Newsflash: Lincoln Was White

The Washington Times reports that a new book about Abraham Lincoln reveals some shocking new discoveries:

The Great Emancipator was almost the Great Colonizer: Newly released documents show that to a greater degree than historians had previously known, President Lincoln laid the groundwork to ship freed slaves overseas to help prevent racial strife in the U.S.

Just after he issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, Lincoln authorized plans to pursue a freedmen’s settlement in present-day Belize and another in Guyana, both colonial possessions of Great Britain at the time, said Phillip W. Magness, one of the researchers who uncovered the new documents.

Historians have debated how seriously Lincoln took colonization efforts, but Mr. Magness said the story he uncovered, to be published next week in a book, “Colonization After Emancipation: Lincoln and the Movement for Black Resettlement,” shows the president didn’t just flirt with the idea, as historians had previously known, but that he personally pursued it for some time.

Shocking!  Other than in every book ever written about Lincoln, I don’t believe that his pursuit of colonization has been mentioned.

The authors, in the interests of justifying their work as a worthy academic endeavor, are trying to claim that Lincoln pursued this policy to an even greater extent than heretofore known.  Again, this is not really a new discovery.  I have read several Lincoln biographies that went into great detail about Lincoln’s colonization plans.  Believe me, this is often the first point that Lincoln detractors bring up in some effort to discredit Lincoln.

It’s widely known that Lincoln, for much of his life, thought that colonization was the best policy in a post-slavery America.  He discussed colonization in several speeches made during the 1850s, including his famous Peoria speech delivered on October 16, 1854.  Lincoln favored colonization because he believed that freed slaves would never be treated as equals in the United States.  He earnestly thought that it would be best for both whites and blacks if freed slaves were colonized elsewhere.  He gradually changed his mind, persuaded largely by Frederick Douglass that blacks wanted to remain in the United States and forge their way towards equality.  By the time of his assassination he had abandoned all colonization plans.  Indeed one of the policies that so angered his assassin, John Wilkes Booth, was his proposal to allow suffrage to freed slaves in Louisiana while it re-organized.

I’m sure that this book provides a very interesting and detailed account of this particular topic, but the Washington Times might want to temper its tone of amazement.

-Paul

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Published in: on February 10, 2011 at 10:20 am  Comments Off on Newsflash: Lincoln Was White  
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