Skip to main content

tv   Abraham Lincolns Ethics  CSPAN  March 27, 2016 11:00pm-11:51pm EDT

11:00 pm
>> during campaign 2016, c-span takes you on the road to the white house as we follow the candidates on c-span, c-span radio, and c-span.org. camor this year's student contest, students told us the thanks to all the students and teachers who competed this year and congratulations to all of our winners. every weekday in april, one of the top 21 winning entries will air at 6:50 a.m. central on c-span. all the winning entries are available for viewing online. >> next on american history tv, from recent abraham lincoln symposium on his life, and legacy, thomas carson, the author of "lincoln's ethic," and
11:01 pm
a loyola professor. this took place at ford's theater. it is about 50 minutes. >> good afternoon. my name is michael burlingame. i teach at the university of illinois springfield and i bring you greetings from the holy land. when i saw this set, i was startled. when i came into the theater, i saw the title of the show that is being done tonight, 110 in the shade. i assumed it was a musical about washington dc in august. it kind of fit. it is my pleasure to introduce thomas carson, professor of philosophy at loyola university in chicago. he is a graduate of saint olaf college and brown university. professor carson's teaching and research focus on ethics, as his
11:02 pm
book titles suggest. the status of morality, value and the good life, and "lying and deception." professor carson has a lifelong interest in history, which led him to write his most recent book, "lincoln's ethics." i had the pleasure of reading it in manuscript. i commend it to your attention. i must admit, i was a bit skeptical when informed that i philosopher, not an historian or political scientist, was writing about lincoln. i have long shared the view expressed by henry adams, who said philosophers offer "unintelligible -- answers to unsolvable problems." i assure you that lincoln's ethics offers highly intelligible answers to eminently soluble problems of
11:03 pm
great interests to students of our 16th president. please join me in welcoming tom carson. [applause] prof. carson: thank you, michael. im am pleased and honored to speak to you here today. i want to thank everyone who is here. thanks for coming, and thanks especially to some of my very old and dear friends who are here. i should mention, there is a handout, i hope everybody has a copy of it. they are towards the front on the side. you can follow the talk, along with a handout, and you will need the handout near the end of the talk. my talk is based on the second half of my book, "lincoln's ethics," which discusses lincoln's character. i will summarize the first half which addresses moral questions about lincoln's most controversial actions and policies. i discuss a number of cases
11:04 pm
where many have thought he acted him morally, including the following. lincoln was not an abolitionist until 1864, when he ran for reelection. during his long career in illinois before becoming president, he never publicly opposed the state exclusion laws. he publicly endorsed other unjust laws that were part of illinois's black codes, including laws forbidding blacks to vote, serve on juries, or marry whites. he never considered giving civil rights to african-americans. when he ran for the senate in 1858 and ran for president in 1860, he opposed further extension of slavery, but did not advocate its immediate abolition. in his inaugural address, he promised he would not interfere with the institution of slavery where it already existed. he rescinded general fremont's
11:05 pm
order for partial emancipation in the state of misery in 1861, and a similar order by another general for the states of south carolina, georgia, and florida in 1862. the emancipation proclamation was seemingly halfhearted. it did not free slaves and border states or confederate territory occupied the union army. many criticized him for not issuing it earlier. president lincoln suspended habeas corpus during the civil war, and imprisoned thousands without due process of law. he supported the colonization of african-americans outside the united states. his actions and policies as commander-in-chief can be questioned because their moral status depends on the justice of the american civil war and the union cause, which is open to question. the abolition of slavery was not a union worry in 1861. the reasons to question whether the union was morally justified
11:06 pm
