Thoughts That Hurt to Think #040 – Abraham Lincoln was Racist!

It doesn’t take much digging to find out what motivated Abraham Lincoln to go to such great lengths to fight slavery. He said it himself, according to history books, that the issue was not as important as the cause. He would have been willing to hitch his wagon to any socially charged issue that came along, and slavery came along.

Abraham Lincoln wanted to be able to tell everyone what they could and couldn’t do. He was not pleased with the restrictions placed on his power by states being allowed to run themselves. In many ways, this particular president single-handedly did more harm than any other president before or since.

He formed the federal government.

History makes no bones about Lincoln being fine with slavery in some instances, or vocally opposing abolitionist opinions of his time. In his quest to create an empire, Lincoln was happy to keep slavery legal in some states while he made it illegal in others. The cold heart beating in this man’s chest was after political power, not equal rights.

As a matter of fact, Lincoln thought most of the freed slaves should be returned to Africa. Even when he finally allowed that they should live in America, he stated that they should have a fraction of the rights that white men had. Lincoln didn’t think freed slaves should be allowed to vote, or own property. In fact, he thought those rights should only be allowed to white men.

Thinking one ethnicity is better than the other is actually the definition of racism. It’s hard to see how people can look back on this leader’s attitudes and call him anything but racist. As far as forming a federal government, he did succeed at that. All of the hard work the founding fathers put into building this country changed course completely in one fell swoop, and nearly all the things they were trying to avoid by giving states power to rule themselves have since come to pass.

Thanks, Honest Abe.

We couldn’t have done it without you.

I’ve always wondered why Lincoln’s spouse usually doesn’t bear his name in the history books. Most of us know Mary Todd was Abraham Lincoln’s wife throughout his entire presidency, but few people refer to her as ‘Mary Lincoln’. Back then it was rare for a woman to keep her maiden name, or even hyphenate; but what about Mary Todd?

Rumor has it that this woman may have saved the country from Lincoln’s arrogant blundering on a regular basis. Apparently the esteemed president would write scathing letters to people when he was upset. The letters insulted the recipients, berating them for lacking character or fortitude or ability or all three. He would give them to her, and tell her to send them out with the mail.

Mary Todd would hide these letters, until ‘Honest Abe’ cooled off and came back asking if she had sent them. She would say no, and they would burn the letters together and maybe have a good laugh over what a psycho he was. One can’t help but wonder what else she put up with.

It turns out President Lincoln had a bit of a temper.

We just don’t get to know how bad it really was, since Mary Todd managed to soften the blow when he exploded. What else did she keep to herself, to make him look better? Did she ever dare to mention that maybe the president should consider giving women equal rights, even if it was only white women? I mean, clearly he was racist; but he must have been sexist as well. Otherwise Lincoln would have fought for the rights of women, instead of focusing on forming a federal government.

Maybe that’s why Mary Todd went down in history books with her own name. She may have realized her husband was both racist and sexist, and perhaps she didn’t want to be associated with that any more than she had to. It would have actually been pretty clever, to insist that she be referred to by her maiden name. People like me will forever wonder if she saw the way her husband conducted himself and decided to make a clear statement that she was not part of that.

Imagine if all those hateful missives had found their intended recipients. What if Mary Todd had not been there to intervene, and make her husband look like a decent and considered man? The image I had of Abraham Lincoln was much different before I found all this out. Rather than hate on the guy too much for going to such great lengths to change the entire purpose of America, I should admire him for marrying such a good woman. To this day, many people think Abraham Lincoln was a great man; surely those opinions would be different if Mary Todd had not carefully cultivated this image for her husband.

To sum up…

Slavery was not something Abraham Lincoln ever wanted to get rid of. He used a popular issue of his time to get what he wanted, which was a federal government. Even after the slaves were freed, he didn’t think they should have equal rights; rather than offer them the ability to vote and own property, Lincoln thought they should be sent back to Africa. The Thirteenth Amendment, which most people think finally did make slavery illegal, didn’t even do that. Those key words at the end tell a different truth.

“Except prisoners.”

We talked about how more black men are imprisoned in America today than were enslaved in the early days last week, in A Slave By Any Other Name. Next week I want to clear up a possible misconception, and reiterate what this series is really all about for me. I’m aware that I might come off as a little angry or bitter, and maybe I am a little bit.

However, there is a positive current under all this. I will admit that the anger inside me characterized me for a while more than I would have liked, but with those days behind me I have some perspective on it. Back then, I remember seeing a certain bumper sticker that really rang true for me. After some years of inner and outer journeying, I saw a knockoff that made me burst out laughing and nod in agreement.

We’ll talk about both of those phrases, and those journeys, next week. That post will be called…

‘If you’re not outraged…’

I hope you come back for it!

Oh, and by the way…I understand that I am no more perfect than Lincoln was. My own issues have impact on more lives than just mine, and I acknowledge that. I don’t think anyone should be slaves, though…and I don’t think rights should be handed out based on race or skin color. I also don’t look for ways to impact countless lives with those issues, or put more power into the hands of the government.

Those are the things that really made Lincoln a bad guy, to me.

Alright, I’m done.

See you next week!

Thanks for reading!

All the best,

J.K. Norry
The Secret Society of Deeper Meaning
Twitter: @JayNorry

2 thoughts on “Thoughts That Hurt to Think #040 – Abraham Lincoln was Racist!

  1. Thank you Jay, for pointing these things out. You are the first person in many years that I have seen to say these historical truths. I try to explain these things to my children and it is difficult because the information is not given to them by the education system of today.

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