Lincoln on Race and Slavery

By Abraham Lincoln; Donald Yacovone et al. | Go to book overview

48

Address on Colonization to A Deputation of Negroes:
CW, 5:370–375

Following up on President Lincoln's request to provide funding for the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, Congress appropriated about six million dollars to colonize the newly emancipated slaves in Central America. Although Lincoln no longer believed that the entire African American population could be removed from the United States, he remained committed to racial segregation and colonization as a way to increase white support for emancipation. By continuing to advocate colonization, Lincoln sought to discourage border state Unionists from joining the rebellion, especially as he considered issuing the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. His interview with prominent members of the District's black community on August 14 aimed at securing black support for resettlement in the Chiriqui region of Central America. Lincoln believed coal deposits there (later proved worthless) would provide a sound economic basis for the venture. Edward M. Thomas, Reverend John F. Cook, Cornelius C. Clark, John T. Costin, and Benjamin McCoy, Freemasons, abolitionists, community organizers, A.M.E. Church leaders, and a Presbyterian minister, listened respectfully to the president explain that while he understood that blacks suffered “the greatest wrong inflicted on any people,” they still could not live in freedom with whites. Not only did he deny the black quest for full citizenship, but he went on to label the African American presence in the United States as the root cause of the Civil War: without “the institution of Slavery and the colored race as a basis, the war could not have an existence.” Lincoln's remarks, widely reprinted in the Northern press, enraged African Americans, who saw in them a scheme to deny their quest for equal rights. Many of the District's black citizens even denounced the committee that had met with Lincoln. Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, the famed black poet, spoke for most free blacks when she repudiated Lincoln's revival

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