Friday, November 30, 2007

Lincoln Tomb "Going Green"

Lincoln Tomb State Historic Site, Springfield, Illinois

The State Journal-Register in Springfield is reporting that the Lincoln Tomb State Historic Site is “going green.” No, poor upkeep is not to blame. The change is part of the state’s “new energy-efficient, ‘green guidelines,’” for construction projects.

The historic site’s heating and air-conditioning systems will receive a fascinating upgrade, which relies on geothermal energy. Such technology relies on the temperature underground, which always hovers around 55 degrees Fahrenheit. A spokesman for the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency explained how the new system will work:

Geothermal makes use of that constant temperature within the Earth, so in the summer it will take the heat from a building and pipe it out into the ground, and in the winter it takes the warm air from the ground and pumps it into the building.

Obviously, that doesn’t take care of the entire heating and cooling need of a place. But it does greatly reduce the need for additional heating and cooling and the use of energy.

The site has received a $25,000 energy-efficiency grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

New Opinion Piece on the Alleged "Lincoln at Gettysburg" Photo

Alleged Photograph of Lincoln at Gettysburg

You may recall that I recently weighed-in on the newly discovered photo of "Lincoln" at Gettysburg. Since that time, I have not seen anything to dim my initial skepticism.

Nevertheless, I want to call your attention to an opinion piece that appeared yesterday in the New York Times. Verlyn Klinkenborg accepts that the man in the top hat is the sixteenth president, though the writer's conclusion is based on some dubious reasoning. "There's no real reason to doubt that it's Lincoln," writes Klinkenborg.

Though I certainly think the writer should take a moment to re-evaluate the photo, I do appreciate the writer's overall point. Klinkenborg uses the photograph as merely a starting point for a larger meditation on history, the nature of photography, and the pace of modern life.

Klinkenborg's opinion piece is certainly worth taking a look at.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

More Speculation on Lincoln's Genetic Defect

Abraham Lincoln, 1865

Yesterday's story about Abraham Lincoln and the rare genetic defect, Men 2B, is alive and well. The story has been picked up in newspapers across the country and around the world.

The Seattle Times simply reprinted the original Washington Post story, as did the Contra Coast TImes in Walut Creek, California, but the story was not limited to the United States. A newspaper out of India ran this story too.

However, the most revealing development in the case of Lincoln's alleged genetic mutation came, once again, from the Washington Post. Dr. Sotos agreed to do an online chat with the newspaper and its readers. It is worth taking a look at.

He fielded a number of questions, but I was particularly interested in a couple of the exchanges:

East Lansing, Mich.: The vast majority of causative mutations (in the RET protooncogene) of MEN 2b are limited. It is not problematic to test tissue samples for such mutations. Rather than pursuing publicity to a speculative theory, why is the proponent of this theory not trying to pursue testing?

John G. Sotos: It is easier for me to write than to test genes. :-)

Seriously, I think most people would agree that it would be irresponsible to run around testing tissues of famous people for all sorts of conditions willy-nilly. It makes more sense to lay out a reasoned justification for testing in each case.

It was not my intention to lay out a justification for testing, but the books will do that as a by-product.

A reader wants to know why Dr. Sotos is offering this theory to the public. Sotos responds with several reasons:

Omaha, Neb.: Most Lincoln scholarship concerns battle plans, interpersonal relationships and election strategies. How would any genetic/biological data impact our understanding of those subjects? I was engaged in a similar study (diagnosing a historical figure with a particular illness) and the question I most commonly encountered was "why bother?" I am curious as to how you address this question. Thanks for your time.

John G. Sotos: The title of the book, "The Physical Lincoln," emphasizes the distinction with "The Mental Lincoln" which, as you note, is the usual focus of Lincoln studies.

There is some crosstalk, certainly, between the physical and the mental. I have not speculated in detail what those areas might have been.

As for the question, why bother? a flip answer would be "Why not?" People are interested in all sorts of things, not all of which affect our day-to-day lives or the stock market.

