Documentary re-assessing the reputation of Abraham Lincoln, often considered America's greatest president but one who also had a dark side to his life and politics.
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Abraham Lincoln is the most celebrated figure in American history.
His assassination almost 150 years ago transformed him from a mere politician
into America's national saint.
It's the original martyrdom. It's Lincoln dying for the nation's sins.
He dies in the moment of his triumph
on Good Friday in a Christian country.
I mean, God, who wrote that script?
To most Americans, he's the president who saved the Union,
an everyman from the Kentucky backwoods who rose from poverty to become president,
living out the American dream.
He's all that Americans think the nation should be,
and so consequently we've become infatuated with him.
To African Americans, Lincoln will always be the Great Emancipator,
the man who freed the slaves,
thereby placing equality alongside liberty as one of those truths
that Americans hold as self-evident.
And for almost all Americans, particularly those in the North,
he's the leader who guided the nation through the trauma of the Civil War,
perhaps the central event in the country's history.
But today, as America marks the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's presidency,
an historic battle is being waged for the reputation of America's 16th president.
Everything everybody's told me about Abraham Lincoln is a lie.
Everything I learned in school, everything I learned in church,
everything I learned from newspapers,
everything I learned from the radio, everything I've learned about Abraham Lincoln is a lie.
This struggle has unearthed another Abraham Lincoln.
This Lincoln is a politician rather than a statesman...
So much of the literature on Lincoln is just complete hero worship.
..a calculating pragmatist rather than a visionary...
He is not the Great Emancipator
if you look just a teeny bit under...
under the surface.
..and a war criminal rather than a war leader.
Here is the man who waged war on, in his view, his own people.
He is responsible for 650,000 deaths. Please.
Lincoln's critics claim that he plunged the nation into an unnecessary war
and that generations of historians have conspired to hide the fact that the Great Emancipator
was in reality a racist who planned to deport the slaves out of America.
For good reason, the people of the South have mourned...
This reassessment of America's greatest hero
is conjuring up the ghosts of America's troubled history...
This war over culture and remembrance is even bigger
than Confederate heritage. It's about America.
..while at the same time, it's feeding into the divisions
that are drawing modern Americans further apart.
And we're not going to take it any more!
This is the story of America's struggle
to discover the real Abraham Lincoln.
Abraham Lincoln's last moments were spent here in the Petersen House,
a cheap boarding house opposite the Washington theatre
where he'd been struck down by an assassin's bullet.
There were people with Lincoln who say, "We cannot allow him to die in a theatre."
He's placed diagonally on a small bed - he's so tall he can't fit lengthwise on the bed.
And there he spends the next nine hours, his breathing ever more laboured.
He was oozing brain matter on his pillow
and whenever his wife was brought in,
they would put a handkerchief over that part of the pillow
so she wouldn't be too upset.
Out of that house, he emerges as his body is carried
in the spring rain the next morning
to the hearse that takes him back to the White House.
He leaves, not the person he was when he was carried inside,
he is now a national treasure, a national saint,
a secular saint and a religious saint in many ways.
And that's why images almost overnight begin appearing,
showing not only the assassination,
not only his dying moments in the grandest possible exaggerated way,
but literally images showing him rising into heaven,
where he's often greeted by his great hero, George Washington.
Here is the father and the saviour - it's almost like God and the Son.
# Glory, glory, hallelujah
# His God is
# Marching on. #
From the moment of his death,
the real Abraham Lincoln has been obscured
behind the almost religious cult that still surrounds him.
The tragic nature of that death
and its timing, at the very end of America's Civil War, created a myth
that has placed Lincoln outside of history and almost beyond rational debate.
You have to remember he dies right at this perfect moment.
He's assassinated a few days after the surrender of Lee's army,
after this horrifying bloodletting
from which now the Republic that is nearly destroyed can now survive.
I mean, you couldn't write a better script in some ways for the epic inside of us.
Today, that epic story of Lincoln's life and death
stands at the heart of American culture.
His image is everywhere.
It's on the five dollar bill,
it's on the coins that you carry in your pocket, there's billboards.
My 18-month-old daughter has a little stuffed Abraham Lincoln
and she could say "Dadda" and "Momma"
and not too much later she could say "Abe Lincoln".
The homes Lincoln lived in have all been lovingly restored.
There are literally hundreds of statues of him peppered across the nation
and his hometown of Springfield, Illinois
has become the centre of a national Lincoln tourist industry.
Lincoln is a church, he's a religion.
Lincoln is a million-dollar industry,
a 100 million industry,
and you get thousands of people all over this country who make their living
pushing the Lincoln message.
