tv Abraham Lincoln and Immigration CSPAN July 28, 2016 11:07pm-12:08am EDT
currently working on a companion volume detailing president lincoln's reputation in 19th century europe. he also served two elected terms on his local school board. so let's welcome professor jason silverman. [ applause ] >> thank you so much. that last part about the eight years on the rockhill school board, forget about all my education. that's when i learned the real meaning of civil war. i have been interested in abraham lincoln since the fourth grade. we had a parents' night which we were going to do silent vignettes.
a signing of the declaration of independence, all sorts of things. one of the silent vignettes was lincoln/douglas debates and my fourth grade teacher told me you can't be abraham lincoln, you're not tall enough. to add insult to injury, she said, you have to be steven douglas. so i swore by all that was sacred that i was going to study abraham lincoln for the rest of my life and try to make a contribution. now, i grew up right across the river in alexandria, virginia. i'm a product of the virginia public schools, and i can tell you that very little about abraham lincoln was said flatteringly in the state of virginia as i was growing up.
but those comments were glowing compared to what i encountered when i first came to south carolina in 1984. so one of my proudest accomplishments is the fact that for 32 years now, i just finished my 32nd year, i've been teaching courses to packed classrooms on abraham lincoln in the state of south carolina, which i don't think is a small accomplishment whatsoever. [ applause ] so i'm going to tell you what i tell my students before each class. come back with me in history. fasten your seatbelts. we're going to take a magic carpet ride tonight through the study of abraham lincoln and his relationship with immigrants.
may 4th, 1865, oakridge cemetery, springfield, illinois. the weather is warm and the sun is peeking through the clouds. the day is peaceful and a slight wind blows from the west. everybody in springfield is on the streets, silent and mournful. their sorrow is all encompassing and they don't know where to go or what to do. the landscape is beautiful and has been especially cared for on this occasion. the clergyman is a tall, distinguish looking academic sort that spoke with a softness that belied his younger more evangelical days. bishop matthew simpson was delivering the funeral sermon. he quoted the deceased in words
of deep conviction. words that spoke of a great work to be done. they conjured up the spector of an evil in the land. broken by it, i may be, bow to it, i never will. the probability that we may fail in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause which we believe to be just. it shall not deter me. if ever i feel the soul within me elevate and expand to those dimensions, not unholy worthy of its almighty architect, it's when i contemplate the cause of my country. deserted by all of the world besides and i standing up boldly and alone hurling defiance at her victorious oppressors. the declaration was that of a
young abraham lincoln on the day after christmas, 1839. the bishop interpreted his text in a way and with an authority that seemed wholey natural to the mourning nation. here was the testament of the beloved martyr dedicating himself in his youth to the great slave power. fighting it with all of his energy. bishop simpson quoted lincoln accurately. he had unearthed a long lost speech that would soon be lost again. but he did make one error, however. lincoln's speech had nothing to do with slavery. its subject was banking, industry, and immigrant labor. the log cabin labor and industry, the combination should not surprise us.
in more than three decades of public life, lincoln probably talked more about economics and labor, to use the terms broadly, than any other issues, slavery included. the bulk of his discussions with an economic focus preceded his period of fame and for a while went unrecorded. but the main lines of his thinking survived as do frequently the details. immigration, abraham lincoln, absolutely. lincoln lived in an era when immigration was as much a controversy as it is today. between 1840 and 1860, 4.5 million newcomers arrived. most of them from ireland, the german states and scandinavian countries. many crossed back and forth across the border with mexico,
newly drawn in 1848. but from an early age, lincoln developed an awareness and tolerance for different people and different cultures. while no doubt a product of his time, lincoln nevertheless refused to allow his environment to blind him to the strengths of diversity. and throughout his legal and political career, he retained an infinity for immigration, especially the irish, the germans, the jews and the scandinavians. indeed, immigrants and their plight was never far from lincoln's thoughts or his plans. his travel down the mississippi river to the port of new orleans exposed lincoln to the sights, the sounds and the tastes to a world he could only have dreamed about.
