As we approach the Sesquicentennial of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, it is instructive to highlight the historical truth behind this strategic executive order issued on January 1, 1863. Lincoln’s own words expose someone who obviously did not endorse the radical abolitionist’s goals to free the slaves as a humanitarian gesture. It was generally recognized by leading figures of that period and throughout history that Lincoln’s Proclamation was weighed as a calculated military decision as opposed to some philanthropic declaration. This should be patently clear by the specific hypocritical exclusion of slaves residing in states under which Lincoln actually had authority to affect the supposed goal of freeing the oppressed indentured blacks. While causing consternation among the Confederate leadership and having limited military benefit, the Emancipation Proclamation had insignificant humane consequences and rather probably was responsible for the suffering and deaths of thousands of slaves eventually freed and for stoking the fires of racial acrimony in the Reconstruction and twentieth century Southern states.
Lincoln, although kowtowing to the abolitionists for political gain, far from embraced racial homogeneity and equality. Similar to President Jefferson Davis and General Robert E. Lee, Lincoln was quoted as opposing the institution of slavery on moral principle but, as consummate evidence of the basis for his war against the Confederacy, he stated in his letter to the editor of the New York Tribune, Horace Greeley, a stanch abolitionist, “My paramount object in this struggle 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; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union.” In his New York Cooper Union Address of February 27th, 1860, Lincoln supported those states condoning slavery saying, “We must arrest and return their fugitive slaves with greedy pleasure. We must pull down our free state constitutions. The whole atmosphere must be disinfected from all taint of opposition to slavery” as was the law of the land. The preliminary Emancipation Proclamation of September 1862 itself provided a contingency whereby the Southern states could retain their slave holdings if they returned peaceably to the Union within 100 days; the Emancipation Proclamation of January 1863 terminated that offer. He would have indeed been considered a racial white supremacist by today’s politically correct establishment or standards. Lincoln stated, “I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in anyway 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.” To reinforce this position, Lincoln sought to deport freed slaves. In Colonization After Emancipation (Magness and Page), Page, an historian at Oxford University, found an order dated June 1863 (after the Emancipation Proclamation) authorizing a British agent, John Hodge, to recruit freed slaves to be sent to colonies in what are now the countries of Guyana and Belize. “Hodge reported back to a British minister that Lincoln said it was his ‘honest desire’ that this emigration went ahead.” Despite setbacks in his plan, in 1864 Lincoln was quoted in a letter to his attorney general as saying, “Further to your question, yes, I think you can still pursue this policy of colonization even though the money has been taken away.”