Therelationship between Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass has stronglyimpacted issues on race and slavery.
Both men used their oratorical and writtenskills to spread their ideas on these issues presented in America. Douglass,being a freed slave, dedicated his time to the abolition of slavery in America.Douglass was passionate about the ideas he spread and drew his emotions toconnect with the audience. Abraham Lincoln, on the other hand, used logic andpolitics to persuade his audience. Before Douglass and Lincoln personally met, theirpublic statements, letters, and newspapers defined their relationship. Lincoln’s political ideologiesalso had a great impact on Douglass’ feelings toward him.
Douglass’ feelings changeover time as slowly slavery ends. Ultimately, the war and the abolishment of slaverystrongly influences their relationship, and eventually draws them together. Douglassand Lincoln held various opinions that differed from one another. Theiropinions on the constitution was essential in their opposition. Douglass believedthat “theConstitution was an antislavery document that virtually commanded actionagainst slavery wherever it existed” (Oakes, 109). He stood by the beliefthat the constitution opposed slavery, and it promoted the idea of equality andfreedom, while Lincoln argued that “the founding compromises limited but didnot destroy the federal government’s ability to act against slavery … how much hehated slavery, the Constitution recognized it in the states where it alreadyexisted”(Oakes, 109). Their ideas on the constitution strongly disagreed with oneanother.
Lincoln believed that the constitution was not enough to opposeslavery because the founding fathers took slavery into consideration whilewriting the constitution by creating the Union. Douglass “considered hisargument both constitutionally implausible and morally repugnant” (Oakes, 109). Douglassrefused to believe that the constitution did not hold any power in actingagainst slavery. However, both men admired the founding fathers. They believedthat they laid the foundations of equality. Furthermore,Lincoln’s method of ending slavery frustrated Douglass.
Douglass insisted that “there were many ‘right’ ways to opposeslavery”(Oakes, 104). He opposed Lincoln’s “way” to oppose slavery. Oakes claimed that “All that politicalpressures operating on Abraham Lincoln compelled him to separate racialequality from slavery. Everything in Frederick Douglass’s experienceconvinced him that this was impossible” (Oakes, 111). Lincoln believed that hewould gain more followers by separating racial equality from slavery, butDouglass argued that it was impossible and racial discrimination was the “grand cause” (Oakes, 112) ofslavery.
Oakes even questions if Lincoln was truly racist because Lincolnpublicly stated that he opposed the equality of African Americans. Lincoln evenstated, “Iwill say then that I am not, nor have ever been in favor of bringing about inany way the social and political equality of the white and black races” (Oakes, 122). Lincolnwas tactful when it came to gain the attention of democrats.
According toOakes, “Heaccepted racial discrimination because that was what most whites wanted, and ina democratic society such deeply held prejudices cannot be easily disregarded” (Oakes, 127). Thisis where Douglass and Lincoln strongly differed. He cared more about tactics, ratherthan emotions; he believed that “passionate men lost control of themselves” (Oakes, 92). Hefound ways that would benefit his popularity. Oakes claimed that “maybe strategicracism was necessary to get slavery, and only slavery, onto the table” (Oakes, 130).
Oakesput a lot of emphasis on only slavery because that was what Lincoln solelywanted to focus on. Nonetheless, Douglass simply did not like his method. Hestood by the belief that “someone who opposed slavery must also be an opponent ofracial inequality” (Oakes, 130). Douglass urged that racial inequality wenthand in hand with slavery. This led to Douglass’ belief that Lincoln was not “a seriousopponent of slavery” (Oakes, 130), and that he could not support him at all.