in fighting the american civil war at the beginning of the war, it is debatable whether the union had means to fight the war. lincoln bears considerable personal responsibility for the conduct of the war and the union army's treatment of confederate civilians. i defend lincoln's actions in almost all these cases. i argue that most of his actions were justified on utilitarian grounds. they were necessary to bring about the best consequences in the long run. i argue that in practice, lincoln was utilitarian, but my defensive lincoln does not propose the truth of utilitarianism. some of the actions critics claim lincoln should've performed, like declaring the complete abolition of slavery in all the states at the beginning of the american civil war, would have been self-defeating. we don't need to be utilitarians in order to reject these criticisms of lincoln. let's turn to lincoln's
11:07 pm
character. unlike most other important leaders and historical figures, abraham lincoln is generally regarded as a singularly good and virtuous human being. the mythical lincoln many of us learned about as schoolchildren was honest abe. he walked to a store to return pennies to someone who had been overcharged. he was a kind person who was moved by compassion and a sense of justice to become the great emancipator. lincoln was a resolute and determined commander in chief, despite his great awareness and compassion for the men suffering because of the civil war. the mythical lincoln was a wonderful human being, but how much of the myth of lincoln's moral goodness is true? does he deserve his reputation as a morally good person? my book addresses this question at great length. today, i will give you the short of it. lincoln possessed many imported
11:08 pm
moral virtues, some such as kindness and magnanimity, to a high degree. many people deny that he was an unusually good human being. there are reasons to question the goodness of his character, the most damning criticism is the charge that he was a racist. my conclusion is that the lincoln of myth is accurate for the most part. cynics would be surprised and confounded by how much truth there is the myth. in some ways, the myth understates his goodness and virtue. to the contrary, lincoln is in most respects a moral exemplar. worthy of our admiration and imitation. i will begin by describing four important moral virtues that lincoln possessed to a high degree. lincoln was an unusually kind, compassionate, benevolent and tenderhearted person. he was deeply moved and distressed by human and animal suffering. his kindness was the foundation of his opposition to slavery. this trait was pronounced from his childhood, and was observed
11:09 pm
by many people on many occasions. lincoln was exceptionally kind to animals. as a boy, he preached a youthful sermon. he rescued a hog from drowning in the mud. one person recalled lincoln rescued two little birds, who had been blown from their nest in a storm. lincoln said he placed the birds in the nest provided by their mother, and he could not have slept if he had not given those two little birds to their mother. he was equally kind to his fellow human beings. when he lived in indiana, he would often visit and comfort sick children. he was deeply moved and distressed by the suffering of slaves in his trips to the south as a young man.
11:10 pm
many years later, in a letter to joshua speed, his close friend, a man who owned slaves and defended the institution of slavery, lincoln wrote that the site of shackled slaves was a continual torment, and slavery continually exercises the power of making me miserable. one important qualification needs to be added. as a young man, lincoln enjoyed mocking and ridiculing his political opponents and often did this in anonymous letters to local newspapers. once on a political stump, he reduced a local politician to tears, and on another occasion, in an anonymous letter, he wrote, let the auditor of illinois challenge him to a duel. he did not give up his penchant for denigrating until middle-age. but during the last part of his life, after he reentered politics, he was an exceptionally kind person without qualification. the second salient moral virtue was magnanimity. to be magnanimous means to be generous and overlooking injury
11:11 pm
and insult. alternatively, that means generous disregard to slights. lincoln possessed the virtue of magnanimity to an extraordinary degree. seward said his magnanimity was superhuman. he did not hold grudges, even when he was insulted and treated badly. for example, lincoln and edward stanton were members of a legal team who worked on a case involving the mccormick reaper several years before the civil war. stanton treated lincoln badly, refused to talk to him. stanton was contemptuous of lincoln. at their initial meeting, lincoln wanted to discuss ideas for the case. stanton walked away, muttering to another companion, "why did you bring that guy? he does not know anything and can do you no good." lincoln admired stanton.