more importantly, it established a foundation and sympathy for the rest of his life when it came to the foreign born as well as to the enslaved. it must have been an odd sight to see that tall, lanky, boy sailing down the mississippi river in 1829 with his companions looking wide eyed and in awe of everything that he saw. just 22 years old and finally freed of the obligations to his father and his farm, lincoln set off from illinois on a flat boat journey with his stepbrother, cousin and employer. sailing on what must have been an amusing sight, a log cabin on a raft with barrels and logs and hogs. lincoln, john johnston, john
hanks, and dennis offitt set off on an adventure of a lifetime. for the first time in his young life, abraham lincoln was traveling afar. and while he could not know it, what he would see would shape his thoughts for the remainder of his life. during this trip, lincoln would first come in contact with foreigners in the exotic city of new orleans. and although he probably couldn't and didn't distinguish swedes from dutchman from italians from spaniards, norwegians, russians, he encountered them all. he realized for the first time in his young life that immigrants from many lands formed a significant part of the american population. lincoln's two flat boat voyages
to new orleans were exceptionally important in his development. they formed the longest journeys of his life. his first experiences in a major city. his only visits to the deep south. his sole exposure to the region's brand of slavery and slave trading. his only time in the subtropics and the closest he ever came to immersing himself in a foreign culture. lincoln never wrote or spoke very much of his trips. but you know what? anybody that studies lincoln gets frustrated because this is a man who was as secretive as they come, who kept no journal, who kept no diary. and for those of us who study abraham lincoln, you think you know him and he slips right out of your hands, and you don't know anything about him. you have to start all over again.
others wrote about his trips though. his cousin, john hanks, joined lincoln on his second trip departing illinois in 1831. lincoln's eventual law partner and biographer, william herndon, recorded that hanks had said in may we landed in new orleans. i can say knowingly that it was on this trip that he formed his opinions. it ran its iron in him then and there, may, 1831. i've heard him say that often and often. lincoln's two flat boat journeys exposed him for weeks on end to the vastness of the american landscape. no subsequent travels in lincoln's life would ever match the length of these journeys. and they also immersed him in the subject of the relationship between transportation and the
economic development in the west. lincoln understood and preached that a better form of transportation would improve the economic life of the state of illinois. it would raise living standards for all and it would enhance property values. but his river journeys also showed him that by controlling unsettled domains in the state of illinois, you could accelerate immigration. he resided in a sparsely populated region. so it was understandable for abraham lincoln that wealth and population were practically synonymous to him. immigrants would bring economic growth and all that it implied. seeing america firsthand from a flat boat at a young age transfixed on abraham lincoln
the core of his wig party beliefs. free labor, transportation modernization, internal improvements, and most assuredly, the need to attract immigrants. lincoln's trip to new orleans also represented his first and only journey deep into the slave south and into places where enslaved african-americans not only abounded but predominated overwhelmingly. new orleans ranked as the largest city the young lincoln ever had ever seen and it would remain so until he stepped on the national stage as a young congressman in 1848. more importantly, it represented the most ethnically diverse and culturally foreign city in the united states.