May I present to you the president of the United States, Mr Abraham Lincoln.
Good afternoon, everyone. Oh, please, be seated.
'There is a Lincoln industry in this country, no question about it,'
and there are large numbers of people who make their living
She said, "Well, thank you, honest Abe, for your response."
'I think second only to Elvis impersonators, probably.
'There aren't too many American presidents you could make a living dressing up as
'but they go to events, they go to schools, they open shopping malls.
'Lincoln is the only American president
'memorialised at Disneyland,
'so Lincoln is certainly part of our popular culture
'in a way that very few other presidents are.'
The aspect of the Lincoln myth which has always appealed most
to generations of American biographers and filmmakers
is the story of how the young Lincoln overcame the hardships of his upbringing.
Lincoln grew up on the frontier. He was born in Kentucky
at a time when that was really a frontier state.
This was real backwoods territory - there were wild animals in the woods,
there were very few neighbours except some members of his family.
The transportation was extremely primitive and they basically were self-sufficient.
He is, in a way, from nowhere.
There were ten million other sons of dirt farmers who remained dirt farmers.
This guy didn't.
This is this consummate American story.
He wanted books, he wanted something bigger, he wanted off of that farm.
Now, that's the story of so many millions of Americans
from the 19th into the 20th century,
as we became industrialised, urbanised, and cosmopolitanised.
This is deep, deep in our culture that we are a place where a person
from a dirt farm with virtually no formal education
can rise and attain the highest office in the land.
At the age of 19, Lincoln left his father's farm
and made his way to what was then the frontier state of Illinois.
A young man without money or connections, the route Lincoln took
out of poverty was to run for office as a member of the State Legislature.
Politics was a mode of social advancement.
Politics in the 1830s and '40s was a way for people of modest backgrounds like Lincoln
to rise in the social scale.
It was a way to make connections. It was a way to influence the world around you, of course,
but at a time when there weren't that many professions open to people,
politics was one that anybody could get ahead in if they had drive,
if they had the right personality, the right ability to communicate their ideas.
Politics transformed Lincoln's life.
By the early 1850s, the young, poorly-educated frontiersmen was long gone.
Lincoln had become a wealthy man.
He'd held office four times, been a congressman in Washington DC,
and between terms of office, he trained as a lawyer.
And as Lincoln's horizons had spread...
..so had those of his nation, as America's great drive westwards had begun.
Most people had a sense of the American West that was essentially infinite -
they didn't know where it ended. They knew there were deserts and great plains,
they knew there were mountains,
but it was the sheer vastness of that West
that gave everybody a sense of limitlessness and future and hope.
The annexation of Texas and war with Mexico in the 1840s
had opened up the West,
raising the possibility of the nation advancing all the way to the Pacific coast.
There's this continental mentality, sometimes called manifest destiny,
this idea that American expansion is just ordained by God, you know,
that we will dominate this entire continent and that is the divine will,
and that creates this kind of ebullient spirit of expansionism.
But westward expansion brought to the fore
the issue that had divided the country ever since Independence - slavery.
By the middle of the 19th century, a fault line ran across America,
dividing the slave-owning South from the free states in the North
where the practice had ended.
But year by year, the increasing value of Southern cotton
and the thought of the even larger fortunes it could generate if slavery were to spread West
slowly undermined the sense of union that bound the states together.
Not only is slavery growing
in the American South in the 1820s, '30s, and '40s in leaps and bounds -
I mean, the American slave population doubled in 25 years
between 1820 and the mid-1840s.
By the 1850s, slavery became,
slaves became the single greatest economic asset
in the entire American economy.
It was the engine of wealth for the American South, and frankly for a good deal of the American North,
especially the banking system in New York and other cities.
At that point, you had a nation growing in leaps and bounds,
had a sense of its infinite boundlessness,
but also a sense of great anxiety and great dread
of what on earth are they going to do about this problem.
The figure who was to do most to tip America into crisis
was the man who was also to become Abraham Lincoln's political nemesis.
Stephen A Douglas,
a Democrat from Lincoln's home state of Illinois, introduced in 1854
a clause that would allow slavery to spread
into the new Western states of Kansas and Nebraska.
To oppose this, a new political party was formed in the North,
and Abraham Lincoln abandoned his legal career to join them.
The Republican Party started
under the premise that slavery should not be expanded.
They weren't abolitionists per se, some of them were,
but many of them were not abolitionists,
they were anti-slavery men.
And what that meant was that they expected slavery to die a natural death
but in order to do that, in order for that to happen, slavery had to be contained.
And so the idea was you don't let it expand into the Western Territories.
