Did President Lincoln support the colonizing of Africa?

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readerofbooks's profile pic

readerofbooks | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

This is a great question and somewhat difficult to answer. Scholars are divided over Lincoln's views on slavery. With that stated, it does seem that Lincoln favored the idea of colonizing Africa. From the 1840s, Lincoln favored the idea of colonizing Africa to resettle slaves there. He was an advocate of the America Colonization Society (founded in 1816), which sought to colonize blacks in Liberia, which is is in Western Africa. This was not the first time he advocated colonization, as he favored the idea of colonization in his first Emancipation.

With this stated, Lincoln was a pragmatic person; in other words, he knew that this would be a difficult task. In the First Joint Debate of Ottawa, he spoke these words:

"My first impulse would be to free all the slaves, and send them to Liberia,—to their own native land. But a moment’s reflection would convince me that whatever of high hope (as I think there is) there may be in this, in the long run, its sudden execution is impossible."

In the end, we must conclude that Lincoln was a complex person. Generally speaking he favored the colonization of Africa for the purpose of helping freed slaves.

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mattfoster's profile pic

mattfoster | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) eNoter

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Lincoln did support the colonization of Africa, and the idea of sending blacks back to their "mother land".  While Lincoln's thoughts on slavery were clear, he did not believe that blacks were the equals of white men.  Most importantly, he did not believe that blacks could successfully be integrated into American society.  This was more-so an admission of the racist mentality in America than a statement on the capablities of Africans.

However, Lincoln's opinion changed as the war prolonged.  Always a deep thinker, Lincoln was not afraid to admit when he was wrong and adapt his previous ideas.  This is what made Lincoln such a great leader; as the needs of the country changed, so did he.  Once he realized that most Africans did not want to be relocated, that most favored staying in America, the land which they slaved away to cultivate, Lincoln reshaped his opinion and made the decision to fully eradicate slavery in America.