while lincoln would take a day trip to niagara falls, canada, in 1857, new orleans really would represent the closest abraham lincoln ever came to entering another country. i've been to niagara falls. that is a stretch to say that you're going into another country. i've been to new orleans. it isn't a stretch to say that. and while lincoln occasionally encountered french or spanish speaking immigrants or catholics or catholicism in his early years in indiana or illinois or on the ohio river, lincoln's trip to new orleans engulfed him in a different culture's ethnicity, ancestry, religion, language, race, cuisine, architecture and just shear urban size. it gave him the perspective that no other place in his life would
provide. into the midst of this complex and contentious social, economic and political landscape walked a young abraham lincoln in 1828 and again in 1831. there was ethnic tension everywhere that lincoln went in new orleans. it was in the streets. it was in conversations. it was in the local press. newspapers, local newspapers, were filled with prejudice and scorn for one group or another. editors promised to their readers that their principles would be purely american. whatever that meant. an obvious portent to the american or no nothing party that would rise in the 1850s to exploit american xenophobia. lincoln would have seen firsthand that some immigrants
in the city were discriminated against by a large element of other people. lincoln was present when the creoles suffered at the hands of americans who would become members of the know nothing party and when alliances were established and creoles became an object of scorn. their presence, experience and treatment had an enormous effect upon abraham lincoln. the impression of discrimination and prejudice against a group because of who they are, what they look like or how they sound would last abraham lincoln a lifetime. in new orleans, lincoln saw the nation's largest concentration of free peoples of color and best educated people of african ancestry anywhere.
lincoln understood this and was enthralled by the cultures he first witnessed in the population of new orleans. later in his life he would remember what he saw as a youth, and he would forcefully oppose the nativist movement of the 1850s and know nothing party which i mentioned a few moments ago. in fact, there was a part of new orleans that even followed lincoln back to springfield. william billy, a free black found new orleans to be a hostile place to free people of color in the 1920s. fearing kidnapping and enslavement, he fled new orleans for st. louis and then he found his way up the illinois river in 1831.
while approaching the village of salem, a county history records, he overtook a man wearing a red flannel shirt. a tall man was he and carrying an ax on his shoulder. they fell into conversation, and they walked to a little grocery store together. the tall man was abraham lincoln who soon learned that the stranger was a barber and he was out of money. mr. lincoln took him to his boarding house and told the people that this man needed help. and his business needed support. and that opened the way for an evening's work among the boarders as they allowed william to cut their hair. lincoln was taken with him. he convinced him to stay and settle in illinois. he stayed and he married and
raised a family and prospered as a barber to hundreds of springfield's men and children including lincoln who knew him endearingly as billy the barber. it was he who groomed lincoln through his attorney days through the ups and downs of his forays into politics and before he made that fateful and final departure from springfield to become president of the united states. shop on east adams streets. about new orleans, about immigrants, about slavery, life on the mississippi river. he was catholic, french, african, haitian, american. and he became lincoln's friend. their conversations were many times of substance and certainly the foundations of a genuine friendship.
late in 1863, floorville wrote him a warm letter of gratitude for the emancipation proclamation that had gone into effect the year before. i thought it might not be improper for one so humble in high of and occupation to address the president of the united states, wrote floridaville. yet do i so thinking fits received by you, it will be received with pleasure as a communication from your dear friend, billy barber. in all likelihood, lincoln first learned of the situation in haiti, heck, he probably first learned about haiti through billy the barber. and the conditions that billy had told him when the men first met in 1831. coincidentally maybe, ironically maybe, three decades later, president abraham lincoln established diplomatic relations
with the independent caribbean nation of haiti. thanks to billy the barber. he freed one of the first people of color, john shelby, a free black and one of floorville's african barbers in springfield while travging in now or leans in 1956 in 1856, found the same hostility that floorville had found. not having the proper papers, shelby was arrested and imprisoned. somehow, shelby made contact with a springfield raised new orleans now attorney by the name benjamin jonas. and shelby suggested to jonas that he contact a prominent lawyer back home in illinois
whose influence might help him get released. jonas, the lawyer, recognized the name, abraham lincoln because lincoln was a friend of jonas' father. a man by the name of abraham jonas who was one of the first jewish settlers in and around springfield, illinois. words spread upriver to shelby's mother and then to lincoln. he was very much moved by one of the early biographers and said that he go over to the state house and inquire of governor william henry if there was not something that could be done to obtain possession of the negro. mr. hernandez made the inquiry and returned with the report that the governor regretted to say that he had no legal or constitutional right to do anything in new orleans and in the state of louisiana. at which point, mr. lincoln rose to his feet in great excitement
and exclaimed, by the almighty i'll have that negro back soon or i'll have 20 years of agitation in illinois until the governor does have a legal and constitutional right to do something in the premises. wouldn't it be nice if politicians spoke like that today? lincoln knew that he didn't have any legal legs to stand on. and he knew that new orleans and the state of louisiana have the law on their side. so what lincoln and herndon did was they took the money out of the metropolitan bank of new york and on may 27, 1857, sent the funds from their springfield law office to benjamin jonas' office in new orleans. jonas paid the fine and by early june, shelby's release occurred and he made his way safely back to springfield.
