Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began by declaring that "all men are created equal." We now practically read it "all men are created equal except Negroes." When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read "all men are created equal except Negroes and foreigners and Catholics." When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty--to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure and without the base alloy of hypocrisy.
--Abraham Lincoln in a letter to James Speed, 1855