Friday, February 13, 2009

Once you've said it, you've said it forever

"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; that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of making voters of the free negroes, or jurors, or qualifying them to hold office, or having them to marry with white people. I will say in addition, that there is a physical difference between the white and black races, which, I suppose, will forever forbid the two races living together upon terms of social and political equality; and inasmuch as they cannot so live, that while they do remain together, there must be the position of superior and inferior, that I as much as any other man am in favor of the superior position being assigned to the white man."

These shocking words were spoken by a politician during a Presidential debate. This politician is viewed not as a racist, but as President Obama's inspiration and historical mentor.

These words were spoken by then candidate Abraham Lincoln.

President Lincoln did sign the Emancipation Proclamation. This was done in two executive orders that he wrote and signed. The orders eliminated slavery in the Confederate States, which had seceded from the Union. Meaning, it had no power unless the Union won the Civil War. It specifically did not free slaves in the states of Kentucky, Missouri, West Virginia, Maryland and Delaware.

So, why did he sign the order if he held the views quoted above?

It was a practical military decision. The South was dependent on slave labor to fuel its economy and war machine. By freeing slaves, the South was crippled. The Union states where slavery was prohibited by state law saw a large infux of slaves who wished to be free. And with that migration, the Union gained an estimated 200,000 additional black soldiers.

President Lincoln saved the Union. He freed slaves.

But his views on racial equality are forgotten in our hazy history. "The older he gets, the better he was."

President Lincoln gets too much credit for racial progress in this country.

His motivation to save the Union led to the freedom of slaves, and with that, the beginning of the long struggle for racial equality in America.

Happy Birthday, President Lincoln. Oh, what would you think of us now.

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