Extension of slavery in the territories was for Lincoln an entirely different matter, and on this issue he refused all compromise. Here we confront a paradox. If Lincoln thought it more important to preserve the Union than to oppose slavery, why was he unwilling to compromise over slavery in the territories? If he thought slavery’s extension was too high a price to pay to preserve the Union, why was he willing permanently to entrench slavery wherever it already existed? It is hard to detect a moral difference between slavery in the states and the territories.
DiLorenzo readily resolves the paradox. Lincoln opposed extension of slavery, because this would interfere with the prospects of white workers. Lincoln, following his mentor Henry Clay, favored a nationalist economic program of which high tariffs, a national bank, and governmentally financed “internal improvements” were key elements. This program, he thought, would promote not only the interests of the wealthy industrial and financial powers that he always faithfully served but would benefit white labor as well. Blacks, in his opinion, would be better off outside the United States, and throughout his life Lincoln supported schemes for repatriation of blacks to Africa and elsewhere. If blacks left the country, they could not compete with whites, the primary objects of Lincoln’s concern. (Lincoln, by the way, did not see this program as in any way in contradiction to his professed belief that all men are created equal. Blacks, he thought, had human rights but not political rights.)