Lincoln on Race and Slavery

By Henry Louis Gates Jr.; Donald Yacovone et al. | Go to book overview

63

Reply to New York Workingmen's
Democratic Republican Association:
CW, 7:259–260

In early 1864, trade unionists joined together to organize the Workingmen's Democratic-Republican Association of New York. Similar associations were later organized in Boston, Chicago, and Philadelphia. The association united Republicans and Democrats in support of Union candidates and educated workers on the issues surrounding the war. The organization's leadership sympathized with the abolitionist cause—believing that the institution of slavery threatened the rights of all workers. In March, the officers of the association visited President Lincoln, professed their support for his reelection, and bestowed upon him an honorary membership. The president happily accepted the membership and in response drew a connection between “African Slavery” and “the rights of all working people.” Lincoln also alluded to the infamous New York City Draft Riots (“a disturbance in your city last summer”) and the lynching of free blacks by the largely Irish rioters (“the hanging of some working people by other working people”). With careful political calculation, he elided expressing any direct sympathy for the city's black victims, since the Irish dominated the Workingmen's Democratic-Republican Association of New York, and their countrymen largely favored General George B. McClellan, the Democratic presidential challenger. Lincoln simply stated that such a condition “should never be so. The strongest bond of human sympathy, outside of the family relation, should be one uniting all working people, of all nations, and tongues, and kindreds.” Democratic newspapers in New York, the Jeffersonian and the Freeman's Journal and Catholic Register, leapt to the attack, claiming that the president considered Irish citizens to be inferior to blacks and that he endorsed miscegenation. In November, the overwhelming majority

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