Although this will be an entertainment for most people, there are exceptions, none of which are compelling alone:

-- Lincoln shines a light on everything he touches, so the publicity around this disease will likely lead to a few people (or their relatives) realizing they have it. This could actually save lives, since early treatment is critically important in MEN2B

-- I think considering the questions of ill health in Presidential candidates, using the Lincoln example, is something that should be done. The Founding Fathers had no idea how to deal with disability, and we still have a way to go in removing that "bug" from our system of government.

-- This sort of discussion can have an effect on young people. A child who gets interested in this might eventually go to medical school and eventually take care of me when I am old and infirm. So, yes, it matters a lot.


Dr. Sotos goes on to explain how his "theory" will change the way we interpret Lincoln. For example:

Richmond, Va.: Lincoln wasn't depressed? Wasn't there like a book and a History Channel special devoted to just that idea?

John G. Sotos: OK, let me tackle the depression issue. There was indeed a book on this. The author finds two major episodes of depression in Lincoln's life.

The first was in connection with the death of Lincoln's near-fiancee, Ann Rutledge. (This is a hugely controversial point with historians -- please don't flame me about it.) Anyway, Lincoln also had malaria at this time. He was taking "heroic" doses of quinine and other medicines. I do not believe it is possible to know how much of his misery at this time was due to malaria, to medicines, or to the death of Rutledge.

The second incident was in connection with his break-up with Mary Todd. This is also controversial.

The additional evidence for depression is Lincoln's apparent sadness at all times. However, many people note that Lincoln could look like the saddest man in the world one moment and be laughing uproariously at a story the next moment. Depressed people do not do this, in general. Their mood is low uninterruptedly.

Now MEN2B enters the picture. Low muscle tone -- a sometime consequence of MEN2B -- can lead to the appearance of a sad face. Recall that a sad face is nothing but a face that has surrendered to gravity -- all the muscles sag -- there is no energy in the face.

I believe, therefore, that Lincoln's mood could not be read from his facial expression. It may well have been true that Lincoln was depressed on occasion, but I do not believe that any instance can be used to support this contention if Lincoln's mood was read from his face. He just wasn't like you and me in that regard.

There are eyewitnesses who say "Lincoln was never quite as sad as he looked." I think that's a very telling statement.

Again, just as the Marfan's folks did in 1991, Dr. Sotos has offered an interesting theory, but has yet to produce any verifiable evidence that Lincoln did indeed have MEN 2B.

I get emails from propoents of such theories quite often. Usually they are angry that their theories have not been accepted. I can only tell them that I have no problem with their hypothesis, but they must show me evidence to support their conclusion. If their evidence is solid, I tell them that scholars will embrace it.

But, of course, evidence is often a hard thing to come by. More times than not, frustrated theorists fall back and entrench themselves behind a wall of faulty logic. "Well," they finally say, "you can't prove Lincoln didn't have this disease!"

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A Doctor Speculates on Lincoln's Genetic Defect

Abraham Lincoln, 1865

Move over Marfan’s Syndrome and make way for MEN 2B, short for “multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2B.”

That’s right. Dr. John G. Sotos, a California doctor and an armchair historian to boot, has just announced that Lincoln suffered from one of the rarest genetic abnormalities known to man.

Let me be clear with this one. Dr. Sotos has not tested Lincoln’s DNA. Sufferers of MEN 2B have a mutation of a gene called RET on chromosome 10. Researchers have no clue whether or not Lincoln's chromosome 10 had a mutation.

Instead of DNA evidence, Dr. Sotos has complied a web-based book of every known description of Lincoln’s health and physical features. According to Sotos, Lincoln exhibits several symptoms linked to MEN 2B.

According to the Washington Post story:

One of MEN 2B's many manifestations are neuromas, or lumps of nerve tissue, on the tongue, lips and eyelids. There are no pictures of Lincoln's tongue, but his lips have a bumpy appearance in photographs. The hint of a lump on the right side of his lower lip is even visible in the engraved image on the $5 bill.

These growths also occur in the intestines and can cause constipation and diarrhea. Lincoln had lifelong constipation, and briefly during his presidency he took mercury-containing pills called "blue mass" to relieve it.

But the diagnosis doesn't stop there.