john shelby thus became among the first african-americans ever freed by abraham lincoln. lincoln's affection for the jonas family determined that he would take action as much for them as for jonas -- as for shelby himself. lincoln regarded abraham jonas, and i quote lincoln, one of my most valuable and trusted friends, end quote. and their friendship dated back to the 1830s. lincoln never forgot nor did he ever minimize the role in his personal development that his experiences in the port of new orleans and those as a flat poet operator played. many times when he was on the campaign trail, lincoln would portray flat boat voyages as an affirming dues-paying experience. assuring anybody who would listen that he was a man of the
people, because he was of the people. it would astonish if not amuse the older citizens of york county, said lincoln on a campaign trail, who 12 years ago knew me as a strange, friendless, uneducated, penniless boy working on a flat boat at $10 per month to learn that i have been put down here as a candidate of pride, wealth and aristocratic family distinction. i can assure you, i am not an aristocrat. unquote. 20 years later, lincoln returned to the same theme. free society such that a poor man knows he can better his condition. he knows there's no fixed condition of his labor for his whole life. i am not ashamed to confess that 25 years ago, i was a hired
laborer, working on a flat boat. just what might happen to any poor man's son. unquote. on a personal and little known nems lincoln's life, he became friends with the reverend lars paul esborn who was a professor at illinois university, a lutheran school in springfield. lincoln's oldest song attended the classes and lincoln frequently called on the professor to discuss his son's studies. and this is sometimes, it reminds me all too frequently of the classes that i've had over a number of years. robert wasn't at that time an enthusiastic student. he need to be motivated. i can relate, i assure you. he had political experience as a member of the city council in
princeton, illinois. he was an outspoken possibly of strong drink and slavery and lincoln took a liking to him since they shared similar political beliefs. and he became a supporter of lincoln in the press and on the stump. and his sons enlisted in the union army with one of them being the first swedish soldier to fall in battle during the american civil war. before we start patting lincoln on the back, we need to realize that like so many in the mid philosophy immigrants was far more complicated than mere reply which. abraham lincoln was a product of his times and his environment. and despite whatever economic advantages immigrants might
represent, many men of his era saw ethnic groups, monolithically. whether irish, jewish, german or swedish. they saw these immigrants as all painted them with a very, very broad brush. to his credit, lincoln tended to see each individual and each group as distinctive in its own right. because he saw the diversity and the value in the diversity of each groups, he did not assign them as savages. his relationship of individuals of different ethnicities as well as groups many times was as inconsistent with the man himse himself. like most westerners, lincoln
had a low opinion of latin american civilization and his references to hispanics were never very flattering. in his debate with steven douglas in illinois, linkon attacked the concept that he believed in so fervently. popular sovereignty. he asked a hypothetical question as to whether douglas would fly doctrine of popular sovereignty in an acquisition like mexico where the inhabitants were nonwhite. when we shall get mexico, i don't know whether judge douglas will be in favor of the mexican people because we know that the judge has a great horror for mongrels and i understand that the people of mexico are most decidedly a race of mongrels. unquote. lincoln continued by explaining, i understand that there's not
more than one person out of 8 who is pure white and i suppose from the judge's declaration, when we get mexico, or any considerable portion of it, that he will be in favor of these mongrels settling the question? that would bring him somewhat in collision with his horror of the inferior race. unquote. even if you make allowance for the fact some of these comments occurred by abraham lincoln in a hotly contested debate in which there was a great amount of race baiting, lincoln still used derogatory comments about hispanics when there wasn't any motive. when describing cubans, he didn't pull any punches. their butchery was most inhuman. they were fighting against one of the worst governments in the world.