This new coalition is a coalition of Northerners
who are absolute believers
in this idea of a free-labour American dream,
of their right to go West and get themselves 20 acres of land somewhere,
or 40 acres, or whatever they could get and not have to compete with the slave labour system.
Lincoln's political life, Lincoln's political career in the 1850s
was built on this question of stopping
the expansion of slavery into the West,
or what the Republicans called the free soil persuasion.
The Republican Party, in which Abraham Lincoln fast became a leading light,
regarded the expansion of slavery as a direct threat to their free soil ideology.
But although the enemy of slavery, they were no friend of the slave.
You could be anti-slavery AND anti-black.
You could be anti-slavery and not want black people around.
And much of the anti-slavery fervour
was, "We don't want them around."
Partly, it was,
"We don't want them around because they're alien people, they're different,
"they're inferior," et cetera, et cetera,
but there was also, "We don't want them around
"because they're not paid and they're very bad for wages."
Difficult as it is to believe,
many, many Northerners separated out
the question of slavery from the question of race.
In other words, there are many reasons to oppose slavery which have nothing to do with race.
If slavery moves out into the Western Territories, whites are not going to want to go there.
The slave owners will absorb all the good land. They don't want to compete with slave labour.
They don't want blacks around. There are all these reasons why whites in the North will say,
"I don't care about slavery in Mississippi, but I don't want it expanding into Kansas
"where I or my son may move out there to get a farm, to get a job."
Lincoln's own impoverished upbringing had demonstrated to him what happened
when free white labour was set in competition against slavery.
Lincoln's father moves from Kentucky,
crosses the Ohio River into Indiana,
in part because Kentucky is a slave state and Indiana is a free state,
and slavery limits the potential of the white labour to enjoy the fruits of his labour.
How could a small labourer compete in an agricultural market
with a slaveholder who has a gang of slaves doing labour for no wage whatsoever?
Lincoln understood the damage that slavery did from that perspective,
and says so, talks about the fact that the Territories should exist
for these free white men who need a chance to rise as well.
From 1854 onwards, Abraham Lincoln campaigned against
the expansion of slavery into the Western Territories,
but the man who a decade later was to sweep away the whole slave system
did not call for the abolition of slavery where it already existed in the South.
So why was it that, when so many white Americans were mobilising to abolish slavery,
the Great Emancipator appeared to stand on the sidelines?
The generation from 1830 to 1860
was perhaps one of the greatest generations of white people we've had in this country.
They were very much like
the Civil Rights generation of the 1960s and 1970s.
they organised against slavery, they organised in the churches.
They staged sit-ins, they refused to capture fugitive slaves,
and they prepared the ground which made it possible...
..for emancipation to triumph.
Lincoln did absolutely nothing.
Although never an abolitionist, Lincoln, a man who had been exposed
to slavery since childhood, was opposed to the Southern slave system.
Yet the Great Emancipator of the 1860s spent the 1850s
convinced that the political system made abolition impossible.
On the one hand, he always says, "This is a moral question ultimately."
He's like an abolitionist in that he says,
"I am morally opposed to slavery, that's the bottom line here."
On the other hand, as a lawyer, as a politician, he says,
"There's not much we can do about slavery, it's in the Constitution.
"It's up to the Southern states to deal with it."
He understands there is not much you can do about slavery within the political system.
In America's federal system,
it was the individual states and not the national government in Washington
that had the power to determine the future of slavery.
But in the party politics of the 1850s,
opposing slavery, if only in principle,
was potentially enough to destroy Lincoln's political career.
In 1858, Lincoln stood for Congress against his old opponent Stephen Douglas.
The campaign centred on a series of now-famous debates.
In the city of Charleston, Douglas suggested that Lincoln's opposition
to slavery meant that he was also in favour of racial equality.
Lincoln responded with words that saved his career, but that haunt his reputation.
He said, and I'm quoting him,
that he did not believe that black people
should have the right to vote.
He did not believe that blacks
should have the right to sit on juries.
He didn't believe that black people should have the right to hold public office.
He believed that there's a physical difference
between the white race and the black race
that will forever make it impossible for them to live together
on a plain of equality.
Lincoln is saying things about race and the inferiority of blacks
that we don't want him to say.
Now, of course, it's just crucial
to contextualise those statements.
I mean, he's being goaded into them by Stephen Douglas,
who's a shrewd, savvy political veteran
who knows that his strongest attack
is to link Lincoln's anti-slavery to some notion of racial equality.
He's saying that Lincoln is in favour of racial equality, and Lincoln obliges.
He does that. He does it, I think, for political reasons
and it doesn't look good to us today,
but that's the nature of mid-19th century politics.
