Lincoln's Changing View of Slavery

ForeverFree

Major
Joined
Feb 6, 2010
Location
District of Columbia
The best commentary on Lincoln, race, and slavery, to me, comes from Frederick Douglass, who actually met and spoke to Lincoln. In his Oration in Memory of Abraham Lincoln (April 14, 1876), Douglass says

• "Though Mr. Lincoln shared the prejudices of his white fellow-countrymen against the Negro, it is hardly necessary to say that in his heart of hearts he loathed and hated slavery."

• "Looking back to his times and to the condition of his country, we are compelled to admit that this unfriendly feeling on his part may be safely set down as one element of his wonderful success in organizing the loyal American people for the tremendous conflict before them, and bringing them safely through that conflict."

• "Had he put the abolition of slavery before the salvation of the Union, he would have inevitably driven from him a powerful class of the American people and rendered resistance to rebellion impossible."

• "Viewed from the genuine abolition ground, Mr. Lincoln seemed tardy, cold, dull, and indifferent; but measuring him by the sentiment of his country, a sentiment he was bound as a statesman to consult, he was swift, zealous, radical, and determined."


• "...under his wise and beneficent rule, we saw ourselves gradually lifted from the depths of slavery to the heights of liberty and manhood..."

The speech reflects that Lincoln's changing views of slavery caused African Americans to have changing views of Lincoln.

This is a long excerpt from the Douglass speech:
**********

Truth is proper and beautiful at all times and in all places... It must be admitted, truth compels me to admit, even here in the presence of the monument we have erected to his memory, Abraham Lincoln was not, in the fullest sense of the word, either our man or our model. In his interests, in his associations, in his habits of thought, and in his prejudices, he was a white man.

He was preeminently the white man’s President, entirely devoted to the welfare of white men. He was ready and willing at any time during the first years of his administration to deny, postpone, and sacrifice the rights of humanity in the colored people to promote the welfare of the white people of this country. In all his education and feeling he was an American of the Americans. He came into the Presidential chair upon one principle alone, namely, opposition to the extension of slavery. His arguments in furtherance of this policy had their motive and mainspring in his patriotic devotion to the interests of his own race. To protect, defend, and perpetuate slavery in the states where it existed Abraham Lincoln was not less ready than any other President to draw the sword of the nation. He was ready to execute all the supposed guarantees of the United States Constitution in favor of the slave system anywhere inside the slave states. He was willing to pursue, recapture, and send back the fugitive slave to his master, and to suppress a slave rising for liberty, though his guilty master were already in arms against the Government. The race to which we belong were not the special objects of his consideration.

Knowing this, I concede to you, my white fellow-citizens, a pre-eminence in this worship at once full and supreme. First, midst, and last, you and yours were the objects of his deepest affection and his most earnest solicitude. You are the children of Abraham Lincoln. We are at best only his step-children; children by adoption, children by forces of circumstances and necessity.

But while in the abundance of your wealth, and in the fullness of your just and patriotic devotion, you do all this, we entreat you to despise not the humble offering we this day unveil to view; for while Abraham Lincoln saved for you a country, he delivered us from a bondage, according to Jefferson, one hour of which was worse than ages of the oppression your fathers rose in rebellion to oppose.

Fellow-citizens, ours is no new-born zeal and devotion — merely a thing of this moment. The name of Abraham Lincoln was near and dear to our hearts in the darkest and most perilous hours of the Republic. We were no more ashamed of him when shrouded in clouds of darkness, of doubt, and defeat than when we saw him crowned with victory, honor, and glory. Our faith in him was often taxed and strained to the uttermost, but it never failed. When he tarried long in the mountain; when he strangely told us that we were the cause of the war; when he still more strangely told us that we were to leave the land in which we were born; when he refused to employ our arms in defense of the Union; when, after accepting our services as colored soldiers, he refused to retaliate our murder and torture as colored prisoners; when he told us he would save the Union if he could with slavery; when he revoked the Proclamation of Emancipation of General Fremont; when he refused to remove the popular commander of the Army of the Potomac, in the days of its inaction and defeat, who was more zealous in his efforts to protect slavery than to suppress rebellion; when we saw all this, and more, we were at times grieved, stunned, and greatly bewildered; but our hearts believed while they ached and bled.

