Seeing the Round Corners

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August 2, 2022 

Lincoln’s political life was one of conflict – his early life in dire poverty, but then as he realized his aspirations for the presidency, wealth obviously loomed the most insurmountable at the time for a person with political aspirations. Today’s “column from the archives” is more in depth on Lincoln’s philosophy and view of the country he lived in and hoped to one day lead as its president. 

Historical scholars followed Lincoln’s ascent up the political ladder and his completely ignoring the American Indian as having occupied the new world (country) as it was often referred to.


October 16, 2017


In present day America, writing about history and what various events meant at the time is a little bit like navigating a land mine field. That is especially so when those idolizing Abraham Lincoln carefully read his speeches and correspondence during his transition to a national politician and election to President.   

Present-day idolizers expect to find slavery and the Emancipation Proclamation as the number one issue during his ascendency to the President. Lincoln speeches and correspondence are practically devoid of the issue.    

Historical scholars do have the benefit of a vast compilation of Lincoln speeches and correspondence, and in the case of Lincoln, the compilation covers a period from just after the Black Hawk War (against the American Indians in 1838) to 1861, the beginning of Lincoln’s Presidency. Many frequent public speeches were recorded by listeners and appeared in local and statewide papers. Support for Lincoln came from his neighbors and constituents who played a huge role in perpetuating the “from humble beginnings” so revered by Lincoln loyalists.    

As historical scholars review Lincoln’s pursuit of his political career after the end of the Black Hawk War, it became clear the war was a transitional event in Lincoln’s life leading to a “mature appreciation for the culture of another group of people, including their leisure activities as well as their capacity for violence and warfare.”    

Throughout the period from 1838 to 1861, Lincoln’s speeches and correspondence were notable for “a prophetic warning that any threat to American stability and prosperity would be end[o]genus to the United States.” But what historical scholars found striking was the lack of concern shown by Lincoln toward the American Indian “for the security of America nor his appreciation for its national origin.”    

Historical scholars made special note of Lincoln’s little concern about the threat of European nations that might seek to conquer America, but at least he mentioned them specifically while no mention was made of the American Indian regarding the security of America – a factor conveying Lincoln’s worldview that “American Indian territorial possession was a foreign though uninspiring concept.”    

Readers would be erroneous to get the idea that Lincoln did not recognize the challenge that existed in the imposition of American political control on American Indian territorial possession. Lincoln recognized the challenge throughout the period but historical scholars noted as “striking” his lack of concern.     

As mentioned earlier, “Lincoln viewed the American Indian presence in the West as a foreign one that would eventually be overcome.” Lincoln pursued the process of overcoming American Indian territorial claims as part of his political awareness to question how then President Martin Van Buren was funding the Indian removal policies.    

Speeches and correspondence revealed Lincoln did not argue against the American Indian policy as he was amenable to the undertakings – his argument was that “the money was not being spent responsibly and that not as much was being spent as the Democrats alleged.”    

Lincoln’s speeches and correspondence revealed that one-themed undertaking – “a foreign people that would need to be removed through purchase or conquest.” Speaking before the Illinois House of Representatives in 1839, Lincoln disputed opponents’ claims about the cost of purchasing Indian land by pointing to public records indicating no land has been purchased from the Indians, that money had been used to develop treaties.    

As Lincoln evolved into a national politician, he also showed his acceptance of America’s Indian policy which included his acceptance of the general social attitudes to American Indians at the time. Lincoln’s attitude continued to be evident during this time period when he viewed the American Indian as “a foreign people who needed to be removed through purchase or conquest.”    

As a rising politician, Lincoln was “full-throated” in endorsement of party leaders as expected in those days, and a practice present-day politicians share with historical political figures. Lincoln was generous in his support for the men who enforced government policy that coincided with his view of American origin and right to expansion, this despite earlier statements he knew that “America[n] did not actually possess all the territories it claimed.”    

Remember, Lincoln said, “American owns a large part of the world, by right of possessing it; and all the rest by right of wanting it and intending to have it.


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