Abraham Lincoln: Racist

by Hugh Mungus

I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality.

And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.

- Abraham Lincoln, former president of the United States

These politicians love their run-on sentences, don't they? Must get paid by the word.

Yes, this is an actual quote spoken by Abraham Lincoln. It was delivered during the famous Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858 - an Illinois senatorial polemic with Democratic Party nominee Stephen A. Douglas.

During these verbal battles, the two combatants argued primarily over the subject of slavery. Douglas appeared immovable in his belief of popular sovereignty, which would allow the individual states to decide for themselves whether or not they endorsed subjugation. Lincoln seemed opposed to the expansion of slavery, but made numerous contradictory remarks when politically appropriate.

So, the above quote was uttered by the man who, in 1861, would be inaugurated as the official 16th president of the United States.

The word racism is defined by as: the belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others.

Merriam-Webster's online lexicon denotes racism as: a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.

asserts racism is: a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human racial groups determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to dominate others or that a particular racial group is inferior to others.

Via Lincoln's above quote, it seems the 16th president of the U.S. was the epitome of what these reference sources define as a racist. Even more bizarre is the fact that Lincoln is often referred to as the best Commander-in-Chief in United States history. Check out online listings of Top Ten U.S. Presidents. Lincoln consistently ranks in the top three - most often first.

If Abraham Lincoln was a racist, and he's heralded as the best president of the United States ever, what were the attributes of the worst? A predilection for cannibalism? A penchant for serial killing? A desire to expose oneself in front of nursing homes, while driving black cars on Sunday in Denver, Colorado?

When you consider Lincoln's face has been immortalized on Mount Rushmore, as well as the U.S. penny and five dollar bill, the possibility of Abe being a racist enters the domain of the surreal. There are those who claim the societal norm in the late 19th century was to be a supremacist. I don't dispute your assertion. I'm solely attempting to underscore the fact that high school history books portray President Abraham Lincoln as a Commander-in-Chief determined to create equality between all races.

In addition, just because everyone else is an asshole, does that make it right to follow suit?

Perhaps a few more of Lincoln's quotes will shed light upon his beliefs regarding bigotry.

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.

- Abraham Lincoln, The Lincoln-Douglas Debates, 1858

I will add to this that I have never seen to my knowledge a man, woman or child who was in favor of producing a perfect equality, social and political, between negroes and white men.

- Abraham Lincoln, The Lincoln-Douglas Debates, 1858

My paramount object in this struggle [the American Civil War] is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that.

What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union...

- President Abraham Lincoln, in a letter to Horace Greeley, August 22, 1862

You can uncover most of that last one at the Lincoln Memorial, itself. Bizarre, huh? Well, George Lopez is famous, and Mark Wahlberg has a third nipple, so perhaps bizarre is subjective, these days.

Judge Douglas has said to you that he has not been able to get from me an answer to the question whether I am in favor of negro citizenship. So far as I know, the Judge never asked me the question before. He shall have no occasion to ever ask it again, for I tell him very frankly that I am not in favor of negro citizenship.

- Abraham Lincoln, The Lincoln-Douglas Debates, 1858

Now my opinion is that the different States have the power to make a negro a citizen under the Constitution of the United States if they choose. The Dred Scott decision decides that they have not that power. If the State of Illinois had that power I should be opposed to the exercise of it.

- Abraham Lincoln, The Lincoln-Douglas Debates, 1858

Upon inauguration as president, one of Lincoln's initial acts was the attempted passing of the Corwin Amendment. Had partial secession of the South not already occurred, this legislation would have prohibited the federal government from tampering with slavery in any state.

Add the fact that Abe was one of the leaders of the Illinois Colonization Society - an organization determined to remove free blacks from the Prairie State - and Lincoln's love for all races becomes no more than the same ol' propaganda we're force-fed in school.

However, Abraham Lincoln was also cited as stating:

When I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.

But Honest Abe was also known to quote the Bible when it suited his motives, even though he never joined a church, didn't formally belong to any religion, and purportedly wrote an essay denouncing Christianity.

Let's just say if some obvious racist in a stove pipe hat drove down the streets of South Central today, promulgating the above quotes, he wouldn't be elected president. In fact, he'd probably be shot.

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