitehouse. When Fredrick Douglass read about it much to their surprise was appalled by the idea.

At that meeting, the first and only time he would ever take the proposal of colonization directly to blacks, Lincoln assumed the unfortunate tone of a condescending father scolding ignorant children. "But for your race among us there could not be war," he observed, and he went on to prescribe their removal as the remedy. He had given up Liberia as an option for colonization because transportation there was too expensive and blacks preferred to remain on the American continent. Instead, he touted Central America, although not mentioning Chiriqui by name, as an area rich in coal where even a small band of colonists might succeed. When the prominent black abolitionist Frederick Douglass read about the meeting, he reacted with fury. "It expresses merely the desire to get rid of them," Douglass said of Lincoln's proposal for freed blacks, "and reminds one of the politeness with which a man might try to bow out of his house some troublesome creditor or the witness of some old guilt."

http://quod.lib.umich.edu/j/jala/26...-of-black-colonization?rgn=main;view=fulltext
 

brass napoleon

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...Years ago I thought Lincoln was a life long "free-er of the slaves" type person and learned that wasn't always the case.

I wonder what specifically changed his thought process in 4 years? Just the circumstances? Knowing that the institution itself had to die for the nations sake? That "partly free" blacks would become slaves again?

I just wonder.

It helps to separate the concept of slavery and race. Lincoln was opposed to slavery throughout his adult life. Well before he took office as President he believed the institution had to die for the nation's sake:

I have said, and I repeat it here, that if there be a man amongst us who does not think that the institution of slavery is wrong in any one of the aspects of which I have spoken, he is misplaced, and ought not to be with us.
...

Has anything ever threatened the existence of this Union save and except this very institution of slavery? What is it that we hold most dear amongst us? Our own liberty and prosperity. What has ever threatened our liberty and prosperity, save and except this institution of slavery? If this is true, how do you propose to improve the condition of things by enlarging slavery,-by spreading it out and making it bigger? You may have a wen or cancer upon your person, and not be able to cut it out, lest you bleed to death; but surely it is no way to cure it, to engraft it and spread it over your whole body. That is no proper way of treating what you regard a wrong. You see this peaceful way of dealing with it as a wrong,-restricting the spread of it, and not allowing it to go into new countries where it has not already existed.
...
It is the eternal struggle between these two principles-right and wrong-throughout the world. They are the two principles that have stood face to face from the beginning of time, and will ever continue to struggle. The one is the common right of humanity, and the other the divine right of kings. It is the same principle in whatever shape it develops itself. It is the same spirit that says, “You work and toil and earn bread, and I’ll eat it.” No matter in what shape it comes, whether from the mouth of a king who seeks to bestride the people of his own nation and live by the fruit of their labor, or from one race of men as an apology for enslaving another race, it is the same tyrannical principle.


- Abraham Lincoln, Alton, Illinois, 1858

Source: http://www.bartleby.com/251/72.html
In the absence of war, he did not believe in immediate emancipation, however. He preferred a more gradual course that could take a hundred years or longer, as Foner noted. A year into the war, however, he began to recognize the importance of immediate emancipation as a war measure, and yet he continued throughout his Presidency to support more gradual means as well.

But race is a different matter. Prior to his Presidency, he believed that the black race was inferior to the white race, and although they deserved the right to be free, he felt they should be second-class citizens, much as women at the time were second-class citizens. His thinking on that evolved during his Presidency, however, as he became acquainted with people like Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth, and as he witnessed the valor and heroism of black Union troops, to the point that he believed it proper to give full citizenship to at least some blacks.
 

brass napoleon

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That was the best use of just under 2.5 minutes that I have seen for some time. I considered starting a thread on the colonization period but decided against it as I was afraid it might be thought in poor taste. It is history It did happen and you can read about it in Doris Kearns Goodwin's book, Team of Rivals. The idea was even pitched to prominent Blacks at the Whitehouse. When Fredrick Douglass read about it much to their surprise was appalled by the idea.