He always made a distinction between the morality of slavery,
which he believed was fundamentally wrong, and the question of racial equality.
Today that's hard sometimes for us to understand, especially young people,
who are growing up in a society where the assumption of equality is absolute.
Of course we're equal, everybody's equal, or we say we are.
But Lincoln made the distinction between the immorality of slavery,
unequivocal about that...
On the other hand, he was no proponent of racial equality.
And we see that over and over quite publicly
and quite forcefully that he does not believe in social equality.
Despite reassuring the electorate,
Lincoln was unable to defeat Douglas. But the debates made him famous
and it was this fame that enabled him to seize
the Republican candidacy for president in 1860.
Lincoln won just 39% of the vote,
almost all of his support coming from the North.
But within weeks of his arrival in Washington,
the Southern states began, one by one, to secede from the Union.
They then formed a new nation -
the Confederate States of America,
led by the Mississippi senator Jefferson Davis.
The accusation that has been raised against Abraham Lincoln is that on coming to office,
he pushed the American people into a disastrous and avoidable conflict.
There's a school of thought,
and it's still alive in a certain fringe of American scholarship,
that the real cause, or immediate cause, of the Civil War was Lincoln.
Now this argument is basically that Lincoln could have simply gently let
the South go, that he didn't need to force military action,
that he could have backed away and continued to compromise,
that Southerners were willing to compromise on this issue or that issue.
There is no evidence that the Confederate leadership, Jefferson Davis and his growing Cabinet,
were truly willing to compromise
on any part of the expansion of slavery issue or anything else.
Lincoln did not cause the Civil War.
What Lincoln did was create a situation where war was possible.
In other words, he was willing to risk war.
He put the onus on the Confederacy. They fired the first shot.
They weren't willing to compromise either.
While blame for the war might lie with both Lincoln and Jefferson Davis,
neither side in 1861 foresaw the calamity they were about to unleash.
No-one in the North or the South could have imagined the kind of war it would be.
The military leaders on both sides didn't quite understand
the significance of the technological changes.
Changes particularly in the technology of the rifle,
which made it a much more accurate long-distance weapon.
The war becomes a situation of long-range sharpshooting.
No-one would have imagined ironclad warfare
and the terrific combats of the navies.
The impact of the Industrial Revolution - we are talking about mass production of weaponry,
telegraph, railroads, bringing troops to the front.
Certainly no-one understood what kind of masses of armies would be required.
No-one would have comprehended black recruitment.
Nobody expected 620,000 deaths, thousands and thousands of injuries,
and utter destruction in many parts of the country.
So you might ask if Lincoln and Jefferson Davis had seen 1865,
would they have compromised in 1861?
The image of Lincoln that dominates the American consciousness today,
150 years after the Civil War, is Lincoln as the saviour of the Union.
Lincoln's role as commander-in-chief is less well remembered.
Yet hard as it is for some to accept,
Abraham Lincoln prosecuted the Civil War ferociously.
By 1862, 1863, Lincoln's authorising troops to live off the land,
to seize goods if needed for the maintenance of the army.
His tactics, especially the destruction of Southern cities,
are regarded by some as having been so aggressive that they constitute total war.
Lincoln did not invent total war.
He did invent maybe to some extent what they call the hard war.
This was the term they used in the Civil War, hard war,
in which the Union would no longer limit its activities
in order to appeal to the loyalty of Southern civilians.
Lincoln never thought that you should spare the hard hand of war to people
who had begun the war. He said, on several occasions, that,
"We will teach them the folly of starting a war," and he meant that.
For most Americans, the terrible cost of the Civil War
was the price the nation paid in order to save the Union.
But there is another America.
It's Veteran Memorial Day.
For good reason, the people of the South
have mourned on occasion,
for over 150 years, the loss of our countrymen, the death...
Amongst some in the Southern states of the former Confederacy,
the Civil War is remembered as a war of aggression and Abraham Lincoln as a war criminal.
The Bible promises...
'I'm Chuck McMichael.
'I am the great-great-grandson of John Henry Land,'
who, as a 15-year-old farm boy in Georgia,
joined Company H of the 54th Georgia Infantry.
'He fought in battles through Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina.'
Over the years, he probably thought by this time this would be forgotten.
It will not be forgotten.
'My name is Michael Givens.'
I'm a lieutenant commander-in-chief of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
We here today have proven that we take this sort of thing seriously.
We are not afraid or ashamed to stand up and be counted.
'This war was Mr Lincoln's war.
'When South Carolina seceded from the Union on December 20th 1860,
'he did not ever recognise that.'
OK? But yet he would send 75,000 troops there
to kill people that HE said were his own fellow citizens.