11:12 pm
when he had to find a successor to simon cameron, secretary of war, lincoln consulted george hardy, who he had met at the trial. harding said he thought stanton would be the best person for the job, but he said, i know you could not and would not appoint him after the outrageous way he has insulted you and behave towards you. lincoln replied, "now, mr. harding, this is not a personal matter. i desire to do what is best to the country." and so he did. stanton did a superb job as secretary of war and played a crucial war in the union war effort. the second example is that of lyman trumbull. in 1854, lincoln ran for the senate. in one of his rivals, the democrat lyman trumbull was opposed to the kansas-nebraska act and any extension of slavery into new states. on the first ballot in the state legislature, lincoln received 45 of 51 votes needed to win the
11:13 pm
election. trumbull received five votes on the first ballot. together, he and lincoln controlled almost enough votes to win the election. i should add here, this time, senators were elected by state legislators, not the voters. in subsequent ballots in the legislator, trumbull and supporters refused to support lincoln because lincoln was a whig. when it appeared that a candidate was supported the kansas nebraska act would be elected, lincoln urged supporters to support anti-slavery by voting for trumbull. trumbull was elected to the senate. mary lincoln was bitter about this. afterwards, she was never again on speaking terms with trumbull's wife, julia, who had
11:14 pm
been a close friend. trumbull became an important republican senator, and later helped engineer lincoln's nomination for president. trumbull also co-authored the 13th amendment to the constitution. magnanimity is an important moral virtue and an important virtue for any leader. had lincoln not been magnanimous, he would not have enjoyed the services of the best people working for him, he would have been greatly distracted by the numerous flights and slanders which assailed him, and he would not have succeeded in the difficult tasks of his presidency. some underappreciated feature of lincoln's character are nonconformity, skepticism, and openness to criticism. he questioned many of the conventional values of his time. he was a singular and unconventional person. let me read you a quote from william lee miller, which you have in your handout. he writes, "in an atmosphere soaked with hostility to indians, lincoln resisted it.
11:15 pm
in a time and place in which the great mass of common men in the west supported andrew jackson, lincoln supported henry clay. surrounded by democrats, lincoln became a whig. in a political party with a nativist undercurrent, lincoln rejected the prejudice. in a southern flavored setting soft on slavery, lincoln opposed it. in a white world with strong racial antipathies, lincoln was generous to blacks. in an environment indifferent to education, lincoln cared about it intensely. in a family active in church, lincoln abstained. when evangelical christianity permeated the western frontier, lincoln raised questions and give different answers than his neighbors. lincoln was skeptical about the common prejudices of his own time. including the prevailing racial prejudices against second americans.
11:16 pm
he said those prejudices might or might not be well-founded. he never endorsed the common view that whites were intellectually and morally superior to blacks. he abandoned prejudices in light of evidence. he was reluctant to permit black soldiers to serve in the union army. he was motivated by his worries about the prejudices of white soldiers in the general public. he worried that blacks might not make good soldiers. once it became clear that black soldiers were acclimating themselves well to battle, lincoln went out of his way to acknowledge their value. he subjected his views to criticism, and appointed strong people to his cabinet, and sought their criticism of his ideas. he learned from the abolitionists, even though they criticized him very harshly and
11:17 pm
often unfairly. some abolitionist even made bigoted comments about lincoln's family. an ohio senator said lincoln's attitudes towards slavery could only have come from someone born poor white trash. william lloyd garrison said lincoln's education with and among the white trash of kentucky was most unfortunate for his moral development. lincoln's capacity for self criticism came to be appreciated by many of his abolitionist critics. wendell phillips described lincoln as a growing man whose views changed in light, and might change again. before his death, the abolitionist lydia child wrote, "i think we have reason to thank god for abraham lincoln." with all his deficiencies, it must be admitted that he has grown continuously. it was good luck to have the people elect a man who was willing to grow." frederick douglass noted lincoln's willingness to listen to criticism, and said he was
11:18 pm
