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Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation: The Myth
Lincoln's True ColorsEvery American knows the story of the Great Emancipator, and how Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves with the stroke of his pen, but this great American story is false. The Emancipation Proclamation was not a revolutionary document that freed the slaves and nor did it provide hope for the future treatment of African Americans. Lincoln was no emancipator. He was simply a politician, whose main goal was to preserve the Union. The Emancipation Proclamation was a politically motivated device Lincoln used to accomplish this goal. History has transformed Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation to the image worthy of exaltation because of false assumptions and misunderstandings of their true character.
Before Lincoln wrote the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln’s ideas about the black and white races were far from what one would expect from the “great emancipator.” Lincoln said, “I am not, nor have I ever been, in favor of bringing about any way the social and political equality of the black and white races.” Most historians assumed that since Lincoln wrote the Emancipation Proclamation, then he must have had sympathy towards African Americans. He was believed to have had great knowledge about race relations and had always been “a friend of the negro.” In reality, Lincoln was no different than other White American males during his time, in which most were racists. A major part of the Lincoln myth is that he was a strong supporter of equality and despised slavery, but honestly his feelings were at least indifferent if not actually the opposite of what is believed. Some historians even go as far to say that Lincoln was actually a white supremacist. They find their support in Lincoln own words. In a debate between Lincoln and Stephen Douglas, Lincoln said, “I, as well as Judge Douglas, am in favor of the race which I belong having the superior position.” And for more evidence he also added, “Free them [slaves] and make them politically and socially our equals? My own feelings will not admit of this. We cannot, then, make them equals.” Lincoln was also a supporter of the Illinois Black Codes, which refused citizenship to free blacks and the Illinois Constitution, which prohibited the emigration of black people into the state. He was also an advocate of the Fugitive Slave Law. Lincoln strongly defended the right of slave owners “to own their property.” He said, “when they [slave owners] remind us of their constitutional rights [to own slaves], I acknowledge them, not grudgingly but fully and fairly; and I would give them any legislation for the reclaiming of their fugitives.” His racial ideas continued to affect his politics in his early presidency as well. In his First Inaugural Address, he showed his support of the proposed constitutional amendment to prohibit the federal government from ever having the power to abolish or interfere with slavery in the States.
Lincoln said, “What I would most desire would be the separation of black and white races.” Lincoln didn’t feel that blacks could be “equal” in America. Lincoln believed former slaves should colonize some other part of the world. He proposed free slaves go to colonize in Africa, Central America, Haiti – basically anywhere but America. Liberia was created so free blacks could go back to recolonize in Africa. Lincoln pressed his cabinet and Congress to accept and implement his view, and tried to urge blacks to realize that it would be best for all if they left the U.S. Lincoln invited 5 local black leaders to the White House to get their support for colonization. He said, “You and we are different races. Whether it is right or wrong I need not discuss, but this physical difference is a great disadvantage to us both, as I think your race suffers greatly, many of them by living amongst us, while ours suffer from your presence. In a word we suffer on each side. If this be admitted, it affords a reason at least why we should be separated.”