Starts to sound like Milosevic.
Starts to sound like Stalin.
'Here's the man who waged war on, in his view, his own people.'
He was responsible for 650,000 deaths. Please.
'One of my ancestors, he was shot through the leg at Gettysburg'
and walked back to Virginia with a bullet wound in his leg.
And now to be told, "Oh, he was fighting for slavery and he was evil
"and a traitor who just wanted to overthrow the great Abraham Lincoln."
No, he was up there so that his mother and father
wouldn't be killed in Georgia
and their property destroyed, and his little brother have to go to war
and his sisters be raped.
# To arms, to arms
# In Dixie
# And raise the flag of Dixie
# Hurrah, hurrah for Dixie... #
'As far as how I see Lincoln,
'he ordered a bunch of strangers from up North to come down here
'to my family's home, kill my ancestors,
'burn down their property, and steal their goods.'
# Away down south in Dixie. #
He believed a whole class of Southern people
needed to be eliminated. We're talking genocide.
FINAL CHORDS OF SONG
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
The ferocity with which the Lincoln administration conducted war
was not restricted to the South.
Lincoln had gone to war to prevent slavery expanding into the West,
and defend the free soil ideology of his Republican Party.
But the soil and the land of the West could only be made free for white settlers
if first cleared of its original owners,
the Native Americans.
By the late 1850s, the Santee Sioux
had been pushed into a reservation in the state of Minnesota.
They had sold their tribal lands to the US government for 1.5 million,
a bill that Lincoln's administration had not paid.
In the late summer of 1862, at the height of the Civil War,
the rains failed and the Sioux's crops wilted in the fields.
The Sioux were literally starving.
They rise up against the reservation system,
they kill a number of white settlers,
it's a very, very violent encounter.
The federal government responds by sending General John Pope
to Minnesota to end the uprising.
General Pope is a general who, in the Civil War in the East, has turned the war into hard war.
He's a very tough cookie,
he talks about going to Minnesota to exterminate
the Sioux men, women, and children,
and when he gets there he puts the rebellion down brutally and quickly.
By the end of the rebellion, thousands of the Sioux were imprisoned by the Union Army.
General Pope convened a series of military trials
that condemned 303 of the Sioux men to death.
He then turned to Lincoln for approval.
Now, Lincoln, who doesn't like Indians very much anyway,
is prepared to give the Minnesotans a blood sacrifice of Sioux,
but because of outside foreign influence,
he doesn't want to be seen to hang 303 Sioux all at once,
because they've only had trials lasting about 10 to 15 minutes.
And so he decides he'll hang 39.
Lincoln as executioner.
This is an image of America's secular saint
that most Americans find deeply uncomfortable,
and Lincoln's role in the story of the Sioux uprising
has often been brushed under the historical carpet or explained away.
Now, his defenders say, "What a nice man, he didn't hang 303,
"he only hangs 39," despite the fact that they haven't had any fair trials.
I'm not defending Lincoln, but what is he supposed to do?
Is he supposed to eliminate all of the executions,
is he supposed to allow the Sioux that are deemed guilty of the uprising,
is he supposed to set them free?
I mean, he could do that, we would like him to do that, that would be political suicide.
The story unfortunately doesn't end with the hanging of the 39 Indians,
back in Minnesota about 60-odd Indians are left to rot and die in prison.
Over and above that, Lincoln decides to deport all the Indians,
the Sioux and Winnebagans, who are completely innocent, from Minnesota
and as a result of that, all the Sioux lands are opened up for settlement and speculation.
Members of Lincoln's Cabinet and members of his regime, of course,
are very happy to make themselves rich by speculating in Indian lands.
Meanwhile, the Sioux and Winnebago are sent to
Dakota Territory, but only arrive when it's too late to plant corn.
So they can't feed themselves. Of course, they again
are hit by starvation and disease.
The whole thing is a human disaster,
and the 39 hanged are the least of it,
and Lincoln is responsible.
1862, the year General Pope had decimated the Santee Sioux
was also the year in which Abraham Lincoln's great struggle to drive
the Confederacy back into the Union had ran into the sand.
Well, the first year or so of the war does not go very well for the North.
They lose most of the battles, particularly in the eastern theatre in Virginia.
But if you look at the Civil War a year or so after it begins,
if you looked at a map of the United States,
you would be amazed how little territory
had been recaptured from the Confederacy,
a few little places on the outskirts,
but the Union Army had made no progress in most of the Confederacy.
Unable to defeat the South, Lincoln began to think
the unthinkable and consider the act for which he is now most famous,
the Emancipation of the Slaves.
