Who Was Lincoln Talking about When He Said 'All Men are Created Equal'


2nd Lieutenant
Oct 26, 2012
'Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.'

Who was Lincoln talking about when he said all men are created equal?


First Sergeant
Official Vendor
Jul 26, 2018
I would contend that throughout his life Lincoln said and acted as though all men were created as fully human in the eyes of God. (Women too, by the way.) The extent to which men are the equal of other men is a matter that, I believe Lincoln pondered and changed his beliefs about over time.

President Lincoln’s thinking about participation of blacks in American society was revealed in a letter he wrote General James A. Wadsworth, an abolitionist Republican from New York, in early January 1864:

You desire to know, in the event of our complete success in the field, the same being followed by a loyal and cheerful submission on the part of the South if universal amnesty should not be accompanied with universal suffrage.
Now, since you know my private inclinations as to what terms should be granted to the South in the contingency mentioned, I will here add, that if our success should thus be realized, followed by such desired results, I cannot see, if universal amnesty is granted, how, under the circumstances, I can avoid exacting in return universal suffrage, or, at least, suffrage on the basis of intelligence and military service.
How to better the condition of the colored race has long been a study which has attracted my serious and careful attention; hence I think I am clear and decided as to what course I shall pursue in the premises, regarding it a religious duty, as the nation’s guardian of these people, who have so heroically vindicated their manhood on the battle-field, where, in assisting to save the life of the Republic, they have demonstrated in blood their right to the ballot, which is but the humane protection of the flag they have so fearlessly defended.
The restoration of the Rebel States to the Union must rest upon the principle of civil and political equality of both races, and it must be sealed by a general amnesty.

O' Be Joyful

Sergeant Major
"I shall never forget my first interview with this great man. I was accompanied to the executive mansion and introduced to President Lincoln by Senator [Samuel] Pomeroy. The room in which he received visitors was the one now used by the President’s secretaries. I entered it with a moderate estimate of my own consequence, and yet there was to talk with, and even to advise, the head man of a great nation. Happily for me, there was no vain pomp and ceremony about him. I was never more quickly or more completely put at ease in the presence of a great man, than in that of Abraham Lincoln. He was seated, when I entered, in a low arm chair, with his feet extended to the floor, surrounded by a large number of documents, and several busy secretaries. The room bore the marks of business, and the persons in it, the president included, appeared to be much overworked and tired. Long lines of care were already deeply written on Mr. Lincoln’s brow, and his strong face, full of earnestness, lighted up as soon as my name was mentioned.
As I approached and was introduced to him, he rose and extended his hand, and bade me welcome. I at once felt myself in the present of an honest man – on whom I could love, honor and trust without reserve or doubt. Proceeding to tell him who I was, and what I was doing, he promptly, but kindly, stopped me, saying, ‘I know who you are, Mr. Douglass; Mr. Seward has told me all about you. Sit down. I am glad to see you.’ I then told him the object of my visit; that I was assisting to raise colored troops; that several months before I had been very successful in getting men to enlist, but now it was not easy to induce the colored me to enter the service, because there was a feeling among them that the government did not deal fairly with them in several respects. Mr. Lincoln asked me to state particulars. I replied that there were three particulars which I wished to bring to his attention. First that colored soldiers ought to receive the same wages as those paid to white soldiers. Second, that colored soldiers ought to receive the same protection when taken prisoners, and be exchanged as readily, and on the same terms, as any other prisoners, and if Jefferson Davis should shoot or hang colored soldiers in cold blood, the United States government should retaliate in kind and degree without delay upon Confederate prisoners in its hands. Third, when colored soldiers, seeking the ‘bauble-reputation at the cannon’s mouth,’ performed great and uncommon service on the battlefield, they should be rewarded by distinction and promotion, precisely as white soldiers are rewarded for like services."-- Frederick Douglass
“In a speech delivered in Philadelphia only two weeks after Lincoln had dedicated the cemetery at Gettysburg, Douglass made an aggressive appeal for what he repeatedly called an ‘Abolition War,'” wrote historian David W. Blight in Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory. “Douglass felt confident that history itself had taken a mighty turn. He took the pressure off Lincoln. ‘We are not to be saved by the captain,’ he declared, ‘but by the crew. We are not to be saved by Abraham Lincoln, but by the power behind the throne, greater than the throne itself.’ The supreme ‘testing’ of that ‘government of the people’ about which Lincoln had spoken so carefully at Gettysburg [on November 19] was precisely Douglass’s subject as well. In language far more direct than Lincoln’s, Douglass announced that the ‘abolition war’ and ‘peace’ he envisioned would never be ‘completed until the black men of the South, and the black men of the North, shall have been admitted, fully and completely, into the body politic of America. Here, in late 1863, he demanded immediate suffrage for blacks. In such expressions of equality, Douglass, too, looked beyond Appomattox to the long struggle to preserve in reality and memory what the war could create.”2

Blight wrote: “In this encounter, narrated to an audience in early December 1863, Douglas constructed his own proud mutuality with Lincoln. However falteringly, by whatever unjust means blacks had to die in uniform to be acknowledged as men, Douglass was determined to demonstrate that his own ideological war aims had now become Lincoln’s as well. The ‘rebirth’ they were imagining was one both clearly understood as a terrible ordeal, but one from which there was no turning back. Douglass came away from this extraordinary meeting with the conclusions that Lincoln’s position was ‘reasonable,’ but more important, that he would go down in history as ‘Honest Abraham.'”3

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