kvs wrote:And this secession was not based on freeing of the slaves.
As the bastard would put it himself:
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, [applause]---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 for 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.
Lincoln was ahead of the curve when it came to the Black race although his ostensive disinterest with emancipation early in his presidency led some abolitionists and radical Republicans to label him a tool of the slave power. He quickly silenced many of his critics during 1862 when he successfully pushed the Congress to pass legislation to emancipate the slaves in Washington D.C. and followed up with diplomatic recognition of Haiti, a country run by ex-slaves. In fact when Lincoln was informed by a Haitian lobbyist that President Geffard of Haiti was willing to send a white diplomat as its minister to Washington, he replied "Well you can tell Mr. Geffard that I shan't tear my shirt if he does send a negro here."
I give him credit for being unequivocal on the idea that slavery was wrong during his Illinois senate run. That was not a universally popular idea in the state, and it was abhorrent to the slave states, where some number of people in Illinois had their origins.
Meanwhile, there is no doubt that his actions as President made Lincoln a hero among many African American, and justly so. He championed and helped to accomplish the end of slavery, his administration's attorney general opined that blacks were due the protection of Constitutional/citizenship rights, and he said aloud that at least some blacks were deserving of the vote. It is fair to say that "his actions counted far more than the words he said to racist audiences he was trying to get to vote for him."
One can't totally dismiss some of the stuff he said before the war or during the early parts of it. But that does not take away from the fact that he was fundamental in securing equal rights and liberties for people of African descent.
The real problem to me is that the term racist connotes a number of different meanings to different people, and some of those are not appropriate or fair in the case of Lincoln. Making the statement that he was a racist, and letting it go at that, is unfair for a person who did so much for the cause of equality, and who may have died for it.
There are a couple of ways to look at it:
1. Lincoln thought slavery was wrong and consistently worked against it his entire life. His family had been anti-slavery as well. He thought it was wrong because it was theft: the theft of a person's labor. That is the violation: "you work and earn bread and I'll eat it." He thought it was what was wrong with the United States.
2. These beliefs coexisted with belief in white superiority he and the rest of the 19th century white society believed as well.
He just didn't think that race justified slavery.
3. He did a thought experiment: if you encounter a man whose skin is fairer than yours, do you automatically become his slave? If you justify slave owning on the grounds of intellectual superiority, do you become the slave of the first man you meet who's smarter than you. Thinking like this undermined the idea of white supremacy.
4. He was part of the 19th century republic called the United States. He wasn't an abolitionist or revolutionary, although he ended up acting as both. He believed in rules and the political process and the law. The law was to be obeyed but also to be shaped or changed. And a lot of the worse laws and rules in American society were around slavery.
5.You have to scale him to the spectrum of opinion at his time. In that case, he sounds like Martin Luther King. He undermines and argues against slavery his whole life. He emancipates the slaves, and finally destroys slavery. His opponents are driven frantic by his actions, which tend to undermine white supremacy, and move African Americans to being Americans and equal citizens. The bile directed at Lincoln was virulently racist. Finally he is murdered specifically because of his plan to extend the franchise to African Americans.
A couple of items that may stimulate some thought:
Lincoln lived long enough to both say and write enough on race to be accused of or credited with virtually every sentiment one can utter about race. Like every person reading this, we are raised in a cultural milieu that establishes parameters of what is culturally acceptable, what is the norm for behavior and belief, whether it be when and where gentleman are to wear hats to what other tribe you may employ to enlarge your shrunken head collection. Whatever Lincoln said or did about race he did as a person born in the early 19th Century and come to maturity in the middle of that Century. That he transcended much, if not all, of that racism, shows that in that area he moved to the forefront of those who wanted to better the lives of America's enslaved, and then freedmen, and for that he should be commended. What else could we reasonably expect? It never ceases to annoy me when today's perceived wisdom seems to be that these earlier people should have thought as us, should have behaved as we do, should value equally what we do. To such more comfortably enlightened souls I say that there are cherished beliefs and practices you never think much about accepting that will one day be seen as insensitive, uncaring, selfish and plain stupid and will that make you in the eyes of those yet unborn insensitive, uncaring, selfish and stupid?