Learning Lincoln On-line


"What the President Thought about Slavery in April of 1864" THE SOUTHERN VIEWPOINT OF SLAVERY

CLICK HERE for the Southern Viewpoint about Slavery pre-1865

Read from the 19th Century School Books Collection Pages 240-242"...a conversation between a slave (that has attempted to escape) and his master."

Even in Free Illinois, many complications for the Underground Railroad made it very dangerous and scary

(In Illinois)  The Black Laws of 1819   Click Here to find out about them.

The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850--  A federal law that demands that runaway slaves be returned from the north, and no aid be given to them.  Jail time and a $1,000 fine could occur by persons breaking this law.

       Songs used by slaves to communicate to each other.  Very few could read & write, and it would be very dangerous to use written notes, so ........
A song like "Follow the Drinking Gourd" was used to provide secret messages on how to travel on the railroad.

       Songs slaves sang often had double meanings. Since slaves were forbidden to read and write, they had to communicate in ways that would not be obvious to their slave owners. One way was through song. (In tribal cultures of Africa, songs were often used to  transmit  information and therefore historians tell us that slaves used this same method when captured and enslaved in America.)

Have students listen to and/or read the lyrics to the song Follow the Drinking Gourd and then challenge them to crack its code. (Historians know that the lyrics secretly
identified landmarks and constellations to guide slaves along the trail to freedom. A “drinking gourd” described the Big Dipper constellation and its North Star, since slaves were familiar with carved gourds which they used to scoop water from buckets to get a drink.) Teachers can find lyric meanings at "Follow the Drinking Gourd" A Cultural History site.

20th Century U.N. Declaration of Human Rights
These Underground Railroad sites will be used to find your information.
Aboard the Underground Railroad (Listing and description of RR sites by state)
The Underground Railroad (National Geographic)
Ads for Runaway Slaves

Break into groups and do the Part that you are assigned.  Decide on who will report to the class on the part studied and answered.  You may submit your answers to Mr. Taylor, using the submit page. 

 Part 1
Charleston, (Coles County) Illinois, was the location of a Lincoln-slave court case, in which Mr. Lincoln had to take the part of a slave owner.
This is a very interesting, and early demonstration of Lincoln-the-lawyer's dealings with slavery.  Go to  Mr. Lincoln and Freedom site (lower half of the reading) to read about this case. 
---Do you think Abraham Lincoln was right in taking the case of Mr. Matson, the slave owner? 
---How do you think Lincoln, the lawyer, felt after losing this case in the Coles County Courthouse?

---What happened to the Bryant family?

 Part 2

Slavery and Underground Railroad Activity

1.    Go to Slavery in the South for additional information.

2.    Read the two pages from the 19th Century School Books Collection, involving the conversation between a slave and a slave-owner.

3.    Write a statement about what you think about slavery in our country.

4.    What was the Fugitive Slave Law?

5.    Where were the Underground Railroad Stations in Illinois?  Other States?  What country would the runaway slaves be most safe in?

 Part 3    Follow the Drinking Gourd

1.    Listen to the song “Follow the Drinking Gourd.”

2.    Read the words to the song (same link as #1).

3.   Go to the ADs for Runaway Slaves rewards and read some of them.

Be able to tell exactly what the song Follow the Drinking Gourd means

Part 4

Go to the Frederick Douglass National Park Service site.  What does the introduction say he is now called?  Go to the Mighty Word link, and what was his newspaper called? Go to  the Power of an Idea.  What is the F.D. quote?   Go to Women’s Rights.  How did F.D. stand as far as women’s rights are concerned?   Go to Home In Washington D.C.  Where did Douglass end up living for the rest of his life? 



Lincoln and the Abolitionists

"What the President Thought about Slavery in April of 1864"

From a letter to Albert G. Hodges,

Monday, April 04, 1864----Abraham Lincoln states his position on slavery


1.  Work with the annotated letter and click the blue vocabulary words/phrases.  Follow the question guide and further reading.  CLICK HERE


2.  Go to the Reading and Writing Activity Page and work with the letter. CLICK HERE


The original letter is posted on the Library of Congress Memories Collection.

