A True Estimate of Abraham Lincoln
and Vindication of the South
by Mildred Lewis Rutherford
Abraham Lincoln did not love the Negroes, and he was hypocritical about what he said in their praise. The Negro to this day has never found out Lincoln’s hypocrisy because for political reasons it was best for the party that elected Lincoln to keep him deceived. The day is near, however, when the educated Christian Negro will use his own knowledge and learn the truth. He will learn, too, that his truest friends are the Democrats of the South. He will learn at last that Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was never intended to free him, and that his freedom really came from the Southern people. It came, it is true, not in the way it had been planned — by gradual emancipation — but by the Thirteenth Amendment offered by John Brooks Henderson, of Missouri, after Lincoln’s death. Many Southern people like General Lee and his mother had either freed their slaves before the war or had it in their wills that they should be freed gradually.
Did not Edward Coles, of Virginia, a large slaveholder, move to Illinois in 1819 to free his slaves and give to each of them 165 acres of land?
Did not John Randolph, of Roanoke, free his slaves, and buy territory in Ohio to place them after freedom? Did not that fine Negro University at Zanesville, Ohio, result in large measure from this?
Did not Thomas Jefferson, when Virginia gave up her Northwest territory, make a proviso that the states formed from it — Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin — should not be slave states? Did he not urge the slaveholders, after the Missouri Compromise, to free their slaves as rapidly as possible lest there should come sudden emancipation, which he prayed God he would never live to see?
Did not George Mason free his slaves, and George Washington say he wished he could live to see every slave free?
Had the South been left alone the slaves would have been long ago freed and no ugly feeling ever would have existed between the former owners and their slaves. The South loved these people and were interested in their welfare. The South is the logical home of the Negro:
Jefferson Davis, when in the United States Senate, urged that a plan be made for emancipation that would be best for the slaveholders and the slave. This was why Southern men and women were so insistent about securing more slave territory to relieve the congested condition of the slave states that they might prepare the slaves as freed for their government. (1)
Abraham Lincoln said:
Gradual emancipation was the best plan, and the North should not criticize too severely the Southern brethren for tardiness in this matter.
The Abolition Crusade, which began at the time of the Missouri Compromise in 1820, and which reached an intense pitch in 1839, caused Southern men to withdraw membership in abolition societies.
In 1816, the African Colonization Society was organized with James Madison, a slaveholder, as president. Thomas Jefferson, a slaveholder, testified that slaveholders were planning to free their slaves. When Madison became President he secured a tract of land about the size of Mississippi on the west coast of Africa, named Liberia, and its capital was called Monrovia to honor him, and to this the slaves as freed were to be sent. In 1847 it became a Republic with only Negroes as officers:
Many wills have been written in the South freeing the slaves by gradual emancipation.
In 1860 there were 247,817 freed negroes in the South; there were 268,817 in the North. Virginia before that time had freed 58,042, Maryland 83,743, North Carolina 30,462, and other states in smaller numbers — in all amounting to more than 247,817, for it was the custom when freed to go North, and the old owners encouraged it.
When war was declared in 1861 there were 3,950,531 negroes as slaves in the South. To these faithful ones the 200,000 slaveholders in the Southern Army and Navy entrusted their loved ones. Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation did not cause a Confederate soldier to return home for fear his loved ones would be massacred.
Many of the slaves in the South before the war belonged to Northern slaveholders. Girard, of Philadelphia, worked his slaves on a large sugar plantation in Louisiana. It was from the profits of this plantation Girard College was built. Hemmingway, of Boston, had his slaves on a plantation — not in the Southern States, but in Cuba — and his will left them to his daughter as late as 1870.
Thomas Elkins, of Effingham County, Georgia, before 1860, offered to free his slaves and send them back to Africa at his own expense and the slaves begged to let them remain with him. Among these slaves were the sons of African kings and princes.(2)
There were before the Missouri Compromise, 1820, 106 anti-slavery societies, with 5,150 members in the South, and 24 abolition societies in the North with only 920 members. (3)
General Lee thought the freeing of the slaves should be left in God’s hands and not be settled by tempestuous controversy: "There was no doubt that the blacks were immeasurably better off here than they were in Africa — morally, physically, and socially."
The South has been vilified for not educating the Negro in the days of slavery. However, the South was giving to the Negro the best possible education — that education that fitted him for the workshop, the field, the church, the kitchen, the nursery, the home. This was an education that taught the Negro self-control, obedience, and perseverance — yes, taught him to realize his weaknesses and how to grow stronger for the battle of life. The institutions of slavery as it was in the South, so far from degrading the Negro, was fast elevating him above his nature and his race.
No higher compliment was ever paid the institution of slavery than that by the North, which was willing to make the Negro its social and political equal after one hundred years of civilization under Southern Christianizing influence. Never has been recorded in history such rapid civilization from savagery to Christian citizenship. The Black man ought to thank the institution of slavery — the easiest road that any slave people have ever passed from savagery to civilization with the kindest and most humane masters. Hundreds of thousands of the slaves in 1865 were professing Christians and many were partaking of the communion in the church of their masters.
