The passage below records Lincoln’s narrow, sectional view of the reason war came in 1861. The war came not because the black man was in America, but due to Lincoln raising an unconstitutional army with troops from equally guilty Republican governors and invading Virginia. Three months lapsed before Congress met to review what the new president had done without authority, with the latter approving his actions under threat of arrest and confinement by Lincoln’s private military.
Lincoln’s colonization scheme for black “contrabands” who were not wanted in the north, revealed his true feeling toward the black race. This naïve plan ran into difficulty as speculators overextended themselves and as the existing countries of the region threatened war against what they saw as a clever scheme of Yankee imperialism. This scheme of colonization is well-covered in the recent book “Key West’s Civil War: Rather Unsafe for a Southern Man to Live Here” (Thuersam) from Shotwell Publishing.
Lincoln’s Caribbean Colonization Plan
“In August 1862, a committee of free blacks headed by Edward M. Thomas, president of the Anglo-African Institution for the Encouragement of Industry and Art, was invited to the White House. Introduced to Lincoln by the Reverend James Mitchell, the federal Commissioner of Emigration, the committee was there to hear the president’s arguments for black colonization.
Waiving the question of right or wrong, and implying that blacks were as much at fault as whites, Lincoln pointed to the long-standing and apparently permanent antipathy between the races. Each race, in his opinion, suffered from the presence of the other. Not only were the vast majority of blacks held as slaves, but even free blacks were not treated as equals by white men, not could they ever expect to be. “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.”
Overlooking the inability of his own race to confront the reciprocal problems of slavery and equality, Lincoln then blamed the blacks for the fact that whites were “cutting one another’s throats” in a civil war. “But for your race among us there could not be war, although many men engaged on either side do not care for you one way or another.”
Physical removal seemed the best solution. Urging blacks to emulate George Washington’s sacrifices during the Revolution and asking for colonization leaders “capable of thinking as white men,” Lincoln painted a glowing picture of the attractions of founding a colony in Central America. The region Lincoln had in mind, a site on the Isthmus of Chiriqui in the Caribbean, was far closer to the United States than the original black colony of Liberia in Africa.
The site was thought to contain rich coal deposits to provide jobs for black settlers and profits for the Northern speculators who had an interest in these mines. In what he hoped would clinch his case, Lincoln told his black audience that there would be no color prejudice in racially-mixed Central America and that the climate would be beneficial to what Northerners assumed was the peculiar adaptability of blacks to the tropics.”
(Flawed Victory – A New Perspective on the Civil War. William L. Barney. University Press of America, 1980, pp. 60-62)