03 March 2008

Lincoln's Grand Plan - Buy Slaves

It seems that in Lincoln's view rather than wage war against the secessionist southern States it would make more long-term financial sense to buy the slaves and emancipate them that way. This plan would obviously require that former slave owners do not use their new found wealth to go out an buy more slaves but an intriguing idea that had it taken off would have changed US history.

By Lincoln's calculations the Civil War was costing some USD 2 million a day to wage and buying slaves could be accomplished at USD 400 "a head" (very much like buying cattle - it is a distasteful notion that human beings of whatever colour or creed could be deemed property in this way to be bought and sold -- personal opinion!).
Back to Lincoln, there are some 72 letters in the series and they were bequeathed to the University of Rochester by William Henry Seward III, the great-grandson of Lincoln's Secretary of State, William Seward Sr. The letters are available at the University of Rochester's Rare Books & Special Collections website.

Lincoln figured that to purchase the more than 430,000 slaves in the Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, Missouri, and Washington DC area would amount to some USD 174 million or the equivalent of 87 days worth of Civil War. The net result would have seen the freeing of the slaves and the saving of lives lost in the defence of the relevant positions on slavery adopted by the North and South.
But the idea never took off and instead there was the Emancipation Proclamation which eventually formed the basis of the 13th Amendment which ended slavery in the US.

So, this logic gets me to thinking. Not much has changed as this is a method that in many places the US continues to pursue! For example, the dollar diplomacy of North Korea. Stop building a nuclear weapons capacity and we will help you develop clean and renewable energy capacities. But alas this was not the method they adopted in Iraq although now that there has been regime change the US is throwing money at this idea (some might say pipe dream) of an Iraqi government that is democratic and stable.
I guess dollar diplomacy is not for everyone nor is it, it seems, for the faint-hearted!


Patung said...

The Second Inaugural Address of Lincoln is really something to read, particularly this bit:

"Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.""

I think non-Americans, and some Americans themselves, would learn a lot about the make-up of America from reading those lines.

Rob Baiton said...


I guess that is the moral of the story isn't it?

Simply, we do not read enough history and for that reason alone we are always destined to repeat it!