Cover image for Forced into glory : Abraham Lincoln's white dream
Title:
Forced into glory : Abraham Lincoln's white dream
Author:
Bennett, Lerone, Jr., 1928-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Chicago : Johnson Pub. Co., 2000.

©1999
Physical Description:
652 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780874850857
Format :
Book

Available:*

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Central Library E457.2 .B44 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
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Summary

Summary

Beginning with the argument that the Emancipation Proclamation did not actually free African American slaves, this dissenting view of Lincoln's greatness surveys the president's policies, speeches, and private utterances and concludes that he had little real interest in abolition. Pointing to Lincoln's support for the fugitive slave laws, his friendship with slave-owning senator Henry Clay, and conversations in which he entertained the idea of deporting slaves in order to create an all-white nation, the book, concludes that the president was a racist at heart--and that the tragedies of Reconstruction and the Jim Crow era were the legacy of his shallow moral vision.


Author Notes

Lerone Bennett Jr . is the executive editor emeritus of Ebony magazine and the author of 10 books, including Before the Mayflower , Great Moments in Black History , Pioneers in Protest , The Shaping of Black America , and What Manner of Man , a biography of Martin Luther King. He lives in Chicago.


Excerpts

Excerpts

Among other remarks he said "he knew his Proclamation would not make a single Negro free beyond our military reach." --Memoir of John A. Dahlgren He then went into a prolonged course of remarks about the Proclamation. He said it was not his intention in the beginning to interfere with Slavery in the States; that he never would have done it, if he had not been compelled by necessity to do it, to maintain the Union ... that he had hesitated for some time, and had resorted to this measure, only when driven to it by public necessity ... that he had always himself been in favor of emancipation, but not immediate emancipation, even by the States. Many evils attending this appeared to him. --Confederate Vice President Alexander H. Stephens Chapter One The Most Famous Act In U.S. History Never Happened The presidential campaign of 1860 was over, and the victor was stretching his legs and shaking off the cares of the world in his temporary office in the state capitol in Springfield, Illinois. Surrounded by the perks of power, at peace with the world, the president-elect was regaling old acquaintances with tall tales about his early days as a politician. One of the visitors interrupted this monologue and remarked that it was a shame that "the vexatious slavery matter" would be the first question of public policy the new president would have to deal with in Washington.     The president-elect's eyes twinkled and he said he was reminded of a story. According to eyewitness Henry Villard, President-elect Abraham Lincoln "told the story of the Kentucky Justice of the Peace whose first case was a criminal prosecution for the abuse of slaves. Unable to find any precedent, he exclaimed angrily: `I will be damned if I don't feel almost sorry for being elected when the niggers is the first thing I have to attend to'" (29).     This story, shocking as it may sound to Lincoln admirers, was in character. For the president-elect had never shown any undue sympathy for Blacks, and none of his cronies was surprised to hear him suggest that he shared the viewpoint of the reluctant and biased justice of the peace. As for the N-word, everybody knew that old Abe used it all the time, both in public and in private. (Since Lincoln supporters are in a state of constant denial, I have not used elision in reporting his use of the offensive word n--r .)     In one of the supreme ironies of history, the man who told this story was forced by circumstances to attend to what he called "the nigger question." And within five years he was enshrined in American mythology as "the great emancipator" who freed Blacks with a stroke of the pen out of the goodness of his heart.     Since that time, the mythology of "the great emancipator" has become a part of the mental landscape of America. Generations of schoolchildren have memorized its cadences. Poets, politicians, and long-suffering Blacks have wept over its imagery and drama.     No other American story is so enduring.     No other American story is so comforting.     No other American story is so false.     Abraham Lincoln was not "the great emancipator."     The testimony of sixteen thousand books and monographs to the contrary notwithstanding, Lincoln did not emancipate the slaves, greatly or otherwise. As for the Emancipation Proclamation, it was not a real emancipation proclamation at all, and did not liberate African-American slaves. John F. Hume, the Missouri antislavery leader who heard Lincoln speak in Alton and who looked him in the eye in the White House, said the Proclamation "did not ... whatever it may have otherwise accomplished at the time it was issued, liberate a single slave" (138).     Sources favorable to Lincoln were even more emphatic. Lincoln crony Henry Clay Whitney said the Proclamation was a mirage and that Lincoln knew it was a mirage (133). Secretary of State William Henry Seward, the No. 2 man in the administration, said the Proclamation was an illusion in which "we show our sympathy with the slaves by emancipating the slaves where we cannot reach them and holding them in bondage where we can set them free" (Piatt, 150).     The same points have been made with abundant documentation by twentieth-century scholars like Richard Hofstadter, who said the Proclamation "did not in fact free any slaves" (169). Some of the biggest names in the Lincoln establishment have said the same thing. Roy P. Basler, the editor of the monumental Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln , said the Proclamation was "itself only a promise of freedom ..." (1935, 219-20). J. G. Randall, who has been called "the greatest Lincoln scholar of all time," said the Proclamation itself did not free a single slave (1957, 357). Horace White, the Chicago Tribune correspondent who covered Lincoln in Illinois and in Washington, said it is doubtful that the Proclamation "freed anybody anywhere" (222).     There, then, the secret is out! The most famous act in American political history never happened.     Sandburg wrote tens of thousands of words about it.     Lindsay wrote a poem about it.     Copland wrote a musical portrait about it.     King had a dream about it.     But the awkward fact is that Abraham Lincoln didn't do it. To paraphrase what Robert McColley said about the abortive emancipating initiative of Thomas Jefferson (125), never did man achieve more fame for what he did not do and for what he never intended to do . The best authority, Lincoln himself, told one of his top aides that he knew that the Proclamation in and of itself would not "make a single Negro free beyond our military reach" (Dahlgren 382), thereby proving two critical and conclusive points. The first is that Lincoln himself knew that his most famous act would not of itself free a single Negro. The second and most damaging point is that "the great emancipator" did not intend for it to free a single Negro, for he carefully, deliberately, studiously excluded all Negroes within "our military reach."     