In Search of the Rational Anti-Racist, part 7: Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln: opponent of slavery, orator of genius, architect of the emancipation proclamation. Have we at last found our rational “anti-racist”?

It’s well known that Lincoln made a lot of hay over the phrase “all men are created equal” from the declaration of independence. Was he entirely an egalitarian?

I think the authors of that notable instrument [the declaration of independence] intended to include all men, but they did not intend to declare all men equal in all respects. They did not mean to say all were equal in color, size, intellect, moral developments, or social capacity. They defined with tolerable distinctness, in what respects they did consider all men created equal-equal in “certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Not equal in intellect… well, at least he didn’t say anything about race. Was he at least a racial egalitarian?

Negro equality! Fudge!! How long, in the government of a God, great enough to make and maintain this Universe, shall there continue to be knaves to vend, and fools to gulp, so low a piece of demagougeism as this?

Oh. Well, maybe he just meant that negroes weren’t equal yet, but he thought they could be made so?

I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.

Whoa. Lincoln was an actual white supremacist. Not just a “white supremacist” in the sense of a white guy who points out the facts about crime, or a “white supremacist” in the sense of someone who wants to build a kind of NAACP for white people, A real white supremacist, an opponent of black enfranchisement and of miscegenation, who believed that there was a biological difference between blacks and whites prevented social and political equality,

Let’s just make that position on miscegenation perfectly clear:

Judge Douglas is especially horrified at the thought of the mixing blood by the white and black races: agreed for once – a thousand times agreed. There are white men enough to marry all the white women, and black men enough to marry all the black women; and so let them be married.

Well, at least he wasn’t a white separatist. Oh, wait a minute:

You and I are different races. We have between us a broader difference than exists between almost any other races. Whether it be right or wrong, I need not discuss; but this physical difference is a great disadvantage to us both, as I think. Your race suffer very greatly, many of them by living amongst us, while ours suffer from your presence. In a word, we suffer on each side. If this is admitted, it affords a reason at least why we should be separated.
–Statement to the Deputation of Free Negroes (14 August 1862)

Ah well. The search for the rational “anti-racist” continues. Some day we’ll find one.

Incidentally, Lincoln, like Jefferson, did not merely want to free the slaves. He wanted to free them – and then deport them. As he said in his eulogy for Henry Clay, given in 1852

If as the friends of colonization [i.e. sending American blacks to Africa] hope, the present and coming generations of our countrymen shall by any means succeed in freeing our land from the dangerous presence of slavery, and, at the same time, in restoring a captive people to their long-lost fatherland, with bright prospects for the future, and this too, so gradually, that neither races nor individuals shall have suffered by the change, it will indeed be a glorious consummation.

He repeated this sentiment in 1854:

If all earthly power were given me, I should not know what to do, as to the existing institution [of slavery]. My first impulse would be to free all the slaves, and send them to Liberia, to their own native land.

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About Pechorin

A Hero of Our Time
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One Response to In Search of the Rational Anti-Racist, part 7: Abraham Lincoln

  1. The Question Man says:

    [pro-Obama spam]

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