Dr. Sotos believes Lincoln had cancer while in the White House. Sotos points to Lincoln’s weight-loss during the Civil War, a fainting episode in 1865, as well as the president’s periodic complaints of severe headaches, cold hands and feet. Sotos says all of these are symptoms of MEN 2B.

And, of course, since MEN 2B is a genetic disease, Sotos claims that Lincoln probably inherited it from his mother, who died in 1818 of the milk-sickness. Again, he has no evidence to support his conclusion. No one has tested Nancy Hanks Lincoln’s DNA.

Sotos goes even further with his theory. He says Lincoln probably passed on the genetic disease to at least two of his sons, Willie and Tad. Again, he has no DNA evidence; he bases his diagnosis on pictures of the boys’ lips and the fact that they both died young.

I suppose we will keep hearing such wild speculation as long as we do not have a record of Lincoln’s DNA.

Samples of Lincoln’s hair are available, as are blood samples from the blood-stained sheet and the doctor’s clothes on the night of the assassination. The government has also preserved at least eight skull fragments from Lincoln’s autopsy.

As soon as our technology reaches a point in which researchers can perform tests on these objects without destroying them, we will have a record of Lincoln’s DNA. And then, I hope, we can put such wild medical speculation to rest.

Monday, November 26, 2007

"Ain't I a Woman?"

Sojourner Truth, 1864

Isabella Baumfree was born a slave in New York around 1797. Before she turned ten, her owner sold her. Two years later, she was sold again. Eighteen months later, she was sold yet again.

And then she escaped.

“I did not run off, for I thought that wicked,” she later said, “but I walked off, believing that to be all right.”

On June 1, 1843, Baumfree began calling herself Sojourner Truth and devoted her life to the abolition of slavery.

Truth met other abolitionists, including Frederick Douglass, Wendell Phillips, and William Lloyd Garrison. Garrison ended up publishing Truth’s memoirs.

In 1851, Truth attended the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention and delivered the most famous speech of her career, now known as “Ain’t I a Woman?” The following is a short excerpt from the speech:

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man - when I could get it - and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?

Then they talk about this thing in the head; what's this they call it? [member of audience whispers, "intellect"] That's it, honey. What's that got to do with women's rights or Negroes' rights? If my cup won't hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn't you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?

Then that little man in black there, he says women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wasn't a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.

If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it. The men better let them.

Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain't got nothing more to say.

Truth helped recruit black soldiers for the Union Army during the American Civil War. By 1864, she was working with an organization to improve conditions for African Americans. Later that year, on October 29, Truth met Abraham Lincoln in the White House.

Truth stayed true to her reform efforts. By 1865, she was fighting to desegregate the streetcars in Washington, D. C. After the war, she tried to secure land grants from the federal government for former slaves and also tried to vote in a presidential election. But she did not simply advocate for African Americans. Truth was also involved in the women’s rights movement, and prison reform.

On this day in 1883, Truth died at her home in Michigan.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Controversial Bixby Letter

If you’ve seen Saving Private Ryan, then you’re familiar with one of the most famous condolence letters in American history.

On this day in 1864, a letter was sent from the White House to Lydia Bixby of Boston:

Executive Mansion,

Washington, Nov. 21, 1864.

Dear Madam,---I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts, that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle.

I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save.

I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours, to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of Freedom.

Yours, very sincerely and respectfully, A. LINCOLN.

The Bixby letter is an extremely controversial letter. First, the original letter no longer exists. The text was printed on November 25, 1864 in the Boston Transcript, while the widow Bixby destroyed the letter shortly after receiving it. Nonetheless, forgeries abound.

Second, widow Bixby’s claim to have lost five sons is dubious. Of the five sons who fought for Massachusetts regiments, two died in battle, while one was captured by the enemy and either died in prison or actually deserted to the join the enemy ranks. Another Bixby son also deserted, while a fifth Bixby was honorably discharged from the Union ranks.

Third, the widow herself has come under increasingly heavy fire. One of her contemporaries called her “perfectly untrustworthy and as bad as she could be.” Her granddaughter claimed that she had “little good to say” about the president and was “secretly in sympathy with the Southern cause.” If her granddaughter was correct, then Bixby’s decision to destroy Lincoln’s letter shortly after she received it would make sense.

