The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library says a book found in a small-town Illinois library confirms that Lincoln did research on the scientific debates about race while he was still an Illinois resident, prior to his election as President of the United States.
Experts at the library say they have confirmed that a book at the Warner Public Library in Clinton, Illinois, bears Lincoln’s handwriting. Inside the front cover, Lincoln appears to have written the name of the book’s owner, attorney Clifton Moore, presumably because he had borrowed it and wanted to make sure it was eventually returned to the proper person.
The book, titled “Types of Mankind,” used “science” like skull shape to make the argument that different races were formed at different times and places. Such pseudo-science was often part of the debate over the propriety of enslaving certain members of society. Library scholars say “Types of Mankind” suggested the Biblical admonition to be kind to one’s fellow men did not apply, since African Americans and Native Americans were not “fellow men”.
“Lincoln had long been upset by national legal codes that treated blacks and whites so differently,” James Cornelius, curator of the Library’s Lincoln Collection said in a release. “Everything we know about Lincoln’s legal, religious, and scientific thinking tells us he rejected that argument.”
Exactly when Lincoln borrowed the book isn’t clear. In 1855 he represented a DeWitt County resident who sued for libel because his brother-in-law was going around town claiming he was secretly African-American. The brother-in-law was represented by Clifton Moore, the book’s owner.
It’s believed he also could have borrowed the book in 1858 to prepare for his debates against Steven Douglas, or in 1860 during the campaign for president.