patient under reproaches. lincoln's openness to criticism was closely connected with his magnanimity. he learn from people who spoke harshly and unfairly of him. miller aptly describes lincoln as someone who had strong moral convictions and gave strong arguments about the morality of slavery without being moralistic or self-righteous. lincoln frequently make judgments about the rightness and wrongness of actions and the justice or injustice of institutions, but he seldom condemned other people. he condemned the institution of slavery in the strongest terms, but he called it a monstrous injustice and said he hated it, but he did not condemn slaveowners or southerners. he hated slavery, but unlike many abolitionists, he did not disdain the sinners. so many people who have strong moral convictions are
11:19 pm
self-righteous and betray considerable hostility in condemning others. his non-self-righteous conserver -- concern for moral questions was virtuous. i will mention another few virtues he possessed. first is what i call his honorable ambition. ambition is a vice and many people. but lincoln's ambition was morally virtuous. he wanted to gain the esteem of others by rendering himself worthy of their esteem. in his first written political statement from 1832, lincoln wrote, "every man is set to have his own peculiar ambition. i can say, for one, that i have no other so great as being truly esteemed by my fellow man, by rendering myself worthy of that esteem." lincoln was also an extremely temperate and self-controlled person. he abstain from alcohol and tobacco. he was faithful to his wife
11:20 pm
despite having strong sexual desires and many opportunities to stray from his marriage vows during his travels. he was exceptionally self-controlled in expressions of anger. despite the pressure of his office, the vicious criticisms he received from many quarters, the blunders of his generals, president lincoln kept his anger out of important decisions and policies. he controlled his anger with his wife, who frequently tried his patience. now, i will turn to the criticisms of lincoln's character. despite lincoln has many virtues, there are grounds for questioning the goodness of his character and his status as a moral exemplar.
11:21 pm
something lincoln entered into a loveless marriage to a woman from a prominent family in order to further his political ambitions. he is criticized for neglecting his family by spending too much time away from home, for being cold and ungrateful to friends, and for his relationship to his parents. the most serious criticism of lincoln is the claim that he was a racist. my book discusses these criticisms in great detail, but today, i will only talk about the issue of racism. was lincoln a racist? the answer depends on what we mean by racism, and by what times in his life we are talking about. i will present you with six different definitions of racism, and given three of these definitions, being a racist is a great moral failing. lincoln was very clearly never a racist in those senses of the term in which being a racist is a grave moral failing. he was a racist according to two a of the other definitions, but when he died, it is unclear to
11:22 pm
me that he was a racist according to any of these six definitions, and i will read to you the first three definitions. you will need to follow on your hand out. i will refer to these definitions by number. number one, racism is the believe that certain races of people are inferior to others, and that it is permissible for members of, quote, superior races to enslave members of inferior races. number two, racism is racially motivated ill will towards members of certain races. number three, racism is racially motivated indifference to the welfare of members of a certain race of people. being a racist according to any of these definitions is a moral failing. it is clearly -- clear that lincoln was never a racist according to any of these three definitions. he never thought that anyone was justified in exploiting or
11:23 pm
enslaving members of certain races, and he was never hostile or indifferent to the welfare of blacks or members of other races. there is evidence to the contrary. a fourth definition of racism is as follows. racism is the belief that certain races are morally or intellectually superior to other races. it is unclear whether or not lincoln was a racist in this sense. nowhere in any of his writings or speeches does he say that whites are inherently morally or intellectually superior to blacks. but nowhere does he explicitly deny us. we do not know if you visit racist in this sense. but lincoln clearly endorsed unjust racial discrimination during most of not all of his political career. he defended unjust laws that denied free african-americans full social and political rights. his most well-known statement
11:24 pm
about this came in his debate with douglas in charleston in 1858. lincoln said, and this is on your handout, "i am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way to social or political equality of the white and black races. i am not, nor ever have been, in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes or qualifying them to hold office or intermarry with white people. there is a physical difference between the races which i believe will forbid the two races living together in terms of social and political equality and inasmuch as they can so not live, while they remained together, there will be the position of superior and inferior -- i'm in favor of having this appear he or position assigned to the white race." in this statement, he was pandering to the deep racial
