Lincoln Asked Britain to Help Set Up Colony for Freed Slaves


Abraham Lincoln told freed slaves they should found a colony in Latin America, and even made contact secretly with the British about making land available in what was then British Honduras, now Belize, according to a new book.

As America celebrates the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s first inauguration this week, a new book by researchers at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, makes the case that Lincoln was more committed to colonising black people than previously thought. The book, Colonization After Emancipation, is based in part on newly uncovered documents that authors Phillip Magness and Sebastian Page found at the British National Archives in Kew and in the US National Archives.

It claims, among other things, that in 1862 Lincoln urged a White House audience of "free blacks" to leave the US and settle in Central America. He told them: "For the sake of your race, you should sacrifice something of your present comfort for the purpose of being as grand in that respect as the white people." He went on to say that those who envisioned a permanent life in the US were being "selfish" and he promoted Central America as an ideal location "especially because of the similarity of climate with your native land – thus being suited to your physical condition".

Lincoln’s views about colonisation are well known to historians, even if they don’t make it into most schoolbooks. Lincoln even referred to colonisation in the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, his September 1862 warning to the South that he would free all slaves in southern territory if the rebellion continued.

Unlike some others, Lincoln always promoted voluntary, rather than enforced, colonisation. But historians differ on whether or not he moved away from the concept after he issued the Emancipation Proclamation on 1 January 1863.

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