the spanish. but the fault was that the real people of cuba had not asked for their assistance, were neither desirous of it nor fit for it, civil liberty. later, in another speech, extolling the brilliance of young america and comparing with it old fogies. the older i get, the less i like that phrase, old fogie. do you know that? abe will have to work on it. that's all there is to it. he is going to have to work on it. lincoln concluded but for the difference in the hasn't of observation, why did yankees almost instantly discover gold in california which had been trodden upon and overlooked by indianas and mexican greasers for centuries.
unquote. yes. it was in this same speech abraham lincoln made one of his few remarks about the people of asia. the nonwhite group he had the least aquaintance and the least opportunity to think about. for one who had never been to asia or argue by as i mentioned, outside the united states, lincoln prejudicially claimed that intellectual curiosity and scientific progress was the exclusive domain of the western world. he recognized that asia was the beginning of the human family and that african-americans were indeed human beings but he believed that asia was an ancient crumbling civilization whose time had long passed. the human family originated as is thought somewhere in asia, lincoln said. and have worked their way principally westward. just now in civilization and in
the arts, the people of asia are entirely behind those of europe. those of the east of europe behind those of the west of it. while we here in america think we discover and invent and improve faster than any of them. unquote. i think maybe when he said that, lincoln recognized he was on a bit of thin ice. he said they may think this is arrogance but they cannot deny that russia has called on us. to show her how to built steam boats and railroads. in other parts of asia, they scarily know that such things as steam boats and railroads exist. in anciently inhabited countries, the dust of ages, a real down right old fogyism, there he is again, seems to
settle upon and smother the intellectual energies of man. while neither appreciating them, lincoln like many 19th century nationalists pandered to his audience while talking about the virtues of the united states. at the expense of degrading other people, it was lincoln's decision to convince his fellow countrymen that they would be next on the great stage of history. and it was a successful strategy to flatter voters into thinking about the ascend into national prominence. but lincoln did put his money where his mouth was and recently it was discovered that during his one term as a member of the house of representatives, he like many other americans contributed $10, which is roughly $500 in today's money,
to the irish relief fund during the great famine. maybe this was because lincoln's first teacher in harlan county, kentucky. was of irish decent. he was described as a man of excellent character, deep piety and fair education. he had been reared a catholic but made no attempt to proselytize. and the great president always mentioned him in terms of grateful respect. wrote one of lincoln's early bio gra pers. whether he left a lasting impression on lincoln or not, lincoln was always interested in irish culture. he knew and recited the speech on the dock by memory. especially the closing words, when my country takes her place among the nations of the earth, then and not till then let my epitaph be written, i have done.
lincoln's favorite ballad was the poem, the lament of the irish immigrant set to music. many of lincoln's quips as a politician often resorted to irish analogies and sometimes they were caustic and perhaps a bit insulting to make a point. his first recorded jibe about a poor irishman comes from one of his congressional speeches on the need for sensible improvements when he described an irishman who had a pair of new boots. quoting lincoln, should i never get them on, said patrick, until i wear them a day or two and stretch them out a bit.