When, therefore, it shall be asked what we have to do with the memory of Abraham Lincoln, or what Abraham Lincoln had to do with us, the answer is ready, full, and complete. Though he loved Caesar less than Rome, though the Union was more to him than our freedom or our future,

• under his wise and beneficent rule, we saw ourselves gradually lifted from the depths of slavery to the heights of liberty and manhood;

• under his wise and beneficent rule, and by measures approved and vigorously pressed by him, we saw that the handwriting of ages, in the form of prejudice and proscription, was rapidly fading away from the face of our whole country;

• under his rule, and in due time, about as soon after all as the country could tolerate the strange spectacle, we saw our brave sons and brothers laying off the rags of bondage, and being clothed all over in the blue uniforms of the soldiers of the United States;

• under his rule we saw two hundred thousand of our dark and dusky people responding to the call of Abraham Lincoln, and with muskets on their shoulders, and eagles on their buttons, timing their high footsteps to liberty and union under the national flag;

• under his rule we saw the independence of the black republic of Haiti, the special object of slave-holding aversion and horror, fully recognized, and her minister, a colored gentleman, duly received here in the city of Washington;

• under his rule we saw the internal slave-trade, which so long disgraced the nation, abolished, and slavery abolished in the District of Columbia;

• under his rule we saw for the first time the law enforced against the foreign slave trade, and the first slave-trader hanged like any other pirate or murderer;

• under his rule, assisted by the greatest captain of our age, and his inspiration, we saw the Confederate States, based upon the idea that our race must be slaves, and slaves forever, battered to pieces and scattered to the four winds;

• under his rule, and in the fullness of time, we saw Abraham Lincoln, after giving the slave-holders three months’ grace in which to save their hateful slave system, penning the immortal paper, which, though special in its language, was general in its principles and effect, making slavery forever impossible in the United States.

Though we waited long, we saw all this and more.

I have said that President Lincoln was a white man, and shared the prejudices common to his countrymen towards the colored race. Looking back to his times and to the condition of his country, we are compelled to admit that this unfriendly feeling on his part may be safely set down as one element of his wonderful success in organizing the loyal American people for the tremendous conflict before them, and bringing them safely through that conflict. His great mission was to accomplish two things: first, to save his country from dismemberment and ruin; and, second, to free his country from the great crime of slavery. To do one or the other, or both, he must have the earnest sympathy and the powerful cooperation of his loyal fellow-countrymen. Without this primary and essential condition to success his efforts must have been vain and utterly fruitless.

Had he put the abolition of slavery before the salvation of the Union, he would have inevitably driven from him a powerful class of the American people and rendered resistance to rebellion impossible. Viewed from the genuine abolition ground, Mr. Lincoln seemed tardy, cold, dull, and indifferent; but measuring him by the sentiment of his country, a sentiment he was bound as a statesman to consult, he was swift, zealous, radical, and determined.

Though Mr. Lincoln shared the prejudices of his white fellow-countrymen against the Negro, it is hardly necessary to say that in his heart of hearts he loathed and hated slavery. The man who could say, “Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war shall soon pass away, yet if God wills it continue till all the wealth piled by two hundred years of bondage shall have been wasted, and each drop of blood drawn by the lash shall have been paid for by one drawn by the sword, the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether,” gives all needed proof of his feeling on the subject of slavery.

Fellow-citizens, I end, as I began, with congratulations. We have done a good work for our race today. In doing honor to the memory of our friend and liberator, we have been doing highest honors to ourselves and those who come after us; we have been fastening ourselves to a name and fame imperishable and immortal; we have also been defending ourselves from a blighting scandal. When now it shall be said that the colored man is soulless, that he has no appreciation of benefits or benefactors; when the foul reproach of ingratitude is hurled at us, and it is attempted to scourge us beyond the range of human brotherhood, we may calmly point to the monument we have this day erected to the memory of Abraham Lincoln.​

- Alan
 
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Joined
Oct 3, 2005
Even men like Sherman, who definitely was prejudiced, grasped immediately that the logical consequence of the end of slavery was equal rights.

Lincoln grasped this as well, but to achieve this meant navigating as difficult a path as emancipation. While, as Douglass says above, he shared the bigotry of his society, but I don't think that translates into denying basic rights, in fact he was moving in quite the opposite direction.
 

unionblue

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
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Location
Ocala, FL (as of December, 2015).
No one is Demonizing Old Abe. He was nothing special. However he was a Special kind of Anglo Saxon. He was an American!

