Seeing the Round Corners

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August 8, 2022

Comparing the personal philosophy of two people is almost a “losing proposition,” and especially so when those involved cannot see the insanity of their own “do as I say, not as I do.” Numerous of the founders of this country were of that philosophical vain. 

Lincoln’s participation in the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates in August through October 1858 was responsible for bringing slavery to the forefront of American politics. Douglas was a rabid antagonist, full of hate and known for espousing “the government was made on the white basis, ‘by white man, for the benefit of white man.’”  

Douglas sought to restrict citizenship to white men of European birth and descent, thereby denying it to “Negroes,’ ‘savage Indians,’ ‘the Fiji Islanders,’ ‘the Malaysians or any other inferior or degraded race.’” This rhetoric was viewed by Lincoln as bait by Douglas and Lincoln did not discuss his views of Indians or Pacific Islanders. 

Take a read of today’s of “column from the archives.”  

October 30, 2017


The history of America has been reviewed, analyzed and far too often, rewritten to suit those doing the task. Books used in today’s schools are so inconsistent as to be outright contradictory and missing formation as important or more important as what’s actually included.    

Founded on the idea “land of the free, home of the brave,” the refrain is familiar and is a fond one of most Americans. Many of the old time principles have fallen by the wayside and will never be a part of modern-day generations.    

While Lincoln has always enjoyed adulation of being the “man from humble beginnings,” that description comes into conflict when subjected to scrutiny of his overall handling of a diverse racial environment that was America in the 50 years prior to the Civil War.    

What readers must understand is that Lincoln’s early life on the American frontier was “somewhat” lacking in one of the primary questions facing early America – the question relating to the perpetuation of slavery that was intricately related to this period. Few people know, much less recall in today’s racially charged atmosphere, in 1858, the most pressing national issue was the right of states to determine where slavery could be practiced.    

The other question, Westward expansion, provided Lincoln with much needed insight for what America was growing toward – a nation with a diverse racial environment. When Lincoln lived in Indiana, there were no slaves in Spencer County, and only fourteen free black people. Lincoln stayed in northwest Illinois upon finishing his military obligation where there were few if any slaves and free black people, further adding to Lincoln’s lack of connection and exposure to slaves and free black people.    

Slavery came to the forefront of American politics with the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates in August through October, 1858, in a highly contentious election for the United States Senate.” Stephen A. Douglas was the incumbent Democratic candidate for Senate.    

Douglas was known as bitterly antagonist and full of hate, who lived by the premise that “the government was made on the ‘white basis,’ by white men, for the benefit of white men.” Douglas portrayed Lincoln as one who would “advocate for racial equality during a time when such an idea was shocking to white Illinoisans,” in an attempt to get a “similarly racist constituency to vote for him [Douglas].”    

Historical scholars note that the inclusion of Native Americans was rhetorical and partly sarcastic “(African Americans were clearly the primary concern),” but “it did not open the door for a discussion of the role of race, power and equality in America.” Douglas sought to restrict citizenship to white men of European birth and descent, thereby denying it to ‘Negroes,’ ‘savage Indians,’ the Fiji Islanders,’ the Malaysians or any other inferior and degraded race.” 

Lincoln viewed the bait by Douglas as just that and did not discuss his views of Indians or Pacific Islanders. Instead, Lincoln seemed to rebut the accusations by Douglas with his statement: 

  • ‘I have no purpose to introduce political and social equality between the white and the black races. There is a physical difference between the two, which in my judgment will probably forever forbid their living together upon the footing of perfect equality, and inasmuch as it becomes a necessity that there must be a difference. I, as well as Judge Douglas, am in favor of the race to which I belong, having the superior position. I have never said anything to the contrary, but I hold that notwithstanding all this, there is no reason in the world why the negro is not entitled to all the natural rights enumerated in the Declaration of Independence, the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’ 


Historical scholars offer no solid position asserted by Lincoln as to where American Indians stood in relation to African Americans, but Lincoln “did clearly reject the assertion that he was promoting racial equality.”    

Lincoln went on to state, “white and black people had fundamental physical difference that prevented them from living together as equals.”  No specifics were noted, but “After being pressed into a political corner, Lincoln acquiesced to the pseudo-scientific racism of the period.”    

Lincoln’s followup explanation was unfortunate, at least from the perspective of modern readers. Lincoln suggested that it was “probably” impossible for the races to live together in “perfect equality.” Lincoln’s argument was that “since it was necessary for there to be a difference, he favored white people occupying the privileged race. If he labored under the assumption that the races could not live in harmonious equality, he would naturally prefer a position of power and so would his constituents.”    

NOTE:  This writer whole heartedly agrees with historical scholars on this point – Lincoln’s views on where American Indians stood in relation to African Americans would be a question for further study.


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