11:25 pm
prejudices of illinois voters. definitions five and six are as follows. number five, to be a racist is to be disrespectful of a certain race of people on account of their race. number six, to be a racist is to be inadequately concerned with the welfare of a certain race of people on account of their race. lincoln was a racist in both of these senses during most of his political career. let's start with definition number five. being disrespectful of a certain race. lincoln sometimes used racial slur words. his expressed opposition to interracial marriage and disparaging comments about people of mixed race are evidence of disrespect. in his debates with douglas, he said he agreed with douglas in being horrified by the thought of interracial marriage. lincoln said, and i quote,
11:26 pm
"judge douglas is horrified at the thought of the mixing of the blood of the white and black races. a thousand times agreed." presumably, he purportedly spoke and for himself as well as nearly all white people when he said, "there is a natural discussed in the minds of nearly all white people to the idea of an indiscriminate amalgamation of the white and black races." there is evidence to think that he expressed a version may have been insincere. in 1859, he asked lincoln why he favored the illinois law for banning interracial marriage. according to locke, lincoln said, "the law means nothing. i shall never marry a negress but i have no objection to anyone else doing so." if a white man wants to marry a
11:27 pm
negro woman, let him do it if the negro woman can stand it. [laughter] some of lincoln's defense of statements towards african-americans pander to the prejudices of voters. the six the definition is, racism is inadequate concern for the welfare of a certain race of people. there is evidence that lincoln strongly favor the interest of whites over blacks. the racial discrimination he endorsed, in a passage from the charleston debate, is evidence of this. in 1859, he said, if there was a necessary conflict between the white man and the negro, i should be for the white man as much as judge douglas. but then he added, "but i say, there is no such necessary conflict. there is room enough for all to be free." so lincoln was a
11:28 pm
racist according to definitions five and six during most of his political career. we need to make important qualifications. in certain respects, lincoln had a great concern for the welfare of blacks. he was concerned for their happiness, freedom, and right to enjoy the fruits of their labor. this concern was morally virtuous. he reentered politics and 1850's because, as he put it, he was roused as never before to oppose the expansion of slavery. lincoln's racial attitudes changed during his presidency, and by the end of his life, it is no longer clear that he was a racist according to either definition five or six. he came to respect the sacrifices and valor of black soldiers who fought for the union. he came to greatly respect and admire a number of well educated black leaders he met towards the end of the war. at the end of his life, lincoln
11:29 pm
care greatly about the welfare of african-americans, and on several important respects, he did not favor the interests of whites over those of blacks. despite intense public criticism based on concern for the suffering of union prisoners of war, lincoln halted the exchange of prisoners with confederates until they agree to exchange black prisoners of war in january 1865. the lincoln administration's willingness to halt prisoner exchanges to protect black pows was denounced by the new york times and walt whitman, among others. he was no more concerned of the fate of white prisoners than a black prisoners. his insistence that -- that the emancipation proclamation be upheld and slavery be abolished work policies that attached great weight to the freedom of welfare of black people.
11:30 pm
he could have ended the war earlier if he would have been willing to not abolish slavery. at the end of his life, he wanted blacks to be citizens of the u.s. and wanted to give voting rights to some, but not all, black men. in his last speech in 1865, he said that he "preferred that for now, black men who fought in the war, and those who are intelligent, be permitted to vote." by very intelligent, scholars think he means literate. the policy he proposed was a great change for the better. it was a policy that enraged john wilkes booth. john wilkes booth heard the speech, and it prompted him to murder lincoln, here in this
11:31 pm
place where we are now, today. immediately after listening to his speech, boothe told a friend that means "nigger-citizenship is putting through, that by god is the last decision he will ever make." lincoln wants to uneducated white men to be able to vote. i think at this time, it was right for lincoln to be cautious, to move slowly, to push for -- had he done so, he would've risked undermining the 13th amendment and sparking a guerrilla war in the south. would lincoln have done enough to protect the rights and interests of african-americans if he had lived longer to oversee reconstruction?
