by Allen C. Guelzo

Four times in his great debates with Stephen A. Douglas, Abraham Lincoln fended off Douglas’s accusation that the abolition of slavery would lead to the wholesale social and sexual mixing of the races. Few white Americans in the mid-nineteenth century were free from the obsession that race, color, and racial boundaries were uncrossable, and Douglas knew how much damage he could do by implicating Lincoln’s opposition to slavery with that fear. But Lincoln disarmed Douglas with a simple logic that anyone could grasp: “I do not understand that because I do not want a negro woman for a slave I must necessarily want her for a wife. So it seems to me quite possible for us to get along without making either slaves or wives of negroes.”

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