Former President Abraham Lincoln agreed to be interviewed by “The Nation” for The Log Cabin Sage blog on Tuesday, August 15, 2017.
Here is the conclusion of his interview.
(The beginning of this interview is in the previous post: The Nation Interviews President Lincoln -Part 1)
[PLEASE NOTE: In this fictional interview, all the answers by President Lincoln are his own words, culled from a variety of speeches and letters that are cited at the end. I have only added brackets for clarity, and whatever was deleted in a passage is denoted by … The absence they denote does NOT change the meaning of the passage.]
THE NATION: Mr. President, much has been said about the rise of Nazis, KKK, and other Alt Right groups in our nation since Trump’s campaign and his presidency. Trump says immigrants are dangerous and taking away jobs. The KKK talk about a “white connection” with the Founding Fathers. The Nazis espouse the “white purity” doctrine of WW2. What’s your response to these claims?
PRESIDENT LINCOLN: We find a race of men living in that day, whom we claim as our fathers and grandfathers. They were iron men. They fought for the principle that they were contending for; and we understood that…
We hold this annual [4th of July] celebration to remind ourselves of all the good done in this process of time. Of how it was done, and who did it, and how we are historically connected with it. And we go from these meetings in better humor with ourselves—we feel more attached the one to the other, and more firmly bound to the country we inhabit. In every way we are better men in the age, and race, and country in which we live for these celebrations.
But after we have done all this, we have not yet reached the whole. There is something else connected with it.
We have – besides these men descended by blood from our ancestors – among us perhaps half of our people who are not descendants at all of these men. They are men…whose ancestors have come hither and settled here, finding themselves our equals in all things.
If they look back through this history to trace their connection with those days by blood, they find they have none. They cannot carry themselves back into that glorious epoch and make themselves feel that they are part of us.
But, when they look through that old Declaration of Independence, they find that those old men [The Founding Fathers] say that “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” and then they feel that that moral sentiment taught in that day evidences their relation
to those men – that it is the father of all moral principle in them, and that they have a right to claim it as though they were blood of the blood, and flesh of the flesh of the men who wrote that Declaration.
And so they are.
That is the electric cord in that Declaration that links the hearts of patriotic and liberty-loving men together – that will link those patriotic hearts as long as the love of freedom exists in the minds of men throughout the world.
Now, sir, for the purpose of squaring things with…his exposition of what the Declaration of Independence means, and we have him saying that the people of America are equal to the people of England.
According to his construction, you Germans are not connected with it.
Now I ask you in all soberness, if all these things – if indulged in, if ratified, if confirmed and endorsed, if taught to our children, and repeated to them – do not tend to rub out the sentiment of liberty in the country, and to transform this Government into a government of some other form?
Those arguments that are made – that the inferior race are to be treated with as much allowance as they are capable of enjoying – that as much is to be done for them as their condition will allow.
What are these arguments?
They are the arguments that kings have made for enslaving the people in all ages of the world.
You will find that all the arguments in favor of “king-craft” were of this class. They always bestrode the necks of the people – not that they wanted to do it, but because the people were better off for being ridden.
That is their argument…the same old serpent that says you work and I eat; you toil and I will enjoy the fruits of it. Turn it whatever way you will.
Whether it come from the mouth of a King – an excuse for enslaving the people of his country or from the mouth of men of one race as a reason for enslaving the men of another race, it is all the same old serpent.
And I hold if that course of argumentation – that is made for the purpose of convincing the public mind that we should not care about this – should be granted, it does not stop with the [African-Americans].
I should like to know if taking this old Declaration of Independence – which declares ‘that all men are equal‘ upon principle – and making exceptions to it; where will it stop? If one man says it does not mean [an African-American]; why not another say it does not mean some other man?
If that Declaration is not the truth, let us get the Statute [law] book in which we find it, and tear it out! Who is so bold as to do it? If it is not true, let us tear it out!
[Otherwise,] let us stick to it then. Let us stand firmly by it then.
It may be argued that there are certain conditions that make necessities and impose them upon us, and, to the extent that a necessity is imposed upon a man, he must submit to it.
My friend has said to me that I am a poor hand to quote Scripture. I will try it again, however. It is said in one of the admonitions of the Lord, ‘As your Father in Heaven is perfect, be ye also perfect.”
The Savior, I suppose, did not expect that any human creature could be perfect as the Father in Heaven, but He said, “As your Father in Heaven is perfect, be ye also perfect.” He set that up as a standard, and he who did most towards reaching that standard, attained the highest degree of moral perfection.
So I say, in relation to the principle ‘that all men are created equal,’ let it be as nearly reached as we can. If we cannot give freedom to every creature, let us do nothing that will impose slavery upon any other creature.
Let us then turn this government back into the channel in which the Framers of the Constitution originally placed it.
Let us stand firmly by each other…
My friends, I have detained you about as long as I desired to do…
THE NATION: Mr President, THE NATION thanks you for your time once again. Is there anything you’d like to say in parting?
PRESIDENT LINCOLN: …I have only to say:
Let us discard all this quibbling about this man and the other man—this race and that race and the other race being inferior, and therefore they must be placed in an inferior position…
Let us discard all these things, and unite as one people throughout this land, until we shall once more stand up declaring ‘that all men are created equal.’
…I thank you for this most extensive audience that you have furnished me to-night.
I leave you, hoping that the Lamp of Liberty will burn in your bosoms until there shall no longer be a doubt
that all men are created free and equal.
Food for thought.
This was retrieved August 15, 2017 from the eight volume online work:
The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln @ http://quod.lib.umich.edu/l/lincoln/
Speech at Chicago Illinois – July 10, 1858