Seward on God’s Poor
It is erroneous that the Republican party of Lincoln was an “anti-slavery” party and hostile to slavery. The party depended greatly upon new and recent immigrant votes, those who wanted cheap or free land and no labor competition from black people. The western territories were to be reserved for immigrant whites, the South was not to be allowed to bring their workers to the west. The war of course destroyed the South’s economy and political strength, forced Southerners to accept Northern decrees, and to keep its black people in the South where they could not take jobs from white Northerners.
Lincoln’s Secretary of State, William Seward, viewed black people as did Lincoln, who, when asked of their postwar future stated that they must “root-hog or die.” And he meant that they had to do this in the South and nowhere else in the country. This would quickly change with Radical Republican control of the party and the imperative that Grant be elected president in 1868. To effect this they enfranchised 500,000 illiterate men to vote against New York’s Horatio Seymour, who lost that election by some 300,000 votes.
Seward on God’s Poor
“But Seward viewed the Black Codes as an issue of secondary importance. He was now concerned more with reconciliation between the white majorities, North and South, than he was with the fate of the blacks, for whom the war had already brought freedom. In April, 1866 he gave an interview to Charles Eliot Norton and Edwin Godkin, publishers of the influential magazine Nation.
According to Seward there should be no question about re-admitting the South to full representation in Congress; it had as much right to representation as did the North. He then responded to a question about the blacks:
“The North has nothing to do with the Negroes. I have no more concern for them than I have for the Hottentots. They are God’s poor; they always have been and always will be so everywhere . . . the laws of political economy will determine their position and the relations of the two races.”
(William Henry Seward: Lincoln’s Right Hand, John M. Taylor, Harper Collins, 1991, excerpt pg. 260)