Despite her reputation resting on her book, Team of Rivals, about Abraham Lincoln's presidency, Doris Kearns Goodwin should not be accorded the accolade of an actual Lincoln scholar. The opening quotes of this article show why:
"Armies of scholars, meticulously investigating every aspect of [Lincoln’s] life, have failed to find a single act of racial bigotry on his part."~ Doris Kearns-Goodwin, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, p. 207.
"I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people . . . . I as much as any man am in favor of the superior position assigned to the white race."~ Abraham Lincoln, First Lincoln-Douglas Debate, Ottawa, Illinois, Sept. 18, 1858, in The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln vol.3, pp. 145-146.That Lincoln deeply opposed slavery cannot be gainsaid. That he ever thought African Americans (they could truly be called that, then) should or even could gain legal, social or moral equality with whites is simply laughable. However, that did not distinguish him from about 99 percent of American whites, North or South, of his day. In fact, in his first inaugural address, Lincoln endorsed the first proposed 13th amendment to the Constitution, called the Corwin Amendment after Ohio Republican Thomas Corwin. This amendment, which was never ratified, specifically forbade altering the Constitution in any manner that would enable the Congress to interfere with slavery "within any state." The Corwin amendment's wording was ridiculous, but its intent was clear: slavery was to be enshrined in the Constitution forever. Why would Lincoln endorse such a measure? Also in his first inaugural, he stated flatly,
The Union must be preserved, and hence all indispensable means must be employed.Preserving the Union was more than Lincoln's policy goal. It was his fetish, a religious-type quest. The South's argument in favor of its secession was based on a contract view of the Constitution. The Constitutional contract, they claimed, had been broken, hence they could withdraw from the Union if they wished. Lincoln's theoretical foundation for destroying the Southern states to compel them to stay within the union was based on his elevation of the Declaration of Independence above the Constitution. The Union, he held, was a binding covenant between the states, not a contract, and that covenant could neither be negated nor nullified. There is no doubt that for Lincoln preserving the Union was vastly more important than the rights of blacks. Writing to influential New York editor Horace Greeley in August 1862, Lincoln explained the relationship (Lincoln's italics):
As to the policy I "seem to be pursuing" as you say, I have not meant to leave any one in doubt.
I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can be restored; the nearer the Union will be "the Union as it was." If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause. I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors; and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views.As writer DiLorenzo explains, "So, go and see Spielberg’s Lincoln movie if you must, but keep in mind that it is just another left-wing Hollywood fantasy."