Lincoln-Douglas Debates, Charleston Debate (Donald, 1996)

David Herbert Donald, Lincoln (New York: Touchstone, 1996), 220-221.
At Charleston, three days later, [Abraham Lincoln] was on more hospitable ground. Many in Coles County had known Thomas Lincoln and his family, and some enthusiasts spread a gigantic painting, eighty feet long, across the main street, showing OLD ABE THIRTY YEARS AGO, on a Kentucky wagon pulled by three yoke of oxen. Democrats countered with a banner, captioned “Negro Equality,” which depicted a white man standing with a Negro woman, and a mulatto boy in the background. Republicans found this so offensive that they tore it down before allowing the debate to begin. Lincoln picked up on that theme in his opening remarks. He had, he said, recently been approached by an elderly man who wanted to know whether he was in favor of perfect equality between blacks and whites. This probably hypothetical inquiry gave him the opportunity to make his views explicit in a community where conservative old Whigs were strong. “I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races,” he announced…This was a politically expedient thing to say in a state where the majority of the inhabitants were of Southern origin; perhaps it was necessary thing to say in a state where only ten years earlier 70 percent of the voters had favored a constitutional amendment to exclude all blacks from Illinois. It also represented Lincoln’s deeply held personal views, which he had repeatedly expressed before. Opposed to slavery throughout his life, he had given little thought to the status of free African-Americans. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he was not personally hostile to free blacks….But he did not know whether they could ever fit into a free society, and, rather vaguely, he continued to think of colonization as the best solution to the American race problem.
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