At that meeting, the first and only time he would ever take the proposal of colonization directly to blacks, Lincoln assumed the unfortunate tone of a condescending father scolding ignorant children. "But for your race among us there could not be war," he observed, and he went on to prescribe their removal as the remedy. He had given up Liberia as an option for colonization because transportation there was too expensive and blacks preferred to remain on the American continent. Instead, he touted Central America, although not mentioning Chiriqui by name, as an area rich in coal where even a small band of colonists might succeed. When the prominent black abolitionist Frederick Douglass read about the meeting, he reacted with fury. "It expresses merely the desire to get rid of them," Douglass said of Lincoln's proposal for freed blacks, "and reminds one of the politeness with which a man might try to bow out of his house some troublesome creditor or the witness of some old guilt."

http://quod.lib.umich.edu/j/jala/26...-of-black-colonization?rgn=main;view=fulltext

It's important to note, though, that at this time there was a split between the black leadership. There were several black leaders, like Martin Delany, who were staunchly in favor of colonization. Interestingly, after the EP, Delany too changed his mind about that, and became the highest ranking black officer (a Major) in the Union Army.
 

War Horse

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It helps to separate the concept of slavery and race. Lincoln was opposed to slavery throughout his adult life. Well before he took office as President he believed the institution had to die for the nation's sake:

I have said, and I repeat it here, that if there be a man amongst us who does not think that the institution of slavery is wrong in any one of the aspects of which I have spoken, he is misplaced, and ought not to be with us.
...

Has anything ever threatened the existence of this Union save and except this very institution of slavery? What is it that we hold most dear amongst us? Our own liberty and prosperity. What has ever threatened our liberty and prosperity, save and except this institution of slavery? If this is true, how do you propose to improve the condition of things by enlarging slavery,-by spreading it out and making it bigger? You may have a wen or cancer upon your person, and not be able to cut it out, lest you bleed to death; but surely it is no way to cure it, to engraft it and spread it over your whole body. That is no proper way of treating what you regard a wrong. You see this peaceful way of dealing with it as a wrong,-restricting the spread of it, and not allowing it to go into new countries where it has not already existed.
...
It is the eternal struggle between these two principles-right and wrong-throughout the world. They are the two principles that have stood face to face from the beginning of time, and will ever continue to struggle. The one is the common right of humanity, and the other the divine right of kings. It is the same principle in whatever shape it develops itself. It is the same spirit that says, “You work and toil and earn bread, and I’ll eat it.” No matter in what shape it comes, whether from the mouth of a king who seeks to bestride the people of his own nation and live by the fruit of their labor, or from one race of men as an apology for enslaving another race, it is the same tyrannical principle.


- Abraham Lincoln, Alton, Illinois, 1858

Source: http://www.bartleby.com/251/72.html
In the absence of war, he did not believe in immediate emancipation, however. He preferred a more gradual course that could take a hundred years or longer, as Foner noted. A year into the war, however, he began to recognize the importance of immediate emancipation as a war measure, and yet he continued throughout his Presidency to support more gradual means as well.

But race is a different matter. Prior to his Presidency, he believed that the black race was inferior to the white race, and although they deserved the right to be free, he felt they should be second-class citizens, much as women at the time were second-class citizens. His thinking on that evolved during his Presidency, however, as he became acquainted with people like Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth, and as he witnessed the valor and heroism of black Union troops, to the point that he believed it proper to give full citizenship to at least some blacks.

He also realized he could get more done to accomplish immediate emancipation during the war. Its true he and Douglass became friends. Lincoln knew once the war ended the emancipation proclamation would be returned to the level of individual state government. That was his driving force of having the 13th amendment ratified during the war. He felt driven to make it controlled by the federal government rather than the individual state. He was successful in what I consider to be some of the most masterful political maneuvering prior to or even to the modern day.
 

peteanddelmar

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It helps to separate the concept of slavery and race
I wonder what changed him from a colonist to an enfranchiser in 4 years, specifically.
I can see why he thought the slaves were not immediately ready to be voters...they had been held down.
But in 4 years he changed to giving some or all the vote. I wonder what specifically moved him that far.
Radical hounding? Or did he maybe not feel they were ready but wanted to keep them from being re-enslaved and somehow thought it would help?

I just wonder.
 

unionblue

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I wonder what changed him from a colonist to an enfranchiser in 4 years, specifically.
I can see why he thought the slaves were not immediately ready to be voters...they had been held down.
But in 4 years he changed to giving some or all the vote. I wonder what specifically moved him that far.
Radical hounding? Or did he maybe not feel they were ready but wanted to keep them from being re-enslaved and somehow thought it would help?

I just wonder.

