Lincoln Tries To Fool The Danes


Avid students of the War Between the States are aware of Lincoln’s
long-standing desire to colonize blacks outside the United States,
but Honest Abe had another scheme in mid-1862 that would allow him
a way to get them out of the country. The black slaves would cause
strife in the Northern States where they were not wanted (and in
many cases those States had laws forbidding blacks to settle within
their boundaries), and he found a way through a treaty with Denmark
regarding the capture of slavers (usually from New England) on the
high seas. The treaty would send freed Africans to the Danish West
Indies as a boon to plantations there, and Lincoln no doubt had
the support of New England slave-traders who would be called upon
to transport confiscated slaves from the South as well—allegedly
captured on the high seas. Perhaps the Danes were well aware of
Lincoln’s intent, and needed the increase in laborers for their
sugar plantations.

The dispatch below from Judah Benjamin to Confederate diplomat
Dudley Mann was to alert the Danes to Lincoln’s scheme.

Bernhard Thuersam, Executive Director
Cape Fear Historical Institute
Post Office Box 328
Wilmington, NC 28402

Lincoln Tries To Fool The Danes

Mr. Benjamin, Secretary of State
No. 4, Department of State, Richmond, August 14, 1862

To: Honorable Dudley Mann, etc., Brussels, Belgium.


We are informed that an arrangement has been recently concluded
between the Government of the United States and that of Denmark
for transferring to the Dutch colonies in the West Indies, Africans
who may be captured from slavers and brought into the United States.
We are not informed of the precise terms of this agreement, and
can, of course, have no objection to offer to its execution if
confined to the class of persons above designated—that is, to
Africans released by the United States from vessels engaged in
the slave trade in violation of laws and treaties. It has been,
however, suggested to the President that under cover of this agreement
the United States may impose upon the good faith of the government
of Denmark, and make it the unwitting and innocent participant
in the war now waged against us.

The recent legislation of the Congress of the United States and
the action of its military authorities, betray the design of converting
the war into a campaign of indiscriminate robbing and murder.
I inclose herewith a letter of the President to the General-in-Chief
commanding our armies, and a general order on the subject of the
conduct of Major General Pope now commanding the enemies’
forces in northern Virginia, that you may form some faint idea
of the atrocities which are threatened. The act of Congress of
the United States decreeing the confiscation of the property of
all persons engaged in what that law terms a rebellion includes,
as you are aware, the entire property of all the citizens of the
Confederacy. The same law decrees substantially the emancipation
of all our slaves, and an executive order of President Lincoln
directs the commanders of his armies to employ them as laborers
in the military service. It is well known, however, that notwithstanding
the restrictive terms of this order, several of his generals openly
employ the slaves to bear arms against their masters, and have
thus inaugurated, as far as lies in their power, a servile war,
of whose horrors mankind has had a shocking example within the
memory of many now living. The perfidy, vindictiveness, and savage
cruelty with which the war is waged against us have had but few
parallels in the annals of nations.

The Government of the United States, however, finds itself greatly
embarrassed in the execution of its schemes by the difficulty
of disposing of the slaves seized by its troops and subjected
to confiscation by its barbarous laws. The prejudice against the
Negro race is, in the Northern States, so intense and deep-rooted
that the migration of our slaves into those States would meet
with violent opposition both from their people and local authorities.
Already riots are becoming rife in the Northern cities, arising
out of conflicts and rivalries between their white laboring population
and the slaves who have been carried from Virginia by the Army
of the US, yet these slaves are an unappreciable fraction of the
Negro population of the South. It is thus perceived that the single
obstacle presented by the difficulty of disposing of the slaves
seized for confiscation, is of itself sufficient to check, in
a very great degree, the execution of the barbarous policy inaugurated
by our enemies.

The repeated instances of shameless perfidy exhibited by the Government
of the United States during the prosecution of the war justify
us in the suspicion that bad faith underlies every act on their
part having a bearing, however remote, on the hostilities now
pending. When, therefore, the President received at the same time
information on two important facts—one, that the United States
was suffering grave embarrassments from the presence within their
limits of the slaves seized from our citizens; the other, that
the United States had agreed to transfer to Denmark, for transportation
to the Danish West Indies, all Africans captured at sea from slave-trading
vessels—he felt that there was just reason to suspect an intimate
connection between these facts, and that the purpose of our treacherous
enemy was to impose on the good faith of a neutral and friendly
power by palming off our own slaves, seized for confiscation by
the enemy, as Africans rescued at sea from slave-traders.

You are specially instructed to observe that the President entertains
no apprehension that the Government of Denmark would for one moment
swerve from the observance of strict neutrality in the war now
raging on this continent; still less that it would fail disdainfully
to reject any possible complicity, however remote, in the system
of confiscation, robbery and murder which the United States have
recently adopted under the sting of defeat in their unjust attempt
to subjugate a free people. His only fear is that the Cabinet
at Copenhagen may (as has happened to ourselves) fail to suspect
in others a perfidy of which they themselves are incapable. His
only purpose in instructing you, as he now does, to communicate
the contents of this dispatch to the Danish Minister of Foreign
Affairs (and, if deemed advisable, to furnish a copy of it) is
to convey the information which has given rise to the suspicions
entertained here.

The President hopes thus to prevent the possibility of success
in any attempt that may be made to deceive the servants of His
Danish Majesty, by delivering to them for conveyance to the West
Indies, our slaves seized for confiscation by the enemy instead
of Africans rescued on the high seas. You are requested to proceed
to Copenhagen by the earliest practicable conveyance, and execute
the President’s instructions on this matter without unnecessary

I am, sir, respectfully, etc.

J.P. Benjamin, Secretary of State