AL to Mary Speed:
Lincoln said that he grew up hating slavery, and his few recorded reactions to seeing actual slaves reinforced his professed revulsion. In this letter to Mary Speed, the half sister of his best friend, Joshua, Lincoln depicted his experience of seeing a coffle of slaves in St. Louis. The slaves recently had been purchased in his home state of Kentucky and were destined for the owner's farm somewhere in the South. Lincoln imagined how it would feel to be “separated forever from the scenes of their childhood, their friends, their fathers and mothers, and brothers and sisters, and many of them, from their wives and children, and going into perpetual slavery where the lash of the master is proverbially more ruthless and unrelenting than any other where.” Yet he believed that the poor slaves endured their misfortune with laughter and song, God's or nature's way of permitting a person to endure hardship. As a teenager, Lincoln had sailed to New Orleans on a flatboat with a local storeowner's son to transport supplies. Somewhere in Louisiana, “seven negroes” attacked the pair, intending, or so Lincoln believed, to rob and kill them both. The incidents strongly suggest how Lincoln could have developed such deep animosity for the institution of slavery side by side with such unbending belief in the necessity of racial segregation. For Lincoln's early experience with African Americans, see: David Herbert Donald, Lincoln (London: Jonathan Cape, 1995), 34.
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Publication information: Book title: Lincoln on Race and Slavery. Contributors: Henry Louis Gates Jr. - Editor, Donald Yacovone - Editor, Abraham Lincoln - Author. Publisher: Princeton University Press. Place of publication: Princeton, NJ. Publication year: 2009. Page number: 9.
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