A Summary of: The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda and an Unnecessary War
by Thomas J. DiLorenzo
Compiled and Edited by
Dr. Jimmy T. (Gunny) LaBaume
Chapter 2: Lincoln’s Opposition to Racial Equality
Lincoln was a master politician and therefore a master of rhetoric. He was never above saying one thing to one audience and the opposite to another. Murray Rothbard put it this way: ” Lincoln was a master politician, which means that he was a consummate conniver, manipulator, and liar.”
Lincoln stated over and over that he was opposed to racial equality. Perhaps his most succinct statement was his response to Senator Stephen Douglas in an 1858 debate:
“I have no purpose to introduce political and social equality between the white and black races. There is a physical difference between the two, which, in my judgment, will probably forever forbid their living together upon the footing of perfect equality; and inasmuch as it becomes a necessity that there must be a difference, I…am in favor of the race to which I belong having the superior position. I have never said anything to the contrary.”
This is quite a contrast to the Gettysburg Address where he proposed to “rededicate the nation to the notion that all men are created equal.” He had this to say about emancipation: ”Fee them, and make them politically and socially our equals? My own feelings will not admit of this…We cannot, then, make them equals.”
Also, he defended the right of slave owners to their “property” and promised to support the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. As will be seen below, this was clearly in concert with the mainstream of northern public opinion.
At the same time Lincoln opposed “social and political equality” of the races, he defended the natural rights of all races to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and referred to slavery as a “monstrous injustice.” DiLorenzo identifies this as “a textbook example of a rhetorically gifted, fence-straddling politician.”
Kentucky slave owner, Henry Clay, was Lincoln ‘s idol and role model. Their positions on slavery were virtually identical. In Clay’s words, “opposition to slavery in principle, toleration of it in practice, and a vigorous hostility toward the abolition movement.” Theirs was a vivid example of circular reasoning: Although slavery is an affront to human liberty, ending it would be even worse.
Furthermore, Lincoln was a highly skilled lawyer who tried thousands of cases but never defended a single runaway slave in his 23 years of litigation. However, he did defend a slave owner. The constitution guarantees the right to legal defense. But, it seems strange that Lincoln, who claimed to be bothered by slavery, tried to condemn several people to permanent, lifetime servitude for a small legal fee.
Lincoln and Colonization
As of 1857, colonization was the only solution that Lincoln had to the problem of slavery. When asked what should be done with the slaves were they freed, he responded, “Send them to…their own native land.” He developed plans to send every last black person anywhere but the united States. DiLorenzo then proceeds to cite numerous quotes of Lincoln ‘s own words as well as others (including the preeminent abolitionist, William Lloyd Garrison) that support this contention.
Lincoln is an American icon to the extent that the historical literature about him is not an explanation of history but a rationalization or excuse for his behavior. “Historians have created a literary and historical fog bank that makes it extremely difficult to understand the real Abraham Lincoln.”
Lincoln’s Opposition to the Extension of Slavery
Lincoln said, in his 1st Inaugural Address, ”I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists…and I have no inclination to do so.” He also promised to strengthen the Fugitive Slave Law.
No politician during the 1860 election advocated the abolition of slavery mainly because of public opinion at the time. Whenever the issue of slavery did come up, it was in terms of the extension of slavery into the new territories. Opposition to the extension of slavery into these areas was not always based on moral grounds. The major concern was that slaves would compete with white labor in the territories, which Republicans wanted to keep as the exclusive preserve of whites. Lincoln explained the rationale for this very clearly in a speech given in Peoria on October 16, 1854.
The speech is quoted in the original. In support, DiLorenzo also quotes Secretary of State William Seward; New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley; Lyman Trumbull—a US senator from Illinois; historian Eugene Berwanger; and Representative David Wilmot of Pennsylvania.
The 2nd political reason why Lincoln opposed the extension of slavery into the new territories was that it would artificially inflate the congressional power of the Democratic Party. The 3/5 clause of the Constitution allowed every five slaves to count for three persons for purposes of determining the number of congressional seats in each state.
In his Peoria speech, Lincoln spoke of “the practical effect of this” by comparing Maine and South Carolina : ”This principle, in the aggregate, gives the slave States in the present Congress, twenty additional representatives.” The extension of slavery into the new territories would make this imbalance worse. It was opposition to slavery, but certainly not on moral grounds.
Northern Attitudes Towards Race
The ”official” cause of the War between the States is slavery. Although this may be official, the facts suggest that it is, at best, incomplete. Although quite vigorous, the abolitionist movement was so small that politicians would not risk associating themselves with it. Furthermore, white northerners cared little about the slaves and treated blacks with “contempt, ridicule, discrimination, and sometimes violence.” This is described by Eugene Berwanger in North of Slavery.
In Democracy in America Tocqueville wrote that “the prejudice of race appears to be stronger in the states that have abolished slavery than in those where it still exists; and nowhere is it so intolerant as in those states where servitude had never been known.”
Lincoln was the first “sectional” president in the sense that he owed his election totally to the northern States. He simply could not have won had he diverged significantly from the racial views of mainstream northerners.
Northerners discriminated against blacks in cruel and inhumane ways during the 1850s. So-called Black Codes existed in the north decades before discriminatory laws were enacted in the South. The Revised Code of Indiana is a prime example. Under this law, blacks could not earn a lawful living, had no voting rights, and no right to defend themselves in court. Such laws were common in virtually every northern state as of 1860.
In addition, the federal government required every new territory or state to deny voting rights to blacks all the way up to the 1860s.
Attitudes and laws like this are strong indicators as to why Lincoln’s position against the extension of slavery into the new territories struck a chord with the northern white population.
On the one hand, Lincoln said he was in favor of extending basic protections of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to freed blacks. But on the other, he simultaneously contradicted himself by opposing black citizenship. In other words, Lincoln would have the government protect Negro life and property, but deny them the rights to vote, participate in the judicial system, and enjoy any semblance of social equality (while promoting a plan to colonize them anywhere but America). Actually, this was a clever political position because it was quite popular.
Blacks were often victims of mob violence in the northern states. Irish immigrants viewed free blacks as direct competitors for jobs and so did most other immigrant groups.
Supremacist attitudes were expressed in northern newspapers. Papers cited include: the Philadelphia Daily News , the Niles (Michigan) Republican, the Daily Chicago Times, the New York Times, the Providence Daily Post, the Columbus (Ohio) Crisis, the New York Herald , the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Concord (New Hampshire) Democrat Standard, and the Boston Daily Courier.
The foregoing sheds a great deal of doubt on the standard account that “northerners elected Lincoln in a fit of moral outrage spawned by their deep-seated concern for the welfare of black slaves in the Deep South.”
Certainly, it is conceivable that many white northerners abhorred slavery. However, it is doubtful that that abhorrence was wide spread enough for hundreds of thousands of them to have given their lives on bloody battlefields the way that they did.
The Essence of Liberty Volume I: Liberty and History chronicles the rise and fall of the noble experiment with constitutionally limited government. It features the ideas and opinions of some of the world’s foremost contemporary constitutional scholars. This is history that you were not taught at the mandatory government propaganda camps otherwise known as “public schools.” You will gain a clear understanding of how America’s decline and decay is really nothing new and how it began almost immediately with the constitution. Available in both paperback and Kindle versions.
You might be interested in the other two volumes of this three volume set: The Essence of Liberty Volume II: The Economics of Liberty and The Essence of Liberty Volume III: Liberty: A Universal Political Ethic.