Confined to the secrecy of diplomatic backchannels, the scheme showed little of the public splash—and controversy—from the previous fall. Most of the surviving documents were spirited away to London and only recently rediscovered in the UK National Archives. But the British plans advanced far beyond what most scholars previously knew. Throughout the spring Lincoln met with crown-backed representatives from the British West Indies colonies of Belize and Guiana.
The Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection
In July it dispatched John Willis Menard, a free black newspaperman, on a mission to Belize to investigate the proposed site. In November Mitchell arranged a little-known meeting between Lincoln and a delegation sent by the fiery abolitionist preacher Henry Highland Garnet , one of the few prominent black supporters of colonization. At the time Garnet was assisting the British Honduras Company to recruit prospective settlers. In the United States, though, concerns about the lucrative federal colonization fund were paramount. As he pressed for colonization abroad, Mitchell drew the ire of the War Department, which desired freedmen soldiers for the war effort.
A perturbed congressional committee rescinded the appropriation in July More controversially, Lincoln met with General Benjamin F. Butler on the eve of his assassination and, according to the general, discussed reviving the Panama scheme. His motive, though misguided, came from his profound personal fear about the oppression of the freedmen at the hands of their former masters in a post-war South. Whether he intended to pursue colonization in his second term may provoke controversy, but we must also remember that the answer to that question died with Lincoln, and unexpectedly so.
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Lincoln displayed a remarkable capability for personal growth during the war, and the particulars of his approach to colonization are among the policies that evolved with him. Knowing that this evolution was still ongoing at his death, it may be placing an unfair burden on him to expect rigid consistency in his racial views or their final reconciliation with modern egalitarian ideals. At minimum, the complex and human Lincoln this leaves us with is more interesting to study. Phillip W.
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Feedback: customer service. Perhaps most significantly, the government of Colombia was torn between two competing regimes at the time, casting deep uncertainty over whether the land grant would be honored. Lincoln evidently wished only to place the expedition on hold as these political issues were resolved, though at some point in the winter of he also learned of a more pressing problem that would plague colonization efforts for the remainder of his presidency.
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The Chiriqui project had become infested with graft, including collusive skimming from the colonization accounts by several high level public officials. Pomeroy in particular likely absconded with several thousand dollars from the appropriated funds. Further evidence implicated Richard Wigginton Thompson—a former Indiana congressman in the employ of the company that possessed the land claim—and John Palmer Usher, the deputy Secretary of the Interior who in January saw himself elevated to the cabinet post after the resignation of Caleb B.
Smith for health reasons.
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The Chiriqui project was never formally closed, with elements of its land claims persisting as late as the s as the canal component gained renewed attention. Yet mired in corruption and facing a number of political obstacles, the colonizationists in the administration had to turn their more immediate attention elsewhere. After an extended cabinet discussion, Lincoln insisted on a pledge to continue colonization on a voluntary basis—a recurring proviso of his version of the policy.
Shortly thereafter he instructed Seward to solicit partnerships in colonization with foreign governments, and particularly the European powers with West Indian colonies. Lincoln also used the occasion to propose a largely forgotten constitutional amendment pertaining to colonization.
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Yet all considerations were also couched in another measure on which Lincoln also pledged his intentions, the approaching Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, They offered a glimpse into a shift of another sort, in which the administration was finally moving to execute its much-discussed voluntary resettlement policy. Lincoln had spent the late hours of the previous evening in a meeting with Senator Doolittle, Francis P.
Blair, Sr. By one account of their discussion, Lincoln was already aware of the problems of political intrigue surrounding colonization and cautioned its participants to keep the specific terms confidential. Colonization was a potentially lucrative business, as even public officials like Pomeroy and Usher were then learning, and competitor schemes abounded.
Though he possessed a number of documents from the Haitian government, Kock was one such investor and word of his agreement with the president quickly spawned a series of rumors that he had ulterior designs to hand his settlers over to the Confederacy for re-enslavement.
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Forbes and Charles K. The revamped contract came with the backing of several Wall Street investors including New York Times editor Henry Jarvis Raymond, and was likely seen as a security against the pitfalls that had plagued the earlier Chiriqui contract. His chartered ship Ocean Ranger carried a little over colonists, most of them recruits from a contrabands camp near the fort. The voyage was plagued with poor planning, further political intrigue, and chance misfortune from the outset.
Even before their arrival in Haiti, several settlers succumbed to a smallpox outbreak on the ship. They arrived at the island to find it largely unprepared to receive even a small colony, with minimal supplies on site and almost no dwellings. It did not help that Usher, with his stake in the competing Chiriqui venture, had assumed the helm of the Interior Department and, with it, administrative control over the colonization accounts.
