Lincoln scholar Guelzo (Civil War Era/Gettysburg Coll.; Gettysburg: The Last Invasion, 2013, etc.) explores race in America as an element of African-American history as affected by Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation Declaration.
Lincoln condemned slavery politically and economically but never with a mention of the racial aspect. He thought of slaves as being equal but not equal enough for the vote; in fact, he did not favor any equality of civil privilege. He never spoke of slaves as black. He believed in the separation of the races and did not want slavery to be allowed in the new territories because he wanted “them for the homes of free white people.” The author points to Lincoln’s deeper aims. He felt that slaveholders, in their greed for profit, threatened the white man’s charter of freedom, the Declaration of Independence. He saw slavery as an outrage against the law of nature. Self-determination for states was equally wrong, as a mere majority rule cannot reverse natural law. If so, when the majority turns its restrictive power against you, you will be unprotected. Guelzo provides a wonderful section on reparations, pointing out the difficulties of who should sue whom and for what. The author points out that, as only state laws allowed slavery, there is no statutory culpability in federal court. Finally, he delves into Lincoln’s religion. He was not a member of an established church but read and quoted the Bible with ease. He once said, “if General Lee was driven back from Pennsylvania, I would crown the result by the declaration of freedom to the slaves.” The author includes the political achievements of Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington’s economic work, and W.E.B. Du Bois’ cultural determination to further illuminate our perceptions of race and responsibility.
A clear, concise look at one aspect of Lincoln, the man and the president.