Monday, February 19, 2007

Abraham Lincoln on Race

(In honor of Presidents' Day.)

"What I would most desire would be the separation of the white and black races." (Spoken at Springfield, Illinois on July 17th, 1858; from Abraham Lincoln: Complete Works, 1894, Vol. 1, page 273).

"See our present condition---the country engaged in war! Our White men cutting one another's throats! And then consider what we know to be the truth. But for your race among us there could not be war, although many men engaged on either side do not care for you one way or another.

"Why should the people of your race be colonized, and where? Why should they leave this country? This is, perhaps, the first question for proper consideration. You and we are different races. We have between us a broader difference than exists between almost any other two races. Whether it is right or wrong I need not discuss, but this physical difference is a great disadvantage to us both, as I think your race suffer very greatly, many of them by living among us, while ours suffer from your presence. In a word, we suffer on each side. If this be admitted, it affords a reason at least why we should be separated. It is better for both, therefore, to be separated." (Spoken at the White House to a group of black community leaders, August 14th, 1862, from Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Vol 5, page 371).

"I will say, then, that I am not nor have ever been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the black and white 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 will ever 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." (4th Lincoln-Douglas debate, September 18th, 1858; Collected Works Vol. 3, pp. 145-146).


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