The writer recollects hearing a prominent man in the new party, who about that time was making a public speech, declare with great emphasis that, “as for the niggers, they are where they ought to be.” The speaker on that occasion was one of many who belonged to the debris of the broken-up Whig party, and who drifted into Republicanism because there was no other more attractive harbor to go to. One of these men was Abraham Lincoln, whom I heard declare in his debate with Douglas at Alton, Illinois: “I was with the old-line Whigs from the origin to the end of their party.” The Whigs were never an Anti-Slavery party. The recruits to Republicanism from that quarter were generally very tender on “the nigger question,” and the most they were prepared to admit was that they were opposed to slavery’s extension. These men largely dominated the new party. They generally dictated its platforms, which, compared with earlier Abolition utterances, were extremely timid, and they had much to do with making party nominations. Their favorite candidates were not those whose opinions on the slavery question were positive and well understood, but those whose views were unsettled if not altogether unknown. When General Fremont was nominated for the Presidency, not one in ten of those supporting him knew what his opinions on that subject were, and a good many of them did not care. Mr. Lincoln was accepted in much the same way.
It is true that, from certain expressions about the danger to our national house from being “half free” and “half slave,” and other generalizations of a more or less academic sort, it was known that Mr. Lincoln was antagonistic to slavery; but as to whether he favored that institution’s immediate or speedy extinguishment, and, if so, by what measures, was altogether unknown. We now know, from what has been set forth in another chapter, that at the time of his first nomination and election, he had very few things in common with the Abolitionists. He then evidently had no thought of being hailed as the “liberator of a race.” He preferred, for the time at least, that the race in question should remain where it was, and as it was, unless it could be bodily transported to some other country and be put under the protection of some other flag.