Fourth, scholars are divided over whether Lincoln actually wrote the letter. For those that argue against Lincoln’s authorship, they point to Lincoln’s secretary, John Hay, as the likely author.

For more information on this extraordinary letter, see the following articles:

Roy P. Basler, “Who Wrote the ‘Letter to Mrs. Bixby?” in Lincoln Herald, 45(February 1943):9-14.

F. Lauristan Bullard, “Again, the Bixby Letter,” in Lincoln Herald, 53:2(Summer 1951):26-27, 37.

Michael Burlingame, “New Light on the Bixby Letter,” Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association, 16:1(Winter 1995):59-71.

Jason Emerson, "America's Most Famous Letter," American Heritage Magazine, 57:1(February/March 2006).

Joe Nickell, “Lincoln’s Bixby Letter: A Study in Authenticity,” in Lincoln Herald, 91:4(Winter 1989):135-139.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

"These Political Fiends are Not Half Sick Yet"

The president-elect did not want to issue a public statement. What was left to say? He won a free and fair election. His speeches, as well as the Republican Party platform were already in circulation. If the secessionists were not willing to abide by the results of the election, they would hardly be willing to listen as Lincoln simply reiterated his position.

Nonetheless, Senator Lyman Trumbull was scheduled to speak in Springfield on this day in 1860. Though Lincoln doubted it would do any good, he agreed to insert a few lines into the senator’s speech:

I have labored in, and for, the Republican organization with entire confidence that whenever it shall be in power, each and all of the States will be left in as complete control of their own affairs respectively, and at as perfect liberty to choose, and employ, their own means of protecting property, and preserving peace and order within their respective limits, as they have ever been under any administration. Those who have voted for Mr. Lincoln, have expected, and still expect this; and they would not have voted for him had they expected otherwise. I regard it as extremely fortunate for the peace of the whole country, that this point, upon which the Republicans have been so long, and so persistently misrepresented, is now to be brought to a practical test, and placed beyond the possibility of doubt. Disunionists per se, are now in hot haste to get out of the Union, precisely because they perceive they can not, much longer, maintain apprehension among the Southern people that their homes, and firesides, and lives, are to be endangered by the action of the Federal Government. With such ``Now, or never'' is the maxim.

Eight days later, the editor of the New York Times wrote the president-elect and encouraged him to issue a statement to the secessionists. Clearly frustrated, Lincoln replied to the editor:

On the 20th. Inst. Senator Trumbull made a short speech which I suppose you have both seen and approved. Has a single newspaper, heretofore against us, urged that speech [upon its readers] with a purpose to quiet public anxiety? Not one, so far as I know. On the contrary the Boston Courier, and its' class, hold me responsible for the speech, and endeavor to inflame the North with the belief that it foreshadows an abandonment of Republican ground by the incoming administration; while the Washington Constitution, and its' class hold the same speech up to the South as an open declaration of war against them.

This is just as I expected, and just what would happen with any declaration I could make. These political fiends are not half sick enough yet. ``Party malice'' and not ``public good'' possesses them entirely. ``They seek a sign, and no sign shall be given them.'' At least such is my present feeling and purpose.

The president-elect was determined to remain quiet until the inaugural.

Monday, November 19, 2007

A New Image of Lincoln at Gettysburg?

Abraham Lincoln did not leave Washington very often, but on this day in 1863, the president was in a small town in Pennsylvania.

He accepted an invitation to speak at the new Soldiers National Cemetery at Gettysburg. Though his speech lasted less than two minutes, the Gettysburg Address remains the most significant speech in American history.

One might assume that the town was crawling with photographers, but it was not the case. In fact, only one photograph of Lincoln at Gettysburg has surfaced.

Well, things might have just gotten more interesting.

Independent researcher John Richter claims that he has found another photograph of Lincoln at Gettysburg (pictured above). He says the man in the center in the stove-pipe hat is Lincoln.

At least one Lincoln scholar is convinced. Harold Holzer says the photograph is “just staggering to look at.” In another interview, he suggests that the photograph represents the “Holy Grail” of Lincoln images.