late in the war an observer recalled that lincoln said, there was a cabinet meeting in the afternoon. general grant, who had just returned, gave a very interesting account of the state of the south and the good feeling manifested by the offices of the confederate army. they all said they were ready to lay down their guns and go home. then lincoln said, some of you just said something about hunting up jeff davis. i for one hope they would be like patty's flea. when they get their fingers on him, he just wouldn't be there. this comment was quite consistent with lincoln's desire to avoid show trials. ol any kind of punitive commissions. he wanted reconciliation and he often used jokes, many times ethnic ones, to soften a message of mercy or to conceal a willful blindness to pass wrongs. these jests comparatively
speaking to his contemporaries were not very racist or harsh. and they show an awareness for the poor man's plight. chiding him mildly for his traditions, doubtless in that day nearly everyone, most especially poor immigrants, understood the problems of fleas and ill fitting foot wear. lincoln, when he became a member of the republican party, vastly opposed anything that the know nothings stood for. any attempt to change naturalization laws, abraham lincoln opposed. he advocated that a full and efficient protection of the rights of all classes of citizens, whether native or naturalized, both at home and abroad, be guaranteed. throughout his life, there was no group closer to him than the germans.
they supported him from the very, very beginning and actively participated in his campaigns. he enjoyed the germans and their culture. on the way to cincinnati, he stopped one night and he was in his hotel room. went outside. a group of german working men came to serenade him. one person wrote that he had put off the melancholy mood had that controlled him during the day and he was entertaining those germans present with genial, even lively conversation. he went to find two dozen more of the german citizens who voted for him because they believed him to be a stout champion of free labor. and free homestead. the germans liked abraham
lincoln. they said if you ever need us, we stand ready to maintain. the victory that you now seek over slavery. it would soon come that the germans delivered on their promise. lincoln understood immigrants. as a lawyer practicing land law at times and a politician representing a rural district, he had to pay attention to the national debate over the future of public lands. to the issues linked to real estate taxes. to the relationship between town and country and the importance of the foreign born as their presence increased. lincoln knew first-hand what it meant to be poor. and he knew first-hand what america represented as a land of opportunity where somebody could
rise to become president of the united states. and so his commitment to the american dream, as lincoln liked to think of it, existed his entire political life. he had an enormous amount of sympathy for the, quote, many poor since he himself had long been one. his compassion materialized into a full-blown ideology that lincoln carried into the white house. he believed that the civil war would represent an opportunity. but the war drastically reduced the number of immigrants. and at first the lincoln administration attempted to meet the difficulty through unofficial state department efforts. but lincoln knew that it wasn't sufficient. so by the end of 1863, he asked congress for assistance.
in his annual message to congress in 1863, he spoke of immigrants, and i quote, a source of national wealth. tens of thousands of persons destitute of reimmunive, the occupation wanting to come to america but they needed stance to do so. he asked congress to pass a bill and congress responded on july 4, 1864, with the first, last and only time america passed a law to encourage immigration. lincoln's act to encourage immigration was a signature piece of legislation that many of you who i know have been familiar with this, where everything was celebrated, went by without a single moment's attention.
lincoln knew immigrants played a major role and to his dying day he related to the immigrant in a way few contemporaries would or could. he told an amusing story about being poor and being able to relate to immigrants. once again, he went back to his flat boat voyage. $8 a month he earned. and he owed one pair of buck skin breeches. if you know the nature of buck skin when wet and dried in the sun, lincoln reminisced, it will shrink and my breeches kept shrinking until they left several inches of my legs bare between tops of my socks and the lower parts. and while i was becoming taller, they were shorter and so much tighter that they left a blue streak around my legs that could be seen to this day.