Southern men were anxious for the slaves to be free. They were studying earnestly the problems of freedom, when Northern fanatical Abolitionists took the matter into their own hands. Charles Francis Adams, Jr., the historian, realized this and said, "Had the South been allowed to manage this question unfettered, the slaves would have been, ere this, fully emancipated and that without bloodshed or race problems."
Contrast these sentiments with Abraham Lincoln’s much celebrated Emancipation Proclamation:
Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was not issued from a humane standpoint. Lincoln hoped it would incite the negroes to rise against the women and children.
His Emancipation Proclamation was intended only as a punishment for the seceding states. It was with no thought of freeing the slaves of more than 300,000 slaveholders then in the Northern army.
His Emancipation Proclamation was issued for a fourfold purpose and it was issued with fear and trepidation lest he should offend his Northern constituents. He did it:
Because of an oath — that if Lee should be driven from Maryland he would free the slaves (Barnes and Guerber).
The time of enlistment had expired for many men in the army and he hoped this would encourage their re-enlistment.
Trusting that Southern men would be forced to return home to protect their wives and children from negro insurrection.
Above all he issued it to prevent foreign nations from recognizing the Confederacy.
Not a Negro in the states that did not secede was freed by Lincoln’s Proclamation and it had no effect even in the South as it was unconstitutional and Lincoln knew it. Many in the North resented it, and Lincoln was unhappy over the situation as Lamon testified.
According to Wendell Phillips, "Lincoln was badgered into emancipation. After he issued it, he said it was the greatest folly of his life. It was like the Pope’s bull against the comet."
Was Lincoln satisfied with its effect? Let us see what happened:
Many and many a man deserted in the winter of 1862-’65 because of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. The soldiers did not believe that Lincoln had the right to issue it. They refused to fight.(4)
Lincoln was not thinking of the Negro. He did not care whether the Negro was freed or not. He had said, "Slaves are property, and if freed should be paid for." He had said, "I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the states where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so."
In his letter to Alexander Stephens, who wrote expressing his sympathy for him in the greatest responsibility resting upon him as President in those perilous days, he said:
Do the people of the South really entertain fear that a Republican administration would directly or indirectly interfere with their slaves, or with them about their slaves? If they do, I wish to assure you as once a friend, and still, I hope, not an enemy, that there is no cause for such fears. The South would be in no more danger in this respect than it was in the days of Washington. (5)
Lincoln never stood for the social or political equality of the Negro. In his speech at Charleston, Illinois in 1858, he said:
I am not now, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social or political equality of the white and black races. I am not now nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor of intermarriages with white people. There is a physical difference between the white and black races which will forever forbid the two races living together on social or political equality. There must be a position of superior and inferior, and I am in favor of assigning the superior position to the white man.
President Lincoln, in his Emancipation Proclamation, evidently had in mind to colonize or segregate the slaves if freed: "It is my purpose to colonize persons of African descent, with their consent, upon this continent or elsewhere, with the previously obtained consent of the government existing there."
From the time of his election as President, Lincoln was striving to find some means of colonizing the negroes. An experiment had been made of sending them to Liberia, but it was a failure, and he wished to try another colony, hoping that would be successful. He sent one colony to Cow Island under Koch as overseer, but he proved very cruel to the Negroes and they begged to return. He then asked for an appropriation of money from Congress to purchase land in Central America, but Central America refused to sell and said, "Do not send the negroes here." The North said, "Do not send the negroes here."
It was agreed then that a Black Territory should be set apart for the segregation of the Negroes in Texas, Mississippi, and South Carolina, but Lincoln, unhappy and in despair, asked Benjamin Butler’s advice, saying, "If we turn 200,00 armed negroes in the South, among their former owners, from whom we have taken their arms, it will inevitably lead to a race war. It cannot be done. The negroes must be gotten rid of." To this, Butler replied, "Why not send them to Panama to dig the canal?"(6) Lincoln was delighted at this suggestion, and asked Butler to consult Seward at once. Only a few days later, John Wilkes Booth assassinated Lincoln and one of his conspirators wounded Seward. What would have been the result had Lincoln lived cannot be established. The faithful Negroes would possibly have been sent to that place of yellow fever and malarial dangers to perish from the face of the earth, for we had no Gorgas of Alabama to study our sanitary laws for them at that time.
1. Congressional Record.
2. Richardson, Defense of the South, page 20.
3. Lundy, Universal Emancipation.
4. McClure’s Magazine, January, 1893, page 165.
5. Public and Private Letters of Alexander H. Stephens, page 150.
6. Benjamin F. Butler, Autobiography (Boston, Massachusetts: Thayer, 1892).