The evidence must be pretty solid, right?

Unfortunately, Holzer uses some unfortunate logic: “I don’t see any reason to think it’s not Abraham Lincoln.”

Oh no!

I assume Holzer has more information about the photograph than I do, but I want to share some of my initial thoughts on this one.

“Richter’s Lincoln” is a blown-up version of a much larger photograph of the crowd at the cemetery.

This story explains how Richter “identified” Lincoln in the photograph:

Like the scientist who discovered Pluto because he knew where to look, Richter knew from historic descriptions of the ceremonies that the 4-by-7-inch plates of the troop procession ought to have Lincoln in there somewhere. "If I wouldn't have seen Lincoln there, it would have been a surprise," he said.

So he asked the center's president, Bob Zeller, to request much larger, more richly detailed computer files. Richter zoomed in tight and found what he was looking for: Lincoln on horseback — or so he believes.

I am skeptical.

First, if Lincoln is indeed on horseback, how did the camera capture his image? The horse would not have stood still long enough for the camera to do so.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, we learn that Richter simply scanned the crowd for someone who looked like the president until…bingo! The fellow in the stovepipe hat fit the bill. Richter seems to have fallen into a familiar trap. He assumes that Lincoln was the only man in Gettysburg wearing a stovepipe hat.

Is he right?

Absolutely not! Compare “Richter’s Lincoln” against the only known photograph of Lincoln at Gettysburg:

Notice: Lincoln is not wearing a stovepipe hat in this photograph! Perhaps Lincoln simply removed his hat just before or after the speech. However, it still does not solve the stovepipe hat problem.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I count no less than five men wearing stovepipe hats in this photograph!

If the evidence for “Richter’s Lincoln” rests solely on the stovepipe hat, then I say it is a poor fit!

Friday, November 16, 2007

"I am not at Liberty to Shift my Ground"

Lincoln Seated, 1861

The advice kept on coming. Well-meaning individuals wanted the president-elect to issue some sort of a statement to the South. The editor of the Missouri Republican begged Lincoln to gather some of his speeches together and have them published in the New York Tribune and the Chicago Tribune. He hoped the speeches would “put you fairly before the country on the points at issue between the North and South.”

Lincoln wrote the editor and explained why he could not follow his advice:

Private & Confidential.

Springfield Nov 16th 1860.

My dear Sir

Mr. Ridgely showed me a letter of yours in which you manifest some anxiety that I should make some public declaration with a view to favorbably affect the business of the country. I said to Mr. Ridgely I would write you to-day, which I now do.

I could say nothing which I have not already said, and which is in print and accessible to the public. Please pardon me for suggesting that if the papers, like yours, which heretofore have persistently garbled, and misrepresented what I have said, will now fully and fairly place it before their readers, there can be no further misunderstanding. I beg you to believe me sincere when I declare I do not say this in a spirit of complaint or resentment; but that I urge it as the true cure for any real uneasiness in the country that my course may be other than conservative. The Republican newspapers now, and for some time past, are and have been republishing copious extracts from my many published speeches, which would at once reach the whole public if your class of papers would also publish them.

I am not at liberty to shift my ground -- that is out of the question. If I thought a repetition would do any good I would make it. But my judgment is it would do positive harm. The secessionists, per se believing they had alarmed me, would clamor all the louder

Yours &c

A. Lincoln.

The next day, Lincoln reiterated his position to Illinois politician Gustave Koerner, saying he would not take any “position towards the South which might be considered a sort of apology for his election.”

Thursday, November 15, 2007

An Astonishing Legal Document

I’ve never heard this story before and I’m hoping someone out there can give me some help.

On February 6, 2006, Heritage Auction Galleries sold an astonishing legal document.

No, Abraham Lincoln’s name does not appear on the document, nor did he write a word of it. In fact, he had nothing to do with the document or the ensuing legal case.

So, what’s the big deal?

Allegedly, this document refers to a legal case involving Thomas Lincoln (Lincoln’s father), John D. Johnston (Lincoln’s stepbrother), and Squire Hall (Lincoln’s stepbrother-in-law), but that’s not all. All three men signed their name to the document (pictured above)!