There seems to be a concentrated effort to demean him, to make him into something that can be ignored or reduced to a simple white supremist/Special kind of Anglo Saxon, instead of an extraordinary man, bigger than the times he lived in.

Lincoln was a man, he had faults, he made mistakes, no one can deny that.

But no one can deny his greatness at moving this country and it's people closer to it's fundamental ideas of freedom and civil rights to ALL it's people.

He changed when no one else could even begin to imagine a nation that he saw in it's future.

"Special kind of Anglo Saxon?" The very idea demeans him and what he accomplished for all of us living today.

I won't have that.

Unionblue
 
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uaskme

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 9, 2016
Location
SE Tennessee
Wartime America was a different kettle of fish. Slavery was wrong, sure, but it was also what was wrong with the USA, leading to the Civil War. Slavery would be destroyed, by the military, to remove the one cause that threatened the existence of the USA.
The war provided a unique opportunity for emancipation.

According to Lincoln, the presence of the Black man in the Country was a cause equal to Slavery.
 

uaskme

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 9, 2016
Location
SE Tennessee
Even men like Sherman, who definitely was prejudiced, grasped immediately that the logical consequence of the end of slavery was equal rights.

Lincoln grasped this as well, but to achieve this meant navigating as difficult a path as emancipation. While, as Douglass says above, he shared the bigotry of his society, but I don't think that translates into denying basic rights, in fact he was moving in quite the opposite direction.

So now Sherman is a Radical Republican? Do you have a source for that.

The Void Of Lincoln’s passing gave the Radicals leverage which they would not of had. By Grants second term, that began to unwind. Republicans added several Republican states by 1876. Black vote in the South was no longer required to hold a Republican majority. So Blacks were thrown under the Conestoga,
 

uaskme

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 9, 2016
Location
SE Tennessee
Even men like Sherman, who definitely was prejudiced, grasped immediately that the logical consequence of the end of slavery was equal rights.

Lincoln grasped this as well, but to achieve this meant navigating as difficult a path as emancipation. While, as Douglass says above, he shared the bigotry of his society, but I don't think that translates into denying basic rights, in fact he was moving in quite the opposite direction.


In addition to his desire to be the honorable gentleman peacemaker, supported by what he construed to have been Lincoln's wishes, Sherman shared a profound political conservatism and Negrophobia with his negotiation partners. This was simply understood between them. Sherman had been nothing if not consistent in his endemic racial hatred for blacks during the war, and peace did not alter those prejudices. Therefore, it was natural for him to align himself with those who would seek to maintain the racial caste system even after the death of slavery. Breckinridge and Johnson certainly appreciated and shared Sherman's basic racial values, about which they would have known even before they met in North Carolina. When on May 9, Sherman his position to his Radical Ohio ally, Salmon P. Chase, he aired opinions consistent with those he had been expressing for two years, which he likely had shared with the Confederates three weeks earlier. "I am not yet prepared to receive the negro on terms of political equality for the reasons that it will arouse passions and prejudices at the north. . .our own armed soldiers have prejudices that, right or wrong, should be consulted. . which superadded to the causes yet dormant at the South, might rekindle the war whose fires are dying out now. "Sherman then made his own position on Reconstruction crystal clear to Chase. Surrender should produce immediate political forgiveness as "war has ceased, and the question is, to adapt legal governments to constitutional communities which fully admit their subordination to the national authority. "The North will never successfully impose racial change by fiat; "we can control the local state capitals, and it may slowly shape political thoughts, but we cannot combat existing ideas with force.". . . He repeated much the same argument to General O.O. Howard, his most racially progressive subordinate who would soon become head of the new Freedman's Bureau established to protect the rights of emancipated black, concluding that "I fear that parties will agitate for the negro's right of suffrage and equal political status, not that he asks for it or wants it, but merely to manufacture. . .votes for politicians." Americans would reject such innovation, for "there is a strong prejudice of race which over the whole country exists." pp243 Citizen Sherman by Fellman

Have to give him credit for his views on Reconstruction.
 

O' Be Joyful

Sergeant Major
The Void Of Lincoln’s passing gave the Radicals leverage which they would not of had. By Grants second term, that began to unwind. Republicans added several Republican states by 1876. Black vote in the South was no longer required to hold a Republican majority. So Blacks were thrown under the Conestoga,

Leaving aside the effect of various decisions by SCOTUS, I am not seeing--according to Wiki--where the Republicans held exclusive control of Congress in the years that would have concerned Reconstruction post 1876. In fact the Dems held a 181-107 majority in the House in the 44th session of Congress (1875-77), which was a factor of great concern if the presidential contest were to be decided there.