This is the one thing that most people cannot seem to grasp about Lincoln and the one facet of his character that few of the political leaders of his time could understand.

Lincoln had the ability to learn, and more importantly, to change his views and his objectives during his life and during the conflict of the Civil War. He could adapt, where others could not. He could discard old ideas and try new ones, where others couldn't even fathom such changes.

He was flexible where others were stuck in cement.

This is what impresses me about Lincoln.

Sincerely,
Unionblue
 
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peteanddelmar

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He could discard old ideas and try new ones, where others couldn't even fathom such changes.
I've always been impressed with Lincoln intellect as he seemed to be a step ahead of everyone else.
That is also what makes me wonder how he changed from thinking a slave should be exported because they were seen as so far behind....to wanting enfranchisement in such short time?

Or maybe he still didn't think they were ready but just wanted to give them a chance?
And was it Radical pushing that convinced him? Or just his own brain? Or what?

I have read 2 or 3 older biographies on Lincoln but they didn't address these things. They just stated the change but gave no reason for it's tremendous rapidity.
 

unionblue

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I've always been impressed with Lincoln intellect as he seemed to be a step ahead of everyone else.
That is also what makes me wonder how he changed from thinking a slave should be exported because they were seen as so far behind....to wanting enfranchisement in such short time?

Or maybe he still didn't think they were ready but just wanted to give them a chance?
And was it Radical pushing that convinced him? Or just his own brain? Or what?

I have read 2 or 3 older biographies on Lincoln but they didn't address these things. They just stated the change but gave no reason for it's tremendous rapidity.

peteanddelmar,

I tend to think Lincoln might have been like the rest of us and our relations with our fathers.

When we are young, we are so impatient and disgusted with our fathers for the way they say and do things, and then after a few more years, we are greatly impressed with how much the old man has learned in a few years. :smile:

Lincoln was pretty much like all of us as he grew and matured, he had very black and white ideas when he was young, such as colonization, but as he grew older, gained more experience, actually came into contact with other blacks, he began to evolve, to see things differently.

We can always see that Lincoln disliked slavery from his earliest days, but we see him grow and change in his attitudes towards handling the issue of slavery as he get older and gains more experience. Hence, his change from voluntary colonization to emancipation.

In my own opinion.

Sincerely,
Unionblue
 

brass napoleon

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I've always been impressed with Lincoln intellect as he seemed to be a step ahead of everyone else.
That is also what makes me wonder how he changed from thinking a slave should be exported because they were seen as so far behind....to wanting enfranchisement in such short time?

Or maybe he still didn't think they were ready but just wanted to give them a chance?
And was it Radical pushing that convinced him? Or just his own brain? Or what?

I have read 2 or 3 older biographies on Lincoln but they didn't address these things. They just stated the change but gave no reason for it's tremendous rapidity.

Consider this. Prior to becoming President, it would appear that Lincoln (like most Northerners) had very little direct contact with black people. Most of what he knew about black people came from the people who had the most contact with them: slaveholders. This information made them out to be stupid, lazy, thieving liars who NEED white folks to tell them what to do. It was one of the main driving forces of American racism as a whole. While Lincoln clearly didn't buy all of it, it would have been just about impossible for him not to be partially affected by it.

Then he becomes President and meets people like Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth, who very clearly are the exact opposite of the slaveholder propaganda. He hears of a black regiment recruited in Kansas that fights heroically. He emancipates slaves and allows them to serve in the Union army, and finds that they also serve nobly and, when given the opportunity, fight heroically. So my question is, why WOULDN'T he want to enfranchise them?
 

peteanddelmar

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Consider this. Prior to becoming President, it would appear that Lincoln (like most Northerners) had very little direct contact with black people

I have only read one book about blacks in the North and they were slaves.

Were free blacks in the North living in their own isolated communities? Was that why so few people rubbed shoulders with them? I guess there were almost zero free blacks in the Old Northwest?
 

brass napoleon

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I have only read one book about blacks in the North and they were slaves.

Were free blacks in the North living in their own isolated communities? Was that why so few people rubbed shoulders with them? I guess there were almost zero free blacks in the Old Northwest?

Some were living in isolated communities, some were integrated. But the total number of blacks in the northern states was just a couple of percent of the total population.

EDIT TO ADD: In Illinois, they made up less than a half a percent of the total population. (Source)
 
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ole

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Heartily agree with all posts.

