Was President Lincoln's First Solution to Slavery Voluntary Emigration?

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According to an article written by journalist Eric Johnson, President Lincoln was convinced early in his presidency that white Americans would never accept black Americans. "You and we are different races," the president told a committee of "colored" leaders in August 1862. "...But for your race among us there could not be war...It is better for us both, therefore, to be separated."

Johnson’s article states that Lincoln proposed a “voluntary emigration” to Central America, seeing it as a more logical destination than Liberia. Frederick Douglass (among others) did not agree with this plan because he viewed colonization as "a safety valve...for white racism."

One of the first attempts at colonization was on Île à Vache, also known as Cow Island, a small island off the coast of Haiti. This island was owned by a land developer named Bernard Kock. A smallpox outbreak on the boat ride to the island affected hundreds of black colonizers and they were abandoned on the island with no housing prepared for them.The smallpox survivors later found the soil on Cow Island was too poor for farming and in January 1864, the Navy rescued them.

Once Île à Vache failed, Lincoln supposedly never spoke of colonization again. Is this article accurate? If so, why do you think Lincoln changed his mind? Did the Civil War prompt this or do you think Lincoln's opinion on this evolved over time?
 
Joined
Jan 24, 2017
I wonder if Lincoln's attitudes evolved over time, like a lot of other people's, or if he was influenced to say these things in the political climate of the time. I believe he always felt slavery was wrong, but perhaps the solutions at the time were not clear cut. There were probably a number of options, but I think the war forced his hand, and I do believe he used emancipation at the time he used it as a war measure/strategy. I often wonder how he would have handled the period of reconstruction after the war if he had lived. Frederick Douglass probably nailed it on the head with his comment, though, and I feel it is an appropriate response given the attitude to black people at the time. They were definitely not seen as being equal, North or South, and shipping them off would have been a convenient solution to an immensely complex problem. I'd call that an 'avoidance' strategy. The one attempt was a disastrous failure, and no doubt Lincoln regretted it which is probably why he never spoke of it again. Those poor people. As if they hadn't been through enough already.

I'll look forward to reading what other poster's have to say on this topic @Eleanor Rose . It's always valuable to gain more insight into these issues. They are never straightforward.
 

cash

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Since before the 1850s, Lincoln favored compensated emancipation. Like his "beau ideal of a statesman," Henry Clay, he also believed in voluntary colonization of freed African-Americans, believing they could never find equality in the United States due to the prejudice against them.
 
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Jan 24, 2017
compensated emancipation.
What was Lincoln's understanding of such a possibility @cash ? How were the enslaved to be compensated? I hadn't heard this before.
voluntary colonization
It seems to me he wanted to give agency to those who would be emancipated. It makes me wonder, when emancipation took place, how many actually decided to 'vote with their feet' and leave the U.S. Were they ever given an option to do this, as per Lincoln's idea, once the CW came to an end (e.g. offered transit, Govt support to re-settle, etc)? My current understanding is that most remained, and remained in the South - which was their home - at the end of the CW.
 

cash

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What was Lincoln's understanding of such a possibility @cash ? How were the enslaved to be compensated? I hadn't heard this before.

Compensated emancipation meant compensating the owners for the loss of their property.


It seems to me he wanted to give agency to those who would be emancipated. It makes me wonder, when emancipation took place, how many actually decided to 'vote with their feet' and leave the U.S. Were they ever given an option to do this, as per Lincoln's idea, once the CW came to an end (e.g. offered transit, Govt support to re-settle, etc)? My current understanding is that most remained, and remained in the South - which was their home - at the end of the CW.

Very few wanted to leave, as the United States was now their country.
 

major bill

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
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Around 168 left during the Civil War and less than 2,500 in the five years after the Civil War. As cash said, few wanted to leave the United States.
 

demiurge

Sergeant
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Apr 15, 2016
Right, look at Liberia, which originated as a settlement of 13K free blacks that were sent from the US and some Carribean countries. It's the oldest republic in Africa, and they carried with them republican and protestant values. Their capital is Monrovia, named after the US president.

I've seen at least one source that said the primary thing that changed Lincoln's mind about resettlement was a series of discussions he had with Frederick Douglas.
 

civilken

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Pres. Lincoln was certainly a man of his times. And like most white Americans he didn't believe blacks would want to stay here on I don't look at his proposal as anything but his way of being compassionate to a people he did not yet understand. Let's for a moment turn it around all the African-Americans are the planter class and the whites the slaves would we want to stay or go to a new country. After all our ancestors came from Europe to get away from Kings and Queens he might have thought they probably wanted to get away from us the same way.
 

major bill

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
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Aug 25, 2012
Did Lincoln ever support mandatory emigration of blacks? So is there a difference between supporting voluntary emigration and mandatory emigration? Yes there is. So back to the OP. Lincoln did support voluntary emigration but I am not sure it was viewed as a solution to slavery. Allowing freed slaves to emigrate if they so desired to is what we are talking about here.
 
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