But as Lincoln slowly came to believe that slavery might be abolished,
he also came to envisage
the deportation or "colonisation" of the slaves out of America.
The essence of colonisation is a belief that
black people can't possibly be Americans
and share in American society.
That is their "patrie", their country, must be someplace else,
probably Africa but white Americans often would take any place just to get them out of here.
Organisations promoting colonisation had first emerged in the early 19th century.
By the 1840s, free black volunteers
were being shipped to the African colony of Liberia.
By the 1860s, numerous plans had been drafted to deport the slaves
to Haiti, the other Caribbean islands, or Central America.
For Abraham Lincoln, colonisation became the means by which he could
square the circle of his opposition to slavery
and his belief in white supremacy.
Of all the presidents and statesmen, he is the one who's obsessed by it.
In all his speeches practically about emancipation,
he talks about emancipation and deportation
in the same sentence, in the same breath.
Now, why is this?
Lincoln fears that there was
a population of four million blacks in the South and about a quarter of a million blacks in the North.
If you emancipate these people after years of subjugation,
the result would be race war.
You can't give them civil and political rights because they don't deserve it in Lincoln's opinion,
they are mentally and physically inferior.
Lincoln could not conceive of the United States as a biracial society.
Slavery should be ended but black people should be encouraged -
he said it should be voluntary - but they should be encouraged to leave the country.
In August 1862, Lincoln called a delegation of free black leaders
to the White House for a now-infamous meeting to discuss colonisation.
Lincoln tells that delegation, and has a recorder write it down
and publicise it in the press, that were it not for them,
this war would not be happening, he says that to them.
He says to them explicitly that the white and black races must be kept separate in America
and he even asked those handpicked five black leaders,
who really weren't very important leaders,
if they would themselves volunteer to lead a colonisation movement out of the country.
When I have students read that for the first time, black or white,
they are a bit stunned because it's so explicit.
Of course, it's fraught with irony too because at that very moment of
August 1862, he's already drafted the Emancipation Proclamation.
He hasn't issued it yet. He's already got it in a drawer.
So it's Lincoln kind of playing both sides of the street
cos he doesn't know how this is going to come out.
Was Lincoln serious about colonisation, or merely using it to appeal to white public opinion?
Were his plans evidence of his political genius or his racism?
Here, again, Lincoln's own words and speeches are used to condemn him.
It's the very presence, he says, of blacks makes white people suffer
and that the two races have to go their separate ways.
He's totally explicit about this when he's talking to the blacks
and he has also said the same many times before to whites.
It's not a rhetorical ploy, it's not a sop politically
to his opponents to keep them calm, he actually means it.
The two ideas of emancipation and colonisation
are absolutely indissolubly linked in Lincoln's mind.
If you like, colonisation/deportation
is the final solution to the Negro problem
as far as Abraham Lincoln is concerned.
Lincoln wanted to deport all black people.
That wasn't something that he said with two or three of his friends
in a back room.
He proposed and asked for the deportation of black Americans
in the State of the Union message
in December 1862.
He wanted to create a white state here.
Now, if Abraham Lincoln had had his way,
there'd be no Obama in the United States,
there'd be no Oprah Winfrey, there'd be no Tiger Woods.
If he had had his way,
there'd be no black people here at all.
The possibility of abolition and along with it the prospect of colonising the freed slaves
was forced onto the agenda in 1862 by the actions of the slaves themselves.
As the war had spread through the South, they had begun to escape
the fields and plantations, changing both the course and the meaning of the conflict.
The war, of course, begins as a white man's war.
It's a war to defend the union.
Lincoln states it's so, slaves simply don't believe that to be true.
They see the enemy of their enemy
entering the South and they believe the enemy of their enemy must be their friend.
They run away to Union encampments.
They offer their service, they offer information, they offer to do the dirty work of war.
As these thousands of former slaves gathered around the invading Union Army in the South,
Lincoln was losing control of events.
He had gone to war to defend the Union and stop the expansion of slavery
but now the Republican Party in Washington,
radicalised by the experience of war, began to push him
to transform the conflict into a struggle to end slavery everywhere.
Lincoln is under enormous pressure in 1862 to take more dramatic action against slavery.
Congress takes the lead, they abolish slavery in Washington DC,
they abolish slavery in the Territories.
They forbid the Army from returning fugitive slaves.
They pass laws to confiscate the property of Confederates, which includes their slaves.
Then there's public opinion in the North, abolitionists, others saying,
"The war is not going well, we've got to take more dramatic action."
And of course the action of slaves puts the question of slavery
on the national agenda in a direct way.
