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Frederick Douglass’s First Meeting With President Lincoln

The GOP needs to meet with critics sometimes



Frederick Douglass escaped from slavery in 1838 after a harsh life of servitude in Maryland. He was later hired by William Lloyd Garrison as a speaker for the Anti-Slavery Society. He founded and edited the North Star, an abolitionist newspaper.

Based upon the writings of Frederick Douglas, if I were a fly on the wall listening to the conversation of this first meeting between these two, I would have heard the following:


President Lincoln: I am alarmed by the increasing opposition to the war, in the North, and the mad cry against it, because it is being made an abolition war. I am apprehensive that a peace might be forced upon me which would leave still in slavery all who had not come within our lines. I want to make my Proclamation as effective as possible in the event of such a peace. The slaves are not coming so rapidly and so numerously to us as I had hoped.

Frederick Douglass: The slaveholders know how to keep such things from their slaves, and probably very few know of your Proclamation.

President Lincoln: Well, I want you to set about devising some means of making them acquainted with it, and for bringing them into our lines. I am troubled by the attitude of Mr. Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune, and the growing impatience there is being manifested through the North at the war. I am being accused of protracting the war beyond its legitimate object, and of failing to make peace, when I might have done so to advantage. I am afraid of what might come of all these complaints, but am persuaded that no solid and lasting peace could come short of absolute submission on the part of the rebels, and I am not for giving them rest by futile conferences at Niagara Falls, or elsewhere, with unauthorized persons. I see the danger of premature peace, and I wish to provide means of rendering such consummation as harmless as possible.

Frederick Douglass: I am the more impressed by your benevolent consideration because you previously said, in answer to the peace clamor, that your object was to save the Union, and to do so with or without slavery. What you are now saying shows a deeper moral conviction against slavery than I had even seen before in anything spoken or written by you. I agree to undertake the organizing of a band of scouts, composed of colored men, whose business should be somewhat after the original plan of John Brown, to go into the rebel states, beyond the lines of our armies, and carry the news of emancipation, and urge the slaves to come within our boundaries.

President Lincoln: Douglass, I hate slavery as much as you do, and I want to see it abolished altogether.

A few days later, Douglass wrote the President:

All with whom I have thus far spoken on the subject, concur in the wisdom and benevolence of the idea, and some of them think it is practicable. That every slave who escapes from the Rebel States is a loss to the Rebellion and a gain to the Loyal Cause I need not stop to argue the proposition is self evident. The negro is the stomach of the rebellion.



Frederick Douglass wrote the following about his first meeting with President Lincoln:

I find the president the first great man that I talked with in the United States freely who, in no single instance, reminded me of the difference between himself and myself, of the difference of color. The reason is because of the similarity with which I had fought my way up, we both starting at the lowest rung of the ladder.



The reasons for my posting this short little history lesson is to refute a couple of ideas being projected about what the Republican Party needs to do.

One idea is that we cannot spend any time, money, and resources on outreach to folks who have a track record of criticizing and voting against Republicans.

We are assuring the prospects of always being in the minority if we only spend time, money, and resources on folks who compliment and vote for Republicans. Folks who fall into this category are in the minority, and we need to stop being in denial about it.

A second idea is that we need to stop protracting the “culture war” with regards to overturning Roe v Wade, and prematurely surrender for the sake of achieving election victories. There is no middle ground on an issue like Roe v Wade.

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