Abraham Lincoln wanted to deport slaves to British colonies, reveals book

February 12th, 2011 - 2:07 pm ICT by ANI  

London, Feb 12 (ANI): Late President of the United States Abraham Lincoln, who is revered as the great champion of America’s slaves, had wanted to deport slaves to toil in British colonies in the Caribbean, reveals a new book.

The book, entitled ‘Colonisation After Emancipation: Lincoln and the Movement for Black Resettlement’, written by academics Phillip Magness and Sebastian Page, is based on documents uncovered in British archives.

The documents showed that Lincoln, who is widely known for winning the American Civil War for the Union and bringing an end to slavery, was rather less enamoured by the prospect of a racially united America than is often assumed.

Although earlier historians have conceded that he did propose sending some of the freed slaves to new colonies, they have dismissed it as a ruse designed to placate racist voters.

But according to evidence from the British legation in Washington that has turned up at the National Archives in Kew, the president was deadly serious about black colonisation right up until his assassination in 1865.

Magness and Page say that just after Lincoln announced the freedom of three quarters of America’s four million slaves with his historic 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, he authorised plans to set up freedmen’s settlements in what is now Belize and Guyana.

Lincoln was secretly authorising British officials to recruit what could have been hundreds of thousands of blacks for a new life on the sugar and cotton plantations of Central America.

Papers show Lincoln personally met agents for the then-colonies of British Honduras and British Guiana and authorised them to go into the camps of the recently freed slaves and find recruits.

One of the agents, John Hodge, assured the British ambassador that “it was Lincoln’s honest desire that this should go ahead”.

Lincoln also considered a plan to get thousands of black soldiers out of the way after the civil war ended by sending them down to Panama to build a canal.

But Page, a Fellow of The Queen’s College, Oxford, insisted that it was wrong to conclude Lincoln was a racist, and that he had always made it clear the emigration would be voluntary.

He said that blacks had been lynched during recent race riots in New York and the president was motivated by a fear that the freeing of black slaves would cause serious racial strife.

“I don’t think it was ever about any personal dislike for blacks,” the Daily Mail quoted Page as saying.

“That said, that’s not to let him off the hook because if you’re backing black colonisation you’re kind of putting your blessing on racism. But he saw strife coming,” he added.

In the end, records show that Lincoln’s plans were foiled, largely because of the reluctance of the British government who feared the pro-slavery South might win the Civil War and sue Britain for its lost slaves.

Magness admitted that historians “tended to downplay” Lincoln’s commitment to colonisation, as it did not “mesh” with his image as the Great Emancipator of the slaves. (ANI)

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