11:32 pm
would lincoln have supported anything like the 14th and 15th amendments? the answer is that recently do not know. know, bus what we say about to be hedged in light of this uncertainty. we need to distinguish sharply between our judgments about the justice and wisdom of his what we think they reveal about his character. the policies in question were motivated by lincoln's caution and his understanding of the constitution and understanding of the states. even on the least charitable interpretation, lincoln's racism was mixed for virtuous
11:33 pm
benevolence for the people who are the objects of his racist attitude, that he attract greatly from the goodness of his other virtues. the mythical lincoln presented to many american schoolchildren was without flaw area at least his flaws were never mentioned. he had serious flaws but in many ways the lincoln myth understates his goodness, because it doesn't adamantly describe the great cities he's faced. the myth doesn't explain lincoln's very bad moral luck in being raised in and running for elected office in an atmosphere of extreme racial prejudice and intolerance. some historians think racial injudice was stronger is central and southern illinois and indiana where he lived most of his life than any other region in the united states.
11:34 pm
lincoln myth does not give the details of the intense stress of his life and his crushing workload as president. lincoln suffered was aggravated by the disloyalty of harshary chase, extremely criticisms from all sides, the death of willie lincoln, and what i think was a very unhappy marriage. mary lincoln never recovered over the grief of her son in 1862. in july 1863 she suffered a serious head injury as a result of a carriage accident. to severeher prone headaches and aggravated her bad temper. hindrance and embarrassment to her husband are the latter part of his presidency. hecoln achieved the things did under extraordinarily difficult and stressful circumstance is -- stressful circumstances.
11:35 pm
i would ask you to turn to the last page of the handout. i have some before and after pictures here. the first photograph was taken in august of 1860. on februaryas taken 1864. the photographs were taken less than five years apart and we can see the burdens of office written on his face. lincoln had many rough faults and edges to overcome. he involved from being a partisan politician who mocked and personally attacked his opponents in speeches and anonymous writings to become a great statesman, who was fair and respectful to his opponents. abolitioniste an in supporting the 13th amendment
11:36 pm
and he continually adopted more and more enlightened views and policies regarding african-americans and their place in the american society. so i submit that the real abraham lincoln was at least as good as the mythical lincoln. more complex, more interesting, and more human as well. lincoln was a morally exemplary human being. he is worthy of our great admiration. the most respects he is worthy of imitation. of hisis fully worthy very honored place in our national memory. follow -- usion i "e mentions lincoln's faults the most objectionable passages from lincoln's -- lincoln's faults and quotes the most objectionable passages from lincoln's debate. noteft him because he was perfect, but he was in triumph or co--- in triumph.
11:37 pm
the world is full of people hating and despising their fellows. to them i love to say, see this man. he was one of you yet he became abraham lincoln. i personally revere him the more because of out of his contradictions and inconsistencies, he fought his way to the pinnacles of earth. his fight was within as well as without. the foibles and contradictions of the great do not diminish, but enhance the meaning of their upward struggle. it was his true history that proved abraham lincoln a prince of man. men."nce of [applause] >> i think we have time for questions.
11:38 pm
>> you mentioned lincoln never stated whites were superior to blacks. he was agnostic on that. >> i think it's a this interpretation. -- that's the best interpretation. >> but he does say specifically black people are inferior to white people in one regard, color. was he being's interior -- was he being secure call -- being satirical? >> i think that was to pander to the voters. i forget the passage, you probably remember it better than i do. appearancebout the of african-americans, the
11:39 pm
appearance of whites is superior to blacks, something like that. meaningless a statement. he said, "they may not be inferior to whites in terms of intellect or morale of the. -- or morality. in terms offailure their color and their right to earn the bread that equality."m >> his courtroom technique, where he would concede something to the other side, which i always felt in the old days before computers, if a student turned in a particularly bad paper, you had to have some thing positive to say.
11:40 pm
this paper is very neatly typed. lincoln was doing that. to ber thing that needs pointed out about the 1815 campaign, lincoln began in july of 1915 eight giving a speech in chicago hard on the heels of a speech douglas gave the day before. conclusion, lincoln said let's stop all this quibbling about this race being superior and let's it -- and let's unite behind the declaration of independence. [applause] forget that he
11:41 pm
consistently advocated that blacks would not have the same political and civil rights as whites. i don't think there is anything getting around that. >> he never repeat that because reckless hammers him again and again. how can you vote for somebody to be u.s. editor when he doesn't believe there is such a thing as a superior and inferior race. douglas emphasizes that statement over and over again. another thing he emphasizes is are includedople in the declaration of independence's statement that all people are created equal. he said, absolutely not. white andans all european men, and lincoln emphatically denied that. >> i'm curious what people think of the statement in the speech from april 11, 1865.