In what some critics call a hoax and others call a deliberate ploy not to free African-Americans but to keep them in slavery, Lincoln deliberately drafted the document so it wouldn't free a single Negro immediately.     What Lincoln did--and it was so clever that we ought to stop calling him honest Abe--was to "free" slaves in Confederate-held territory where he couldn't free them and to leave them in slavery in Union-held territory where he could have freed them.     Despite what everybody, or almost everybody says, January 1, 1863, was not African-American Emancipation Day. Nor, as Randall and other have said, was it a Day of Jubilee for the slaves, except in certain military venues and Northern cities far removed from the hurt and humiliation of Slave Row. To tell the truth, there has never been a day in the United States of America when all the slaves could join hands and say together, "Free at last!" One of the many reasons why a national apology for slavery is an imperative necessity is that there has never been a day of closure for the slaves or the slaveholders--or the sons and daughters of the slaves and slaveholders. The real day of deliverance, December 18, 1865, the day and date nobody remembers, the day the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified, was so formal and was hedged about with so many levels of technicality, that it came and went like the oxygen of the air, giving life without giving notice.     It is in the precise sense scandalous that Americans, Black and White, are so totally misinformed on this subject. Professors, museum curators, media prophets say almost without exception that slavery in America was ended by a presidential edict. And "other writers of what is claimed to be history, almost without number, speak of the President's announcement as if it caused the bulwarks of slavery to fall down very much as the walls of Jericho are said to have done, at one blast, overwhelming the whole institution and setting every bond man free" (136). Nothing has changed in America since John Hume wrote those words in 1905. Despite computers, despite the Internet, despite the proliferation of books and pamphlets, almost all Blacks and Whites, including a not inconsiderable number of Ph.D.'s, believe that slavery in America ceased on the day and hour that Abraham Lincoln signed a document that dissolves, like a mirage, the closer one comes to it.     The confusion on this issue is monumental as we are reminded every year when schoolchildren and scholars in Memphis, New Orleans, Louisville, St. Louis, Norfolk, Baltimore and other cities celebrate a January 1 emancipation that specifically excluded Memphis, New Orleans, and Norfolk and didn't even apply to the Border States of Kentucky, Missouri, Maryland, and Delaware. To add to the confusion, millions have created annual celebrations based on the idea that their ancestors were "freed" on January 1, 1863, but were not informed until months later by mean generals and officials.     If pressed, all or almost all scholars will concede that the Proclamation didn't free the slaves on January 1, 1863, but this information is disseminated, if it is disseminated at all, in footnotes or asides, and there is a tendency, even among the best scholars, to defend or even praise the Proclamation that didn't free anybody.     Will someone say that this was an accident or an oversight? But how can anyone fail to see that it required art, forethought, and design to draft a document that freed everybody when in fact it freed nobody? And how explain the fact that the same accident happened twice? For when Lincoln warned rebels in September that he would sign an emancipation in one hundred days if they didn't lay down their arms, he carefully and precisely said that he would free all slaves "within any state, or designated part of a state" in rebellion (CW 5:434, italics added).     This language we shall return to this--was not in the tentative document he read to his cabinet on July 22, 1862. That document said unambiguously that he intended to free " all persons held as slaves within any state or states" in rebellion (CW 5:337, italics added). This means that he decided some time between July 22 and September 22 to play a little game. It means that he knew in September what he intended to do in January. It means that he was planning in September to keep in slavery the slaves he promised to free in January.     A growing body of evidence suggests that the Emancipation Proclamation was a ploy designed not to emancipate the slaves but to keep as many slaves as possible in slavery until Lincoln could mobilize support for his conservative plan to free Blacks gradually and to ship them out of the country. What Lincoln was trying to do, then, from our standpoint, was to outmaneuver the real emancipators and to contain the emancipation tide, which had reached such a dangerous intensity that it threatened his ability to govern and to run the war machinery.     This is no mere theory; there is indisputable evidence on this point in documents and in the testimony of reliable witnesses, including Lincoln himself. The most telling testimony comes not from twentieth-century critics but from cronies and confidants who visited the White House and heard the words from Lincoln's mouth. There is, for example, the testimony of Judge David Davis, the three hundred-plus-pound Lincoln crony who visited the White House in 1862, some two months after Lincoln signed the Preliminary Proclamation, and found him working feverishly to subvert his announced plan in favor of his real plan. What was Lincoln's real plan? It was the only emancipation plan he ever had: gradual emancipation, the slower the better, with compensation to slaveowners and the deportation of the emancipated. His "whole soul," Davis said, "is absorbed in his plan [my italics] of remunerative emancipation, and he thinks that if Congress don't fail him, that the problem is solved...."     Wait a minute! What's going on here? What plan of remunerative emancipation? Two months ago, Abraham Lincoln announced to the whole world that he was going to free the slaves of rebels with a stroke of the pen on January 1. He didn't say anything then about Congress not letting him down.     What are we to understand by all this? We are to understand, among other things, that words, especially Lincoln's words, are deceiving and that Lincoln announced his first plan as a mask to cover his real plan and his real end. That at any rate is the testimony of another intimate Lincoln friend, Henry Clay Whitney. What was his real end? The Proclamation, Whitney said, was "not the end designed by him, but only the means to the end, the end being the deportation of the slaves and the payment for them to their masters--at least to those who were loyal" (323, italics in original).     There is corroboration on this point from, of all people, Abraham Lincoln, who asked Congress in his second State of the Union Message to approve not the Emancipation Proclamation but an entirely different plan, the real plan he had confided to Judge Davis, a plan that contradicted the Proclamation and called for, among other things, the deportation --his word--of Blacks and the racial cleansing of the United States of America (CW 5:518-37). (Continues...) Copyright © 1999 LERONE BENNETT JR.. All rights reserved.

