THE REAL ABE LINCOLN: Lincoln on Racial Equality, Slavery and Emancipation
I am not now, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social or political equality of the white and black races. I am not now nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor of intermarriages with white people. There is a physical difference between the white and the black races which will forever forbid the two races living together on social or political equality. There must be a position of superior and inferior, and I am in favor of assigning the superior position to the white man.
Lincoln in his speech to Charleston, Illinois, 1858
Lincoln on Slavery & Emancipation
We know that some Southern men do free their slaves, go North and become tip-top abolitionists, while some Northern Men go South and become most cruel masters.
When Southern people tell us that they are no more responsible for the origin of slavery than we are, I acknowledge the fact. When it is said the institution exists, and it is very difficult to get rid of in any satisfactory way, I can understand and appreciate the saying. I surely will not blame them for not doing what I should not know what to do as to the existing institution. My first impulse would possibly be to free all slaves and send them to Liberia to their own native land. But a moment's reflection would convince me that this would not be best for them. If they were all landed there in a day they would all perish in the next ten days, and there is not surplus money enough to carry them there in many times ten days. What then? Free them all and keep them among us as underlings. Is it quite certain that this would alter their conditions? Free them and make them politically and socially our equals? My own feelings will not admit of this, and if mine would, we well know that those of the great mass of whites will not. We cannot make them our equals. A system of gradual emancipation might well be adopted, and I will not undertake to judge our Southern friends for tardiness in this matter.
Lincoln in speeches at Peoria, Illinois
I acknowledge the constitutional rights of the States — not grudgingly, but fairly and fully, and I will give them any legislation for reclaiming their fugitive slaves.
The point the Republican party wanted to stress was to oppose making slave States out of the newly acquired territory, not abolishing slavery as it then existed.
Lincoln in speeches at Peoria, Illinois
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.
Do the people of the South really entertain fear that a Republican administration would directly or indirectly interfere with their slaves, or with them about their slaves? If they do, I wish to assure you as once a friend, and still, I hope, not an enemy , that there is no cause for such fears. The South would be in no more danger in this respect than it was in the days of Washington.
Letter from Lincoln to A.H. Stephens
Public and Private Letters of Alexander Stephens , p. 150
My paramount object, is to save the Union, and not either destroy or save slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing the slaves, I would do it. If I could save the Union by freeing some and leaving others in slavery, I would do it. If I could save it by freeing all, I would do that. What I do about slavery and the colored race, I do because it helps save the Union.
Mr. Wendell Phillips said that Lincoln was badgered into issuing the emancipation proclamation, and that after it was issued, Lincoln said it was the greatest folly of his life.
President Lincoln in his Emancipation Proclamation evidently had in mind to colonize or segregate the slaves if freed:
It is my purpose to colonize persons of African descent, with their consent, upon this continent or elsewhere, with the previously obtained consent of the government existing there.
He later said, in discussing the options of colonizing them with segregated areas of Texas, Mississippi and South Carolina:
If we turn 200,000 armed Negroes in the South, among their former owners, from whom we have taken their arms, it will inevitably lead to a race war. It cannot be done. The Negroes must be gotten rid of.
Ben Butler responded to this by saying: "Why not send them to Panama to dig the canal?" Lincoln was delighted with this suggestion, and asked Butler to consult Seward at once. Only a few days later, John Wilkes Booth assassinated Lincoln and one of his conspirators wounded Seward.
Lincoln in a letter to Greeley