The "theory" of Republican dominance and control in that time is overblown and largely unfounded.

Senate numbers are in the left column, the House on the right and majority in bold.

Edit: for number typo
 
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uaskme

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 9, 2016
Location
SE Tennessee
Leaving aside the effect of various decisions by SCOTUS, I am not seeing--according to Wiki--where the Republicans held exclusive control of Congress in the years that would have concerned Reconstruction post 1876. In fact the Dems held a 181-107 majority in the House in the 44th session of Congress (1875-77), which was a factor of great concern if the presidential contest were to be decided there.

The "theory" of Republican dominance and control in that time is overblown and largely unfounded.

Senate numbers are in the left column, the House on the right and majority in bold.

Edit: for number typo


The States of Oregon added in 59, Kansas in 61, W VA in 63, Nevada in 64, Nebraska in 67 and Colorado in 76 gave Republicans Dominance in the Senate without Black Republicans voting in the South. Republicans had taken over the Senate. More Mid Western States which leaned Republican would be added.

So as the Conservatives regained control of the Southern States, Republican majorities in other States in the Senate negated the need of Black Voting. Black Voting as Sherman had predicted was being rejected elsewhere. Here is an example. Black Voting became a liability to the Republicans.
https://blackthen.com/the-election-...t-recorded-violence-against-black-in-indiana/
 
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O' Be Joyful

Sergeant Major
The States of Oregon added in 59, Kansas in 61, W VA in 63, Nevada in 64, Nebraska in 67 and Colorado in 76 gave Republicans Dominance in the Senate without Black Republicans voting in the South. Republicans had taken over the Senate. More Mid Western States which leaned Republican would be added.

So as the Conservatives regained control of the Southern States, Republican majorities in other States in the Senate negated the need of Black Voting. Black Voting as Sherman had predicted was being rejected elsewhere. Here is an example. Black Voting became a liability to the Republicans.
https://blackthen.com/the-election-...t-recorded-violence-against-black-in-indiana/

The Democrats; east, west, north and south still controlled the House for 16 of the 20 years from 1875-1895. And, as I am sure you are aware, any bills pertaining to appropriations must originate in the House. No money equals zero ability to sustain troops or any other support to continue reconstruction efforts.

Thank you for the link. Yes it appears that Indiana was also consumed by a resurgence of the copperheads/democrats in 1874 and beyond. They most certainly would not have been pleased with blacks going to the polls to vote against them. Do you suppose that was the reason for the "riot"? Your source notes that it was obvious voter suppression.

300px-House044ElectionMap.png



link
 
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5fish

Captain
Joined
Aug 26, 2007
Location
Central Florida
Here is a letter to Greeley and the New York Tribune: It is the letter used to write that proslavery poem on the walls of Lincoln Memorial...

Link to Greeley's letter:https://www.civilwarhome.com/lincolngreeley.html

This letter was a letter in response to Greeley berating Lincoln on Slavery... date of response (August 22, 1862)... The Emancipation Proclamation was will on its way to fruition in the coming months...

I have read people's opinion of Lincoln's response: It was to reassure the base...

They ignore the fact Lincoln truly cares little for the slave if you read this letter. He shows a coldness towards their plight and they are just pawns... He ends it with a general statement all men should be free but its a lie... Read the letter Lincoln does not care one way or another about slaves... they(Slaves) are a problem to solve only not a people to free...

Hon. Horace Greeley:

Dear Sir. I have just read yours of the 19th addressed to myself through the New York Tribune. If there be in it any statements, or assumptions of fact, which I may know to be erroneous, I do not, now and here, controvert them. If there be perceptable in it an impatient and dictatorial tone, I waive it in deference to an old friend, whose heart I have always supposed to be right.
As to the policy I "seem to be pursuing" as you say, I have not meant to leave any one in doubt.
I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can be restored; the nearer the Union will be "the Union as it was." If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I don't believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause. I shall try to correct errors when shown to be error; and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views.
I have here stated my purpose according to my view of Official duty: and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men everywhere could be free.
 

unionblue

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
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Location
Ocala, FL (as of December, 2015).
Here is a letter to Greeley and the New York Tribune: It is the letter used to write that proslavery poem on the walls of Lincoln Memorial...