I think Lincoln believed that the black would never get a fair shake in this country, so he favored colonization even as president. Then he found that there was little interest in the black community. Couple that meeting some impressive black leaders and work of the USCT, and he was ready to grant citizenship to some.
 

War Horse

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In my studies I have come to the strong impression Lincoln was against slavery from childhood. In Illinois every cent that was earned by a person under the age of 18 belonged to that persons father. Thomas Lincoln would often hire Abraham out to neighboring farmers as labor and Abe would have to hand over his earnings to Thomas. In this sense Abe felt he know something about forced labor because he resented it tremendously. His idea's of emancipation however did radically change as his experiences during the war introduced him to the race and he became better associated with their great leaders. I believe these are two very different subjects.
 

Lost Cause

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This is the one thing that most people cannot seem to grasp about Lincoln and the one facet of his character that few of the political leaders of his time could understand.

Lincoln had the ability to learn, and more importantly, to change his views and his objectives during his life and during the conflict of the Civil War. He could adapt, where others could not. He could discard old ideas and try new ones, where others couldn't even fathom such changes.

He was flexible where others were stuck in cement.

This is what impresses me about Lincoln.

Sincerely,
Unionblue
Union Blue,

I could not agree more concerning Lincoln and his ability to adapt throughout the war. As much as I have pointed out alternatives at the onset of the war, I have always contended, at the end if the war he was the bridge for reunification between the Union and the secessionist states of the attempted Confederacy. Few leaders at that time had the ability and the power for forgiveness. The bridge was largely destroyed after that fatal bullet.
 

War Horse

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Union Blue,

I could not agree more concerning Lincoln and his ability to adapt throughout the war. As much as I have pointed out alternatives at the onset of the war, I have always contended, at the end if the war he was the bridge for reunification between the Union and the secessionist states of the attempted Confederacy. Few leaders at that time had the ability and the power for forgiveness. The bridge was largely destroyed after that fatal bullet.
I couldn't agree more. The skeleton of Lincoln's reconstruction plan may have been used in the beginning but I've often felt the reconstruction period would have been much different had Lincoln been at the helm of this great ship, skillfully navigating her through the trawls of that epic storm. We will never know now due to an assassins bullet. To think Booth was astonished when he read in the newspapers that Lincolns death was a great blow to the south.
 

Allie

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I have only read one book about blacks in the North and they were slaves.

Were free blacks in the North living in their own isolated communities? Was that why so few people rubbed shoulders with them? I guess there were almost zero free blacks in the Old Northwest?
There were definitely communities of blacks living in Canada, some of whom returned to America after the war.

If you think about it, colonization at the time, sending American blacks to Africa in particular, made about as much sense as suggesting that I should be shipped "back" to Scotland or Germany because I have ancestors who came from there in the 1860s. Some slaves were descended from ancestors who hadn't been near Africa since the 1600s! Not to mention that very few places on earth, even at that time, didn't have people already living there who didn't particularly crave neighbors. Most places where nobody lives are that way because they are terrible places to live.
 

Pat Young

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There were definitely communities of blacks living in Canada, some of whom returned to America after the war.

If you think about it, colonization at the time, sending American blacks to Africa in particular, made about as much sense as suggesting that I should be shipped "back" to Scotland or Germany because I have ancestors who came from there in the 1860s. Some slaves were descended from ancestors who hadn't been near Africa since the 1600s! Not to mention that very few places on earth, even at that time, didn't have people already living there who didn't particularly crave neighbors. Most places where nobody lives are that way because they are terrible places to live.
In some cases no one knew what part of Africa the slaves ancestors even came from.
 
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There were black communities in Canada, largely because of circumstances in the US. The first cohort were after the Revolution, some with loyalist families, and some veterans of British service. British Canada gradually abolished slavery, and fugitives from New York State escaped to the Niagara region. When New York abolished slavery, many of these people returned to New York.

During the War of 1812, all black militia units fought on the side of the British vs. the Americans. One unit continued in existence into the 1830s, staunch supporters of British rule. Other blacks, fleeing the Fugitive Slave Law, entered Canada. After the Civil War, many returned to the States.

Strangely enough several former high ranking Confederate officers moved for a short time to the villages along the Niagara River. Most returned to their homes when it became clear there would be no reprisals.
 
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