if you call this aristocrasy, i need guilty to the charge. to lincoln, america was the land of opportunity. and he welcomed people to the shores long before the words were immortal liezed on the statue of liberty. to lincoln, the son of a poor farmer, barely literate. to rise to the presidency meant that anybody with a chance, with self-determination and self-motivation could rise as he had. lincoln often spoke about his past. but he also spoke about the future. the act to encourage, immigration was passed. lincoln did not live to see the attack on it by politicians and
by labor union leaders who had it all but repealed by 1868. first, last and only law in american history encouraging american history encouraging immigrants. this is a time to think about abraham lincoln. this is a period in american history to understand abraham lincoln and recognize what he stood for. often time when he was in the telegraph office pacing and driving them crazy with news, at the end of the day with the shawl around him, he would say, well, boys, i am down to the raisins, which meant he had completed his task. i think i'm down to the raisins right now. and i would like to thank each and every one of you for being such a wondering attentive
audience. it was a great honor to address the lincoln group of d.c. thank you so much. >> anyone have questions for our speaker? >> lincoln approached the no nothing voters. did he denounce them? did he try on run them to the republican calls? how did he finesse all of that? >> that's a good question. he was asked on a number of occasions, what is your strategy? how do you want to welcome them? he said i will accept the no nothings if they will accept the republican platform which does not include exclusion. and so when lincoln's people went out and campaigned and somebody would say, well, what does your boy think about immigration? lincoln instructed them to tell
them that there will be no prejudice at all based on immigration. and ethnicity. and they're more than willing to vote on it. they should not speck there would be any one group more than the other. if he had his way, they should expect specific encouragement of immigrants to fulfill labor shortage that the civil war created. so he did not turn anybody away. he made it abundantly clear, if you vote republican and you enter the republican party, you enter on the basis of our platform. not yours. yes, sir? >> i'm glad you brought up the german-american community. isn't true it that he bought a german newspaper to get german vote? >> good question.
lincoln was a politician. and in lincoln's defense, and i don't use that in the nasty sense that i would describe someone today as a politician. but he understood. and there was a german newspaper. several of them in illinois at the time. one was going bankrupt. the editor of the newspaper was a man named theodore. lincoln said to him, i'll tell you what. i will buy the press, i will buy the machinery, i'll buy everything. and you can continue your newspaper in german as long as you don't violate one aspect of the republican party platform. so consequently the transaction was struck. he liked abraham lincoln and would have a diplomatic
position. published the newspaper, and basically it was a republican outreach to the german population in and around illinois designed so they could read in their native language that abraham lincoln was the proper candidate and they would get what they needed from him. the sad part is not one single issue of that newspaper exists. nobody has found a single issue of that newspaper. yes, ma'am? >> thank you for this wonderful address. i was interested in your comments about asians. did he ever meet any asian people? >> as a matter of fact, he did. >> not many. he met two young men over the
course of five or six years who had come to the united states, settled in the san francisco area, made their way eastward and became part of a congressional group to meet abraham lincoln. but that was the extent of it. that was the only extent he ever had, which was a short conversation. basically his comments was really based on very little experience and virtually no first hand knowledge. the interesting thing about lincoln, you have to recognize him warts and all. and so, econsequently, in his era, i was enlightened and progressive. but he had a few plinld spots and his quotes indicated that. >> it comes to mind when you speak of another president.
and today, advertisements are in the language to communicate to the immigrants. i know mary todd spoke french. did lincoln ever speak french? >> no, he didn't. but it's an excellent question. because he knew a number of the germans, they encouraged him to sit in on a class to learn the german language. so he learned a couple of three, four words and a phrase. what he liked to say when he would speak to somebody that he was fluent in german, most of the people, the accounts that i read of people with him said he liked to tell stories more than he liked the listen and learn german. that's the closest he ever came to being bilingual. yes, sir? >> did he have any profound
thoughts about native americans? >> that's a profound question. i was going to include it in my book. then i thought, well, okay. that really broadens the topic. because native-americans are not immigrants. and now you're talking about that fine line between race and ethnicity. it depends on who you ask. there are some who will tell you the abraham lincoln was as prejudiced towards indians as any westerner would have been and participated in the execution of a number of indians in minnesota. on the other hand, if you take the other side, they would say that he reviewed each case
individually, reduced the number of those scheduled for execution by two-thirds, and saved a number of indians. so it is kind of like everything with abraham lincoln. it depends what side of the fence you were on. if you're asking me, have i ever come across anything in which he said native-americans were part of this american dream and should be given jobs, no. not at all.