According to the item description on the Heritage Auction Galleries website, Johnston and Squire Hall were both arrested for “assaulting an officer in attempting to execute process” on November 5, 1835. In addition, both men were arrested for “gaming.” Bail was fixed at $100 for the assault charge, while bail on the gaming charge was $50.

The document appears to have been written on March 12, 1836. Johnston and Hall each obligated themselves to the state for $50 each and promised to “appear on the first day of the next term of the Coles Circuit Court to Be holden at the court house in the said County of Coles on the 6th day of April then and there to answer and indictment preferred against him by the grand jury and not depart said court without leave thereof then this recognized to be void." Apparently, Thomas Lincoln acted as a “guarantor” or “legal head of household.”

Again, according to the website, the assault charge was tried before a jury on April 6. Johnston was acquitted, but Hall was found guilty. On October 8, Hall received a sentence of 24 hours in jail and was fined $5. Both Johnston and Hall were found not guilty on the gaming charge.

Abraham Lincoln claimed that his father “never did more in the way of the writing than to bunglingly sign his own name.” To my knowledge, there are only a handful of Thomas Lincoln signatures out there. On the other hand, I don’t think any John D. Johnston signatures have survived. Moreover, a document with both signautres, along with Squire Hall's signature is a one-of-a-kind item, right?

However, the document sold at auction for less than $12,000. If the legal case can be verified and the document is indeed authentic, I think the buyer has made an incredible investment!

Has anyone out there heard of this legal case or this document? If you can shed some light on it, please send me an email.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

"I Can Not But Tremble For You"

The president-elect was receiving dozens of letters everyday.

Some were threatening. “Permit me to address you from the verry center of secessionism & fire eating,” one began. The writer relayed a message from the citizens of Alabama: “They sweare that Mr Lincoln shall never be Enaugurated – as sure as He comes to Washington He will be shot, let the concequencies be what they may --”

Other letters offered advice. A Massachusetts politician predicted that “all fear of danger” would pass away “at the hour of your Inauguration” if Lincoln would simply remain quiet for the next few months. He should “maintain a ‘masterly inactivity’ in both word & deed.” The crisis would solve itself.

Conversely, the editor of the New York Times wrote Lincoln and encouraged him to say something to the South. Lincoln, or possibly a Republican friend, needed to issue a statement or make a speech. “The South misunderstands the Republican party,” he explained. It was up to the new administration to “correct the error.”

Yet amongst the threats and the contradictory advice, there were letters that no-doubt brought a smile to Lincoln’s face.

Joshua F. Speed wrote to the president-elect on this day in 1860. He had been Lincoln’s best friend two decades earlier. Though they slowly drifted apart, Speed wanted to congratulate his old friend:

Louisville Nov 14 1860

Dear Lincoln

I desire to tender you my sincere congratulations upon your election to the highest position in the world -- by the suffrage of a free people-- As a friend, I am rejoiced at your success -- as a political opponent I am not disappointed-- The result is what I expected--

That you will bring an honest purpose to bear upon all subjects upon which you are called to act I do not doubt-- Knowing you as I do and feeling for you as I have ever done -- I can not but tremble for you-- But all men and all questions sink into utter insignificance when compared with the good of our whole country and the preservation of our glorious Union-- You are I know as proud of its past glories as any man in the nation--

Its continuance and its future will depend very much upon how you deal with the inflamable material by which you are, and will be surrounded--

The eyes of the whole nation will be upon you while unfortunately the ears of one half of it will be closed to any thing you may say-- How to deal with the combustible material lying around you without setting fire to the edifice of which we are all so proud and of which you will be the chief custodian is a difficult task--

Upon this subject I have the views of a private citizen seeking no office for himself nor for any friend he has.

I will not even broach them in a letter-- But if it would be agreeable to you I will come & see you -- and I think can impart to you some information as to men & public sentiment here which may be valuable

With kind regards to Mrs L

I am as ever

Your friend

J. F. Speed

I know how you are troubled with admirers -- and letters of this kind-- Knowing this -- I will deem it no disrespect, and not take it unkindly if you decline the interview--

Be as frank as the pure commerce of friendship dictates--


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

"Let Revolution Come When the Constitution is Trampled Upon"

The Republican Party had triumphed in the election, but what would that mean? Different sections of the country had vastly different answers to that question.

