Eager to proceed with his black resettlement project, on August 14, 1862, Lincoln met with five free black ministers, the first time a delegation of their race was invited to the White House on a matter of public policy. The President made no effort to engage in conversation with the visitors, who were bluntly informed that they had been invited to listen. Lincoln did not mince words, but candidly told the group:
“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 suffers very greatly, many of them, by living among us, while ours suffers from your presence. In a word, we suffer on each side. If this is admitted, it affords a reason at least why we should be separated.
... Even when you cease to be slaves, you are yet far removed from being placed on an equality with the white race ... The aspiration of men is to enjoy equality with the best when free, but on this broad continent, not a single man of your race is made the equal of a single man of ours. Go where you are treated the best, and the ban is still upon you.
... We look to our condition, owing to the existence of the two races on this continent. I need not recount to you the effects upon white men growing out of the institution of slavery. I believe in its general evil effects on the white race.
See our present condition -- the country engaged in war! -- our white men cutting one another's throats, none knowing how far it will extend; 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 the other. Nevertheless, I repeat, without the institution of slavery, and the colored race as a basis, the war would not have an existence.
It is better for us both, therefore, to be separated.”
An excellent site for black resettlement, Lincoln went on, was available in Central America. It had good harbors and an abundance of coal that would permit the colony to be quickly put on a firm financial footing. The President concluded by asking the delegation to determine if a number of freedmen with their families would be willing to go as soon as arrangements could be made.
Horace Greeley, editor of the influential New York Tribune, called upon the President to immediately and totally abolish slavery in an emphatic and prominently displayed editorial published August 20, 1862. Lincoln responded in a widely-quoted letter:
"My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or 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 ..."
It amazes me that we think of Lincoln as our hero. If you want more information about Lincoln and the issue of race, read this site: http://www.ihr.org/jhr/v13
Ps. Don't be afraid to comment and disagree with me, this note was written to be controversial.