Table of Contents

Prefacep. viii
Works Frequently Citedp. xiii
Part 1 Mirage
1. The Most Famous Act In U.S. History Never Happenedp. 5
2. The Emancipation Proclamation That Wasn'tp. 22
3. Pharaoh And Mosesp. 45
Part 2 Mirror
4. A Fantasy For All Seasonsp. 63
5. Prologue In Blackface And Whitefacep. 87
Part 3 Myth
6. Fooling All The People All The Timep. 113
Part 4 The White Dream
7. The Last Best [White] Hopep. 147
8. In The Red, White And Black Beginningp. 160
Part 5 The Jim Crow Lincoln
9. Backing The Black Lawsp. 183
10. Toward The Ethnic Cleansing of Americap. 215
Part 6 "White Man's Charter"
11. How To Emancipate Without Emancipatingp. 233
12. A Politician Divided Against Himselfp. 246
13. Ignoring America's Greatest Moral Crisisp. 271
14. Supporting the Great American Slave Huntp. 286
15. Prelude to Halfnessp. 298
Part 7 "White Man's War"
16. "The Negro Has Nothing To Do With It"p. 337
17. The Bull Run Bluesp. 371
18. "Linconia": Lincoln's Fantasy Plan For Banishing Blacksp. 381
Part 8 The Emancipators Nobody Knows
19. The Emancipating Congressp. 391
20. The "Conversion" of Abraham Lincolnp. 430
21. Lincoln Asks Blacks To Leave Americap. 452
Part 9 "Let this Cup Pass from me"
22. Lincoln Tries To Escape Historyp. 469
23. Lincoln Asks Congress To Deport Blacksp. 509
24. No Hidin' Placep. 523
Part 10 "Whipped into ... Glory"
25. Emancipating The Emancipatorp. 531
26. Goin' To Gettysburg, Sorry I Can't Take Youp. 556
Part 11 With Malice Toward Some
27. Reconstruction Of The White People, By The White People, For The White Peoplep. 587
28. The Last Lincolnp. 610

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