Radicals in the Deep South foresaw disaster if they remained in the Union. Their editorials indicate that they believed Republicans would immediately attack slavery. If the South wanted to keep their institutions intact, the radicals said they must take preemptive action and secede from the Union.

Today’s editorial comes from a newspaper in Lexington, Kentucky. The editorial is remarkable for a number of reasons. Most obviously, the editorial was published in a Border State. Though slavery was well-entrenched in Kentucky, it paled in comparison to states in the Deep South. For instance, slaves made up 57.2 percent of South Carolina’s population, 55.2 percent in Mississippi, 46.9 percent in Louisiana, and over 45 percent in Alabama. However, slaves accounted for less than 20 percent of Kentucky’s population.

Though the writer lamented Republican victory in 1860 and feared that secession might one day become necessary, he did not call for immediate secession. The mere election of a sectional party to national office was not reason enough to sever the ties that bound the Union together. The editor called for a cautious, balanced approach to the looming conflict.

I have added this editorial to the Primary Documents page. Here it is in full:

“Submit to the Constitution, but Resist the First Attempt to Enforce the Principles of the Republican Party”

The Kentucky Statesman [Lexington, KY]

November 13, 1860

Pending the canvass just closed we repeatedly expressed the opinion that the election of Lincoln per se, under all the forms of law, ought not to be made the occasion of severing the present relations of the States and disrupting the confederacy. We assumed that position in full view of the movements which have been subsequently initiated, and now, with our most unwelcome expectations realized, we adhere to it. We would that Kentucky, by unanimous voice, could be induced thus to define her position. The attitude of our State demands at this juncture that her position be taken with great care; that our people be neither swayed by vain and senseless cries of “Union!” “Union!” nor be moved by what we must regard as a natural and just sympathy with our sister States of the South. Let Kentucky stand square up to the Union mark, but let her stand as firmly and boldly to the Constitution; let her be for the Union, but as firmly let her demand an observance of the Constitution. In a word, let her pledge no allegiance in advance to a union under a violated Constitution. Our position seems to us right and susceptible of clear and brief statement. We do not receive the success of the Republican party as the “fate of war.” It can not be regarded as the mere triumph of one man over another, or as the success of one political organization over a contending party. The verdict of the people on 6th of November can not be received and bowed to with the deference we are accustomed in this country to accord to the will of the majority. On the contrary, that verdict was wrong, radically, vitally wrong; it can not be reconciled with any reasonable hope of permanent union, nor can its enforcement be submitted to. The only hope of union is in the reversal of that verdict. The slave States can not and will never submit to the administration of the government upon the principles and policy as embodied in the platform of the Republican party. The principles enunciated in that instrument are directly opposed to the Constitution, are utterly subversive of the equality of the States, are destructive to all the rights of African slavery, and if enforced, must inevitably upturn our whole social system in the South and destroy the present Union. We flatly reject the cardinal idea of the Republican party, viz: the doctrine of an “Irrepressible Conflict,” as antagonistic to the fundamental article of the compact of union between the States, and we hold that any attempt to employ the arm of the Federal Government upon either side of that “conflict” will and ought to divide the confederacy. The Southern States will not and ought not to submit to the inauguration of these Republican principles into the Federal administration, but should resist them even to the dissolution of the Union. We, therefore, counsel acquiescence in Lincoln’s election, or rather in the recent verdict of the people, upon the distinct and unequivocal expression of strong hope, if not belief, that no real attempt will be made to carry but the measures avowed by his party. If we believed that the Federal administration would and could now be used to carry out the aggressions of fanaticism against slavery, our voice would now be for resistance. But we cling yet to a hope for the Union. We are now for submitting to the Constitution, and not to the carrying out of Republican principles. The South has never yet resisted the Constitution nor violated any of its provisions. Let us adhere to that position. Let us submit to the Constitution, under the forms of which Mr. Lincoln has been elected; but inasmuch as the Constitution does not compel us to submit to such infractions of its provisions as would degrade us, we would urge resistance to an attempted enforcement of Republican principles to the bitter end. Our position is, then, briefly this: as partizans we opposed Lincoln because of the enunciation of his platform; as citizens we must measure our loyalty by his official acts. Then we would acquiesce in his inauguration and submit to his administration as long as he infracts none of the guarantees of the Constitution, but resist the moment he employs his official authority to carry out the purposes of the Republican party, submit to Lincoln, but resist the exponent of Republicanism. As an individual citizen duly elected, let him have our allegiance; but as the representative of the “Irrepressible Conflict” doctrine, never submit to his official authority. Let us do all the Constitution requires—only that and nothing more. We are neither submissionists nor secessionist. We stand by the Constitution and advise no submission to its violation. Lincoln’s election per se is not an infraction of any provision of the Constitution, and we submit; his attempt to carry out the avowed purposes of his party, to use the Federal authority on the side of free labor, in the irrepressible conflict, would be a violation of the Constitution, and when that is proposed we are for resistance to the death. To our Southern friends we would appeal to postpone this resistance until the Republican platform is actually made the basis of Lincoln’s official administration. Don’t resist to the point of revolution a party platform, but await an attempt to enforce it by official acts. Let revolution come when the Constitution is trampled upon; let not resistance be predicated upon the purpose of even a successful party, to trample upon it. There is hope that Lincoln will not be so insane as to attempt to meet the purposes of his party, and there is stronger hope that he will not have the power to do it. Let us exhaust this hope, and when the proper time comes let us stand together. Let the Southern States, identified as they are in interest, act in concert. Wait, wait, wait, and if we fail to preserve the Union with a Constitution intact, then let us have a UNITED SOUTH.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Author Interview--Julie Fenster, The Case of Abraham Lincoln