The actual letter from Lincoln to Hodges is located on the

Library of Congress "Lincoln Papers Collection"


Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Volume 7.

Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865.


To Albert G. Hodges

A. G. Hodges, Esq Executive Mansion,
Frankfort, Ky. Washington, April 4, 1864.

My dear Sir: You ask me to put in writing the substance of what I verbally said the other day, in your presence, to Governor Bramlette and Senator Dixon. It was about as follows:

``I am naturally  anti-slavery. If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong. I can not remember when I did not so think, and feel. And yet I have never understood that the Presidency conferred upon me an unrestricted right to act officially upon this judgment and feeling. It was in the oath  I took that I would, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. I could not take the office without taking the oath. Nor was it my view that I might take an oath to get power, and break the oath in using the power. I understood, too, that in ordinary civil administration this oath even forbade me to practically indulge my primary abstract judgment on the moral question of slavery. I had publicly declared this many times, and in many ways. And I aver that, to this day, I have done no official act in mere deference to my abstract judgment and feeling on slavery. I did understand however, that my oath to preserve the constitution to the best of my ability, imposed upon me the duty of preserving, by every indispensable means, that government---that nation---of which that constitution was the organic law. Was it possible to lose the nation, and yet preserve the constitution? By general law life and limb must be protected; yet often a limb must be amputated to save a life; but a life is never wisely given to save a limb. I felt that measures, otherwise unconstitutional, might become lawful, by becoming indispensable to the preservation of the constitution, through the preservation of the nation. Right or wrong, I assumed this ground, and now avow   it. I could not feel that, to the best of my ability, I had even tried to preserve the constitution, if, to save slavery, or any minor matter, I should permit the wreck of government, country, and Constitution all together. When, early in the war, Gen. Fremont attempted military emancipation, I forbade it, because I did not then think it an indispensable necessity. When a little later, Gen. Cameron, then Secretary of War, suggested the arming of the blacks, I objected, because I did not yet think it an indispensable necessity. When, still later, Gen. Hunter attempted military emancipation, I again forbade it, because I did not yet think the indispensable necessity had come. When, in March, and May, and July 1862 I made earnest, and successive appeals to the border states to favor compensated emancipation, I believed the indispensable necessity for military emancipation, and arming the blacks would come, unless averted by that measure. They declined the proposition; and I was, in my best judgment, driven to the alternative of either surrendering the Union, and with it, the Constitution, or of laying strong hand upon the colored element. I chose the latter. In choosing it, I hoped for greater gain than loss; but of this, I was not entirely confident. More than a year of trial now shows no loss by it in our foreign relations, none in our home popular sentiment, none in our white military force,---no loss by it any how or any  where. On the contrary, it shows a gain of quite a hundred and thirty thousand soldiers, seamen, and laborers. These are palpable facts, about which, as facts, there can be no cavilling. We have the men; and we could not have had them without the measure.

[``]And now let any Union man who complains of the measure, test himself by writing down in one line that he is for subduing the rebellion by force of arms; and in the next, that he is for taking these hundred and thirty thousand men from the Union side, and placing them where they would be but for the measure he condemns. If he can not face his case so stated, it is only because he can not face the truth.['']

I add a word which was not in the verbal conversation. In telling this tale I attempt no compliment to my own sagacity. I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me. Now, at the end of three years struggle the nation's condition is not what either party, or any man devised, or expected. God alone can claim it. Whither it is tending seems plain. If God now wills the removal of a great wrong, and wills also that we of the North as well as you of the South, shall pay fairly for our complicity in that wrong, impartial history will find therein new cause to attest and revere the justice and goodness of God. Yours truly



Slavery in America by PBS

Lincoln's Thoughts about Slavery (Hodge Letter)

Slavery in the South

Return to Learning On-Line Slavery Project Home Page

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