Lincoln’s Great Task
The Republican party of Lincoln was not “anti-slavery,” but rather firmly against the expansion of African laborers into the new territories of the West and confining them to the South. Immigrants were unfamiliar with Africans, did not want to compete with them for work, and formed an important nucleus of Republican political power.
Lincoln’s true motivation with early property confiscation efforts was to deem Africans within the lines of his armies free, and then colonizing them “at some place or places in a climate congenial to them.”
He added that “it might be well to consider too whether the free colored people already in the United States could not, so far as individuals may desire, be included in such colonization.”
Lincoln’s Great Task
“The biographers of Abraham Lincoln, Nicolay and Hay, declare: “The political creed of Abraham Lincoln embraced among other tenets, a belief in the value and promise of colonization as one means of solving the great race problem involved in the existence of slavery in the United States . . . Without being an enthusiast, Lincoln was a firm believer in colonization.”
Speaking at Springfield, Illinois, June 26, 1857, Mr. Lincoln said: “I have said that the separation of the races is the only perfect prevention of amalgamation . . . I can say a very large proportion of [Republican party] members are for it and that the chief plank in their platform – opposition to the spread of slavery – is most favorable to that separation. Such separation, if ever effected at all, must be effected by colonization . . . Let us be brought to believe it is morally right, and at the same time favorable to, or at least, not against our interests, to transfer the African to his native clime, and we shall find a way to do it, however great the task will be.”
Upon his assumption of the office of President Mr. Lincoln sought to carry into effect his colonization views. [Congress, at its] session of 1862, placed at the disposal of the President the sum of $600,000 to be expended at his discretion in colonizing with their consent free persons of African descent in some country adapted to their condition and necessities.
Mr. Lincoln, with a view of carrying out this act of Congress, invited a number of prominent colored men to meet him at the White House on the 11th of August 1862, and then urged upon them the wisdom of availing themselves of the opportunity thus offered to make for themselves a home beyond the borders of this country.
[As the] action of Congress in placing at his disposal a sum of money for the purpose of aiding the colonization of the people of African descent made it his duty, as it had for a long time been his inclination, to favor that cause.
Continuing, he said:
“And why should the people of your race be colonized, and where? Why should you leave this country? This is perhaps the first question for proper consideration. You and we are different races. We have between us a broader difference than exists between almost any other two races. Whether it is right or wrong I need not discuss; but this physical difference is a great disadvantage to us both I think. Your race suffer very greatly . . . while ours suffer from your presence. In a word, we suffer on each side.
The aspiration of men is to enjoy equality with the best when free, but on this broad continent not a single man of your race is made the equal of a single man of ours. Go where you are treated the best, and the ban is upon you. I do not propose to discuss this, but to present it as a fact with which we have to deal. I cannot alter it if I would.
I ask you then to consider seriously not pertaining to yourselves merely, nor for your race or ours for the present time but as one of the things successfully managed, for the good of mankind – not confined to the present generation.”
(Virginia’s Attitude Toward Slavery and Secession, Beverly Munford, L.H. Jenkins 1909, excerpts pp. 77-81)