What was Lincoln’s Plan for Freed Slaves?

What did Lincoln propose to do with freed slaves?

The answer might surprise you. He famously told Alexander H. Stephens they could “root, hog, or die”, but Lincoln had another idea.

He wanted to ship them out of the country to anywhere that would take them.

When a trial run in Haiti failed about mid-way through the War, Lincoln supposedly backed off of his colonization dream, but as Sebastian Page and Phil Magness have shown, Lincoln pursued colonization until the day he was assassinated.

What does this mean? Lincoln never deviated from his long standing “white dream” as Lerone Bennett called it.

He always wanted colonization to be a voluntary process, as did every proponent of the plan, but he always hoped that freed slaves would take him up on the offer.

This nicely fit with Northern Republican visions–particularly in the Midwest–of a free white Western expanse. Free soil, free labor, free men had a white basis.

Lincoln could have opened this land to former slaves, but no Republicans would have supported this move. They also wouldn’t support compensating former slave owners, either. Lincoln tried that, too. Republicans didn’t want to prop up former slaves in a Northern back yard, and they certainly didn’t want to help Southerners who to them were subhumans.

Instead, Lincoln looked to foreign land to rid the United States of a potential race war.

This was not unlike his idol, Henry Clay, who actively promoted colonization while in Congress and worked with the American Colonization Society.

When voluntary colonization did not seem to be popular, Lincoln fell back on his quip to Stephens.

The Washington Post published a nice little essay on the topic which made for good Podcast fodder.

I discuss it on Episode 784 of The Brion McClanahan Show.

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