Rethinking Lincoln and Liberty: 8 Questions

Question 2: Was Lincoln dedicated to racial equality? Historians Tom DiLorenzo, Roy Basler, and Robert Johannsen have all noted that although Lincoln spoke eloquently of equality later in his political career, he did not offer any concrete policy proposals to abolish slavery save for colonization. Johannsen characterizes Lincoln’s position this way: “opposition to slavery in principle, toleration of it in practice, and a vigorous hostility toward the abolition movement.”

DiLorenzo questions Lincoln’s overall sincerity on the matter: “His words did lack effectiveness on the issue of slavery because he contradicted himself so often.” Some historians claim that Lincoln made racist comments simply to win office. DiLorenzo notes contrarily: “Lincoln made these kinds of ugly comments even when he was not running for political office. He did this, I believe, because he believed in these things.” Amongst a host of other comments, Lincoln “denounced ‘equality between the white and black races’ in his August 21, 1858 debate with Stephen Douglas; stated in his 1852 eulogy to Henry Clay that as monstrous as slavery was, eliminating it would supposedly produce ‘a greater evil, even to the cause of human liberty itself’; and in his February 27, 1860 Cooper Union speech Lincoln advocated deporting black people so that ‘their places be . . . filled up by free white laborers.”

And then there’s this from Lincoln: “I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people… I as much as any man am in favor of the superior position assigned to the white race.”

What do you think? What else did Lincoln say about racial equality?

Below: Tom Woods’ on Jon Stewart and the Fugitive Slave Act