On 1st January 1863, Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
It began the process that would end slavery in America
and crucially, it did not call for the colonisation of freed slaves.
The importance was that it said, "We are on the side of Emancipation."
It said, "The Union is an anti-slavery Union."
Before the Emancipation Proclamation, the war was about Union,
and Lincoln said, "If I can restore the Union without freeing a single slave, I'll do it."
But he couldn't do it and the Emancipation Proclamation
became the symbolic turning point of the war.
It committed the whole war effort now, whether those generals
and colonels wanted to or not, to ending slavery as an aim of the war.
Four million slaves, the labour system of the South.
That is a radical move,
because once you do that, there's really no going back.
If you start rounding up thousands of slaves to free them
and give them some kind of new status,
you surely cannot send them back to anything resembling slavery.
The modern reputation of Abraham Lincoln rests above all on his status as the Great Emancipator.
It's the story that the Lincoln industry and the academic establishment stand behind,
and it's what all Americans are taught at school.
Abraham Lincoln is one of the best presidents
this country has ever had because of what he did for the slaves.
He thought it was wrong and no person should own another person.
He just abolished slavery and all the wrongdoings of our country.
Does Lincoln deserve his reputation as the Great Emancipator
or was the Emancipation Proclamation as much an act of war
as an act of mercy, a desperate manoeuvre motivated in large part
by the failure of Lincoln to defeat the Confederate Armies?
It's a war measure, it's a military measure, that's how it is justified.
It's the only way it can be justified.
There is nothing in the Constitution that enables the President to decree the abolition of slavery,
what Lincoln rests an is his role as Commander-in-Chief of the Army.
Compare it to the Declaration of Independence,
which begins with this wonderful preamble about the rights of mankind.
There's nothing like that, this is a military order.
It contains no soaring rhetoric whatsoever, which Lincoln was capable of.
Only at the suggestion of Secretary of the Treasury Chase
does it end with a statement, "This is an act of justice as well as of military necessity."
Like the Declaration of Independence, the Emancipation Proclamation has become one of America's sacred texts
and it places Lincoln at the centre of the story.
But Emancipation was a process that Lincoln did not begin and was never able to control.
To be perfectly frank, we give him too much credit for it.
He caught up with the process of Emancipation
as much as he made the personal decision to free the slaves.
Emancipation comes about in 1862, and especially in 1863,
in the midst of this war out of the process of its escalation.
The Emancipation Proclamation not only freed enslaved Africans,
it also did something that the North and Lincoln himself had resisted since the start of the war -
it allowed the recruitment of black men into the Union Army.
Many Northerners didn't believe blacks would fight, they'd run away
when confronted or they'd massacre white people with their arms.
Nobody knew what would happen if you armed these slaves, there were so many racist preconceptions.
The service of black soldiers, the successes of black soldiers,
the dignity of black soldiers changes many Northerners' attitudes about race, about the black men.
It certainly had a powerful effect on Lincoln himself.
If you want to know why Lincoln's racial views changed
during the Civil War, a lot of it has to do with the black soldiers.
Lincoln comes to feel as many Northerners do,
that by fighting and dying for the Union, they have staked a claim to citizenship in the post-war world.
The greatness of Lincoln is his capacity for growth.
By the end of the Civil War, by the end of his life, Lincoln's views on race have changed significantly.
He has not become Martin Luther King Jr,
but he has come to recognise that the United States is going to be a biracial society.
In April 1865, the Confederate Armies finally surrendered.
The Civil War had consumed 620,000 lives.
The cities of the South lay in ruins
and slavery had been swept away.
And Lincoln, like his nation, was a man transformed.
In this very short period of time he's gone from believing
that he has no right to do anything with slavery, that slavery
should die a gradual, natural death,
that African Americans really are not
entitled to political rights, but at the end of the war he talks about
wanting to see certain segments of the African American population
get the right to vote.
So who was Abraham Lincoln in 1865?
Was he the Great Emancipator on the verge of awarding black people
some degree of equality, or still an inveterate white supremacist?
Was he the man who would save the Union
or a war criminal whose ruthless strategies had devastated his nation?
Was he America's saint or a man whose views captured all that was wrong with America in the 19th century?
The problem here is that people always want to be
all one or all the other.
We want our Abraham Lincolns and our Winston Churchills,
our Mahatma Gandhis, to be perfect in their principles.
The case of Abraham Lincoln, however, always has to be understood within the story
of a man who was a consummate, pragmatic,
genius of a politician.
But how far he'd have ever gone with civil or social equality is only speculation.
The assassination of Abraham Lincoln marked the beginning of a disastrous political process
that led America to reject the appeals for racial equality
that had emerged from the radicalism of the Civil War.
