Views on slavery
As the Lincoln inauguration was marked this past weekend, his words in the inaugural address are overlooked when crediting him for his position on slavery. “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.” Less than two years later Lincoln wrote in a letter to Horace Greeley, "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 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." Prior to these very telling quotes, in 1858 Lincoln wrote: "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. 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. 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."
It was Lincoln’s desire to save a bifurcating Union threatened by the secession of the southern states that evolved into emancipation, not a personal belief of human equality. The southern states were economically dependent upon slave labor and even utilized slave labor to rebuild fortifications during war against the north. In leading a Republican Party that insisted upon the abolishment of slavery and in an effort to economically cripple the southern states, the Emancipation Proclamation was signed by his hand.
Colonization after emancipation
For freeing slaves with the January 1, 1863 Proclamation, Lincoln’s place in history has been solidified. However, after signing the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln went on to describe former slaves who desired a permanent life of freedom in the United States as “selfish.” He further promoted his agenda of the colonizing freed slaves in the Caribbean by stating "especially because of the similarity of climate with your native land — thus being suited to your physical condition."
Lincoln sought the cooperation of the British government to establish settlements in Honduras for the newly freed slaves where slavery had been abolished in 1838. Though this colonization effort failed, this shows Lincoln in a newer and more truthful light. The newly released documents pertaining to colonization after emancipation are detailed by Phil Magness in his new book Colonization After Emancipation.
“It makes his life more interesting, his racial legacy more controversial," Magness told MATTHEW BARAKAT of the Associate Press.
Lincoln’s support of voluntary colonization is well known among historians, but these deeper truths seem to elude the mainstream American education process.
Ideology of deception
Many today are too attached a deceptive ideology of the Great Emancipator and Moral Abolitionist to accept the notion that Lincoln’s agenda was less honorable than they have already accepted. Lincoln was a political abolitionist at best and far from the moral abolitionist we want him to have been. The freedom of slaves hinged upon the Republican Party’s insistence and the desire of a president to strike the southern states in ways that would most hinder their war efforts against the north. Lincoln has been glorified as something he is not and never was, yet Americans cling to these misrepresentations and misunderstandings with the unyielding might of denial. It is said that without Lincoln, the nation would not have evolved to behold a 44th half-Black president. The reality is that with Lincoln, the nation was precariously close to a future completely devoid of Blacks altogether. The Great Emancipator and Moral Abolitionist? Hardly. Lincoln advanced the position of Blacks under pressure of the Republican Party while viewing the freeing slaves as the necessary requirement to win the war against the south. After emancipation, Lincoln continued his push to have Blacks voluntarily relocated to other countries. Lincoln only relented on colonization when moral abolitionists overwhelmingly objected to the resettling of freed slaves.
Had the North maintained a greater military and economic advantage over the south during Lincoln’s tenure as president, the United States would likely not have seen emancipation under Lincoln. Lincoln did not enter the Office of the Presidency with the intent to free slaves; his opening words as president claim the contrary to be true. Despite these truths, we glorify Lincoln for something he simply never was, nor wanted to be.