Link to Greeley's letter:https://www.civilwarhome.com/lincolngreeley.html

This letter was a letter in response to Greeley berating Lincoln on Slavery... date of response (August 22, 1862)... The Emancipation Proclamation was will on its way to fruition in the coming months...

I have read people's opinion of Lincoln's response: It was to reassure the base...

They ignore the fact Lincoln truly cares little for the slave if you read this letter. He shows a coldness towards their plight and they are just pawns... He ends it with a general statement all men should be free but its a lie... Read the letter Lincoln does not care one way or another about slaves... they(Slaves) are a problem to solve only not a people to free...

Hon. Horace Greeley:

Dear Sir. I have just read yours of the 19th addressed to myself through the New York Tribune. If there be in it any statements, or assumptions of fact, which I may know to be erroneous, I do not, now and here, controvert them. If there be perceptable in it an impatient and dictatorial tone, I waive it in deference to an old friend, whose heart I have always supposed to be right.
As to the policy I "seem to be pursuing" as you say, I have not meant to leave any one in doubt.
I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can be restored; the nearer the Union will be "the Union as it was." If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I don't believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause. I shall try to correct errors when shown to be error; and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views.
I have here stated my purpose according to my view of Official duty: and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men everywhere could be free.

(Double sigh.)
 
They ignore the fact Lincoln truly cares little for the slave if you read this letter. He shows a coldness towards their plight and they are just pawns... He ends it with a general statement all men should be free but its a lie... Read the letter Lincoln does not care one way or another about slaves... they(Slaves) are a problem to solve only not a people to free...

One would only come to this conclusion after reading Lincoln's letter to Greeley if they were suffering from dysphasia.
 

5fish

Captain
Joined
Aug 26, 2007
Location
Central Florida
One would only come to this conclusion after reading Lincoln's letter to Greeley if they were suffering from dysphasia.

Let us parse Lincoln's words and look of his humanity in his words...


If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them.

Do you see any humanity in these words? There are none for slaves and slavery is not amoral wrong in Lincoln mind.

If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that.

Do you see any humanity in these words? There is none once again for slaves and slavery is not a moral wrong in Lincoln's mind. It is not about the moral wrong or the inhumanity of slavery bu5t using slavery as a bargaining chip...

I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I don't believe it would help to save the Union.

Slavery is to be forbear...

I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men everywhere could be free.

It's a false wish he tells us...

Or squinting one's eyes to reduce the letter to a blur.

I understand you have troubles seeing the truth...lol...
 

unionblue

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Member of the Year
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Location
Ocala, FL (as of December, 2015).
Let us parse Lincoln's words and look of his humanity in his words...




Do you see any humanity in these words? There are none for slaves and slavery is not amoral wrong in Lincoln mind.



Do you see any humanity in these words? There is none once again for slaves and slavery is not a moral wrong in Lincoln's mind. It is not about the moral wrong or the inhumanity of slavery bu5t using slavery as a bargaining chip...



Slavery is to be forbear...



It's a false wish he tells us...



I understand you have troubles seeing the truth...lol...

The Emancipation Proclamation.

The 13th Amendment abolishing slavery.

The desire to extend the vote to blacks.

It's not Lincoln who lacks humanity.

It is the inability to see such in his actions when all else at the time could not even contemplate doing such.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
President Lincoln did not have a constitutional duty to abolish slavery. He did have a duty to maintain the unity of the country, until the people decided otherwise.
As for the options set forth in the letter:
Per James Oakes, by the time of the Greeley letter, a noticeable minority of slaves had already been freed in So. Carolina, New Orleans and west Tennessee, so that option was already off the table.
As far as freeing all the slaves, as a military act, that was possible. Oakes thought the President lacked that power, but if there was an entire army of formerly enslaved men, say 200,000 men gathered into 12 divisions, posing a direct asset and direct threat, for the prosecution of the war, at some point the President could just acknowledge the fact that the institution is over and any attempt to reinstate it endangers the United States.
As for freeing some and not freeing others, it would have been consistent with numerous historical examples. Slavery is not usually abolished by war. However freeing the enemy's slaves to fight in the army or support the domestic economy, was pretty much standard practice. President Lincoln chose not to use the examples of what the British had done previously at the time of the Revolution and the War of 1812. It would have been bad politics, especially in New York, to acknowledge how pro British the policy had become.
 
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