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Abraham Lincoln-The Civil War-The End of Slavery-Reconstruction


BRAHAM LINCOLN, one of the greatest characters which our country has yet produced, now appears conspicuously upon the stage of national political events, which by this time had become closely centred around the Negro and his condition of enforced servitude. This uncouth Westerner was a broadminded man; a deep, accurate and profound thinker. His power of original, close and accurate thought, combined, as it was with sound judgment, has rarely been excelled. In addition to these virtues he was at once unbiased, altruistic, honest, just, peaceful, kindhearted, modest, calm and collected. It is rare indeed that we find a man-either in public or private life-so free from prejudices, so impartial in his judgments, and so capable of grasping and considering all sides of a question. It seems extraordinary that just at the moment of greatest need in the history of the country, this most capable man to meet all conditions should have arisen and been selected as the Chief Magistrate, and entrusted with the gravest public duties and responsibilities that ever fell upon the shoulders of mortal man. No wonder, with all the great and noble qualities which he embodied, and the crushing responsibilities which he assumed, he should be known to history as a man of sadness.

If the citizenship of both sides of the controversy

could have been sufficiently wise and magnanimous as to have entrusted all their differences to him alone, what a glorious, peaceful and profitable solution we would have had! Think of the horrible, blood-stained battlefields, the hundreds of thousands of widows and fatherless children left penniless to bemoan their irretrievable loss! Think of the stupendous amount of accumulated treasure ruthlessly squandered, and the subsequent political outrages and indignities which the South had to suffer, after the death of this big-hearted man, as a portion of the penalty for the wholesale enslavement of human beings; much of which might have been saved by the course suggested! There could have been no valid objection to such mediation, and results might have been even more beneficial if he and—that other Godlike man-Robert E. Lee, had been jointly selected without conditions or restrictions to settle all differ


As Pilate said when he was required to pass judgment upon Jesus, we can almost say of each of these great characters: "I find no fault in this man." General Lee's generosity and kindliness were a certain disadvantage to him from a military standpoint, in his high command of men; the very nature of the occupation called for severe and swift deeds of punishment and harshness, against which his great soul rebelled. But even if this be computed to him as a military imperfection it would have fitted him but the better for such a service as we have mentioned.

Lincoln loved his country, the Union, and his fellow-men; his foremost desire was to serve these interests. He thought property rights in human. beings wrong, and frankly and publicly said so; but he sympathized with the South and loved it, even as he did the North. He never regarded the Negro

equal to the white man, nor was he inclined to wrest him from the grasp of the South by force; but he did desire to see inaugurated some plan by which the race might gradually and ultimately gain its freedom; and he was uncompromisingly opposed to the extension of slavery into new territory. He did say that the country could not permanently endure part slave and part free; but he would never have consented to the arbitrament of civil war as a solution of the problem.

Here is an expression of his estimation of the Negro given during one of his famous debates with Judge Stephen A. Douglas, and before an audience of avowed abolitionists:

"My declaration upon this subject of Negro slavery may be misrepresented, but cannot be misunderstood. I have said that I do not understand the Declaration to mean that all men were created equal in all respects. They are not our equal in color, but I suppose that it does mean to declare that all men are equal in their right to 'life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.' Čertainly the Negro is not an equal in color-perhaps not in many other respects; still in the right to put into his mouth the bread that his own hands have earned, he is the equal of every other man, white or black. In pointing out that more has been given you, you cannot be justified in taking away the little that has been given him. All I ask for the Negro is that if you do not like him, let him alone. If God gave him but little, that little let him enjoy.

"What I would most desire would be the separation of the white and black races."

Because of Lincoln's real worth and greatness, no less than his intimate association with the national issues of his day, and the very large share which was

his in solving for all time the vital question to Americans of property rights in human beings, we propose to quote freely in this chapter from his utterances concerning the Negro and what ought to be done in his behalf, and in the interest of the Union and the promotion of human happiness in the aggregate. The quotation above is taken from one of his famous debates with Douglas and is peculiarly fitting in this connection. Lincoln was, at that time, one of the national senatorial candidates-of the newly organized Republican party-in the state of Illinois. This was an anti-slavery party formed to serve the interests of those who were opposed to the extension of slavery into new territory. They also held that the framers of the Constitution did not believe the institution of slavery could long endure under its provision (which we have elsewhere shown to be historically true). This new party which Lincoln led also favored some plan-satisfactory to all interests concerned, so far as possible-by which the Negroes could gradually come into their rights as freemen. They did not, however, propose, teach or favor violence, or injustice, of any kind. Lincoln himself believed in some form of gradual change from slavery to freedom, such as freedom to those born after a certain date, and after they had attained to a certain age-say eighteen years. These circumstances made the utterances of the great statesman on this subject particularly significant; his audiences were eager to hear him condemn slavery and his position demanded that he give full expression to his convictions. For these reasons, and because his attitude has been so often and so grossly misrepresented in the Southern section of this country, we quote further and at some length from these speeches.

"I will say here," said the noble statesman, (in his reply to Douglas, in the first of their joint debates at Ottowa, Illinois, on August 21, 1858) "that I have no purpose, either directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it now exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so. I have no purpose to introduce political and social equality between the white and the 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, as well as Judge Douglas, am in favor of the race to which I belong having the superior position. I have never said anything to the contrary, but I hold that, notwithstanding all this, there is no reason in the world why the Negro is not entitled to all the natural rights enumerated in the Declaration of Independence the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I hold that he is as much entitled to these as the white man. I agree with Judge Douglas he is not my equal in many respects certainly not in color, perhaps not in moral or intellectual endowment. But in the right to eat the bread, without the leave of anybody else, which his own hand earns, he is my equal and the equal of Judge Douglas, and the equal of every living man.

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In this language Lincoln recognizes the fact that the Negro is conspicuously inferior to the white man, and affirms that he does not believe the Negro can ever enjoy equal social and political rights with the superior race. In this both science and experience have since shown him to be right. He also expressly repudiates any intention or desire to interfere with the South, although he believed that some change

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