Initiated in January , in the weeks following the Proclamation, these arrangements intentionally sought to sidestep the problems the White House had thus far experienced with shady private contractors and disputed land claims. Lincoln first reached out to Lord Richard Bickerton Pemmell Lyons, the British minister to the United States, in late January and presented him with an ambitious proposal to transport colonists to the British West Indies.
Around the same time James Shepherd Pike, the U.
Notably, the negotiations with both were conducted through top-level diplomatic channels well outside of the public eye or even the majority of the government. Lincoln, Seward, and Mitchell were present at the initial meeting with Lyons. Beyond them, knowledge of the project only extended to the cabinet by administrative necessity, as with Usher, or personal advocacy, as in the case of Montgomery Blair. Yet the proposal found an advocate in the Duke of Newcastle, the Colonial Secretary who welcomed the black colonists as a solution to a labor-starved economic malaise afflicting many of the West Indian territories.
The strongest interest by far came from the largely undeveloped and lightly populated colony of British Honduras, or modern day Belize. In April, the government in London dispatched a colonial land agent named John Hodge to Washington to commence the negotiations.
Hodge met with Lincoln at the White House shortly after his arrival and advanced a proposal wherein the crown-backed British Honduras Company would recruit up to 50, freedmen colonists over the next decade. Lincoln had wanted New Orleans included in the list of ports and pressed for a formal treaty, though the hesitant British negotiators scaled these requests back to a simple emigration agreement between the two governments.
Ep. 91: Lincoln the Colonizationist Part 2, with Phil Magness
After uniting his efforts with a similar proposal from the South American British colony of Guiana, Hodge obtained a second audience with Lincoln at the White House on June 13, to break the impasse. The meeting concluded with a presidential authorization permitting British Honduras and Guiana to commence recruitment of settlers and pledging the assistance of the U. Conflicting reports about the condition of the remaining settlers reached Washington through two less-than-impartial channels: James DeLong, the U. Ripka, an investigator hired by the New York financiers to allow them to collect their promised federal funding.
After hearing reports of disease and starvation on the island, Usher was eventually forced to appoint D. Donnohue, an Indiana judge and old legal circuit acquaintance, to investigate the site for the government over the fall and winter of Though some chose to remain on the mainland and subsequently integrated into Haitian society, just under survivors of the ill-fated colony docked at Alexandria, Virginia in March Working from Europe, Pike drafted a formal colonization treaty with the Netherlands and conveyed it to Washington in late for intended Senate ratification. The investigative mission to British Honduras returned in late September with a cautious but favorable recommendation after visiting a sugar mill that Hodge was constructing near the settlement.
Colonization, he reportedly affirmed to Mitchell shortly after the riots, offered African-Americans an escape route to a better life. Reverend Henry Highland Garnet, a black abolitionist who narrowly escaped the riot mobs himself, shifted his longstanding emigration interests in Liberia to British Honduras in the wake of the attacks. By January , tensions between the two men had devolved into an all-out feud for control of federal colonization policy. Further obstacles came from Seward, who was known to deprecate the schemes in front of foreign diplomats and frequently turned to his habit of foot-dragging in all matters colonization.
These actions only left the Dutch government confused and still eager for a colonization agreement up to a year after the Civil War. The remarks incensed the radical faction. Mitchell, whose political savvy extended to personal friendships with several elected officials, protested he had been excluded from the inquiry and requested time to prepare a second report, eventually delivered in the fall. He also may have signaled a continuation of interest in the British projects a week prior to the Senate debate when he instructed Seward to elevate diplomat John N.
Camp—an outspoken colonizationist—to a consular post in Kingston, Jamaica, the administrative hub of the British West Indies.
The colonization portion of these proceeds had simply accrued over the previous two years and sat untouched at the Treasury Department. Bates would answer in the affirmative, giving Mitchell his back-pay through the end of the year, but without a full opinion due to his own impending retirement from the cabinet.
On January 31, —the day the 13 th Amendment passed the House of Representative—he again met in private with another old acquaintance, the abolitionist stalwart Representative Thaddeus Stevens. Despite his radical antislavery reputation, Stevens had long acquiesced to a limited federal colonization enterprise as something of a safety valve for African-Americans to escape racial oppression. He seems to have opposed large-scale organized schemes along the lines of Chiriqui, though he was evidently much more amenable to the voluntary emigration model that took shape in the British and Dutch arrangements.
His support in this regard contradicts the notion that colonization completely divided the moderate anti-slavery men from the radicals. This realization is less surprising in retrospect when one considers that colonization saw renewed political interest throughout the Reconstruction era. Grant made a serious push to annex the Dominican Republic, intending in part to create a refuge location for freed slaves. One contested piece of evidence suggests this course was likely. According to Butler, Lincoln opened their conversation by expressing deep concerns about impending racial violence against the freedmen.