Some interesting things are happening at! A few weeks ago I received a review copy of Julie Fenster's new book, The Case of Abraham Lincoln: A Story of Adultery, Murder and the Making of a Great President. I really enjoyed the book and planned on writing a traditional review, but a unique opportunity has come our way. The author has agreed to do an exclusive Question & Answer session with us!

I would like for readers to participate in the Q & A. So, if you have read the book and want to make a comment or ask a question about it, please send me an email or reply to this thread on the Discussion Board and I will try to incorporate your ideas into the Q & A session.

For those of you who haven't read the book yet, you can purchase a copy through Amazon by clicking on the link above.

Here is a short synopsis of The Case of Abraham Lincoln:

In early 1856, Abraham Lincoln was at a personal crossroads. Often despondent, he had grown bored with his work as a lawyer and was beginning to see himself as just a former Congressman without much of a future in politics. Later that year, as the gruesome murder case of George Anderson, a Springfield blacksmith, unfolded. Lincoln's legal and political career began to pick up speed. The string of lurid revelations that followed the crime became front page news across the country, as Lincoln rose in the national spotlight. The Anderson case reflected the spirit of the times: an inescapable dark world, hidden within the optimism and innocense of a young nation. With this case Lincoln's legal skills as a defender were challenged as never before and he was finally able to prove himself as a man with a great destiny.

Julie Fenster is the co-author (with Douglas Brinkley) of The New York Times best-seller Parish Priest. Her books include the award-winning Ether Day and Race of the Century. A regular contributor to American Heritage, Fenster has also written for The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. She lives in Syracuse, New York.

Friday, November 9, 2007

"You Were Last Night Hung in Effigy in This City"

The president-elect received an anonymous telegram from Pensacola, Florida:

Nov 8th

Pensacola Fla

You were last night hung in effigy in this city--

A Citizen

A reporter watched Lincoln read the telegram and asked him what he thought about it. Lincoln dismissed it, explaining that such feeling was “limited to a very small number, though very intense."

A free and fair election did not quiet the voices of secession; in fact, it had the opposite effect. An editorial in this morning’s Richmond Semi-Weekly Examiner did not waste time hanging the president-elect in effigy. Instead, the writer analyzed the results of the election and made an ominous prediction: “The