Abraham Lincoln: The Great Emancipator or the Great Racist?
- Category: Historical Figures, History, History of the United States, Racism, Social Issues, United States, World,
- Pages: 3
- Words: 566
- Published: 11 March 2021
- Copied: 161
When you think of Abraham Lincoln, what picture comes to your mind? Most Americans would respond with something akin to the greatest president this nation ever had or the Great Emancipator. Would a man who’s said, “I, as much as any other man, am in favor of havr a stronger Fugitive Slave Act, tipped the balance of slave versus free states, giving free states a majority in the Senate and threatening the very future of slavery in America.
Ten years later, in 1860, a proclaimed Republican moderate, Abraham Lincoln was elected president of the United state of 11, to leave and form the Confederacy. While one tends to think about Abraham Lincoln as the great emancipator and the savior of the enslaved, this identity was actually developed during his presidency and has little basis in who he was as a person before. When one delves into his pre-presidential life, one can find examples of statements by Abraham Lincoln that are against abolition, for colonialism, racist and which promote white supremacism. Instances can also be found where Lincoln supported racist legislation, such as the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. The cause for this? Abraham Lincoln wanted what was best for the nation, and so his ideas evolved as the demands of the nation changed.
Before his presidency, Lincoln used racist speech during his public appearances as a way to show the nation’s people that his ideas matched their own. This was an effort by Lincoln to try and unite the nation during a turbulent time and save it from collapsing. The second time Lincoln jumped from practicing law to politics was his 1858 challenge against incumbent Judge Stephen Douglas for the Senate seat from Illinois. Leading up to this election, the two candidates held a series of fiery debates across the state of Illinois, during which Lincoln made some of his most racist statements to date. In the first of his debates with Stephen Douglas, at Ottawa in August 1858, Lincoln states, “What next? Free [the slaves], and make them politically and socially our equals? My own feelings will not admit of this... A universal feeling, whether well or ill-founded, cannot be safely disregarded. We cannot, then, make them equals”. Lincoln, before his presidency, was not an abolitionist, clearly. His reasoning for this is based in racism, being that his feelings “don’t admit” to making freed slaves social and political equals of whites. It is important to note how while anybody saying this today would result in the majority of modern society lashing out against them, this feeling of unease is definitely widespread during this time. However, it was still wrong then just as it is wrong now, and so it’s important to hold people accountable for their actions. Lincoln made more racist statements during his debate at Charleston on September 18, 1858, where he states, “there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms ofs strengthened as a part of the Compromise of 1850, made it hard for slaves to escape without being returned to their masters, as incentives and greater rewards were given to police officers and offurned slaves, rather than let them alone. Lincoln gave his opinion on this act during his first debate with Stephen Douglas at Ottawa, IL on August 21, 1858, when he stated, “When [southerners] remind us of their constitutional rights, I acknowledge them, not grudgingly, but fully and fairly; and I would give them any legislation for the reclaiming of their fugitives.” Rather than speaking out for those escaped slaves, Lincoln instead speaks out in favor of the slaveholding southerner.