During the century between Emancipation in the 1860s and the civil rights movement of the 1960s,
African Americans were pushed into segregated lives defined by the so-called Jim Crow laws...
But throughout that century in the darkness,
African Americans attempted to use the memory of Lincoln,
white America's secular saint, to appeal for justice.
African Americans understood how important Lincoln's memory
was to the nation and they were hoping that they could tap into that memory.
They're reminding white Americans that the promise has not been fulfilled,
that they have to step up
and honour the obligation that Lincoln had started,
because these rights that African Americans had been promised had not been granted.
Five score years ago, a great American
in whose symbolic shadow we stand today
signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
'Exactly a century after the Emancipation Proclamation,
'the Lincoln Memorial, America's temple to the cult of Lincoln,
'became the stage on which African Americans came together
'to demand the nation finally fulfil the promise of freedom that Lincoln had made in 1863.'
But 100 years later,
the Negro still is not free.
100 years later...
The part of that speech that everyone always hears,
and it's even used in commercials in the United States,
is only the dream part, "I have a dream, little black children, white children joining hands."
In a sense, we've come to our nation's capital to cash a cheque.
'What we almost never replay is the first three or four pages of that speech.'
..wrote the magnificent words
of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.
They were signing a promissory note...
'King begins the speech by using the metaphor'
of what he called the promissory note.
It is obvious today
that America has defaulted on this promissory note
insofar as her citizens of colour are concerned.
'That's Martin Luther King on the 100th anniversary of Emancipation
'standing in the Lincoln Memorial and saying to the world',
"The United States wrote a bad cheque in 1863, it bounced."
But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt.
We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds
in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation...
'So here in 1963,'
a chance, you might say, to reboot, to go back to 1863
and build on the promises of the Civil War and the promises of the Emancipation Proclamation,
and to try to do away with all the ugliness,
all the white supremacy, and re-establish democracy.
Half a century after the civil rights struggle,
Abraham Lincoln has become perhaps the only historical figure
sacred to both black and white Americans.
Although he remains shrouded in myth and exaggeration,
and although uncomfortable questions have been asked about
who he really was and what he really thought, Lincoln's story, his rise from poverty,
his battle against slavery, and his struggle with his own racism has made his memory a potent political force.
It was here in Springfield where North,
South, East, and West come together that I was reminded
of the essential decency of the American people.
'In his campaign for the presidency, Barack Obama, a candidate whose very presence in the race threatened to
'divide America, consciously linked himself to Lincoln.'
..State capital where Lincoln once called on a House divided,
I stand before you today to announce my candidacy for President
of the United States of America.
'Obama very much played on Lincoln's image.
'He mimicked Lincoln's trip'
on the train from Philadelphia to Washington DC.
'He swore in on his inauguration on the very OUP Bible that Lincoln had used 100 some odd years earlier.'
I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear...
He has cloaked himself, his candidacy, indeed his Presidency,
in the Lincoln myth.
As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours,
"We are not enemies but friends.
"Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection."
The Lincoln that Obama adopted most was Lincoln the healer.
It's the Lincoln through whom we can all somehow come together.
Our stories are singular but our destiny is shared.
'Not Lincoln the ruthless war maker, not Lincoln even the Emancipator,
'it's Lincoln the healer.
'That's the Lincoln that Obama most tried to use.'
That the true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms
or the scale of our wealth but from the enduring power of
our ideals, democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope.
I think we all look at Lincoln from a perspective of
what we see America as, and what we think America should be.
And those of us who see America as this perfect place, always right,
did everything right from the very beginning,
need a Lincoln who is larger than life, who is a Herculean figure who did Herculean things.
But I think we as a nation need to understand that we can
honour Lincoln and be truthful.
He was a human being who made mistakes, who had prejudices,
who had his own agenda - that does not diminish his greatness.
I think it makes him even greater because it shows that with all his prejudices,
with all the baggage that he brings to the Presidency and to Emancipation,
he still did the right thing in the end.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
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To most Americans Abraham Lincoln is the nation's greatest president - a political genius who won the Civil War and ended slavery. Today the cult of Lincoln has become a multi-million dollar industry, with millions of Americans visiting his memorials and thousands of books published that present him as a saint more than a politician.
But does Lincoln really deserve all this adulation? 150 years after the war his reputation is being re-assessed, as historians begin to uncover the dark side of his life and politics. They have revealed that the president who ended slavery secretly planned to deport the freed black people out of America. Others are asking if Lincoln should be remembered as a war hero who saved the nation or as a war criminal who launched attacks on innocent southern civilians.