11:42 pm
the speech that gets him killed. it seems to me he is still advocating unjust racial discrimination there. no idea that uneducated whites or whites who had served in the war should be denied the right to vote. >> that is an important point. and -- >> [inaudible] >> as was pointed out this douglas when frederick gave his speech in 1865, where
11:43 pm
he said he heard lincoln call he limited black support, was so disappointed because it was so limited. that is an important speech because as it was pointed out this morning, douglas said lincoln learned his statesmanship in the school of rail splitting. you take a mall, a big hammer, and drive home the thick and of the wedge. we should have known what lincoln was doing was inserting a thin and -- inserting the thin end of the wedge. >> i think there is a bit of speculation. he would havet done had he lived longer? i don't think that is quite as clear. i think to some extent we have
11:44 pm
we say about this we have to hedge with some degree of uncertainty. it is quite possible or likely he would have done so. >> i am puzzled still and concerned that even now people seem to take a light -- take to light that-- take to lincoln was a racist. why does that attitude persists? >> i think there is some evidence for that statement in things i've said here. i think in some sense he was a racist. >> [inaudible] it seems to me we have to parse the word racism carefully.
11:45 pm
in some important senses, hugh clearly was never a racist -- he clearly was never a racist. somethingracist mean morally bad he was never a racist. evidence, clearly he is endorsing unjust racial discrimination for most of his political career. i think the mistake a lot people make, or the popular consciousness, that he is clearly endorsing unjust institution. we have to understand his times. towasn't in a position change them and it would have been political suicide to say otherwise. so the judgments about his character that people conclude from that are very erroneous. say he is an exemplary person, a morally
11:46 pm
exemplary person. >> back to this lady's question .nd a point i will make you had a situation in 1865 where relatively few african-american men voted in the north, and you had a situation that continues to serve as occupying soldiers in the south, protecting voting rights for newly freed slaves. that was one aspect. secondly, what has not been discussed today is the of unions activism veterans, black and white, decades after the war. in the most important discussion of whether or not lincoln was a racist is to take a look at what the men who clearly affected lincoln's votes during the civil war or his own
11:47 pm
soldiers and what happened after the war or for decades afterwards, where the only institutions that refused to accept the color line was the largest union soldiers organization and the importance of that. i think there are several points to be made of the hypocrisy of the north, the ongoing lack of opportunity, and the things that have to be remediated. >> is that the grand army of the this is critical because it is the only national organization. >> another thought or two here. lincoln's primary concern was with slavery, opposing slavery, opposing the threat of slavery.
11:48 pm
we think in terms of civil rights, questions of equal social or political rights. these weren't questions that lincoln spent a lot of time thinking about. moving in a direction toward that. but he didn't live long enough to finish his work, and we really don't know what he would have done. >> legal work for the grand army was done in the great uncle's law office. equality andcated votes for the blacks. think it is misleading to use the term racist in respect to lincoln.
11:49 pm
>> the disparaging comments about people of mixed race being horrified at the thought of interracial marriage, use of racial slur terms, i think that is evidence of disrespect. it is even possible that the he wasect was -- feigning disdain for interracial marriage. i don't know which we are more troubled by. he sincerely was disgusted at the thought of interracial marriage or he would say he would be disgusted by ticket votes. i do think there is evidence here and i don't see how you could say that someone who consistently opposes discriminatory laws against a certain group of people, how you can see that person is
11:50 pm
adequately concerned for their welfare. i think that is a charge that does stick. not sure he was racist in any sense of the term at the end of his life. should be clear about specifying the time there. [applause] >> i am a history buff. >> i am a history buff. i enjoy seeing how things were made. >> american artifacts is a fantastic show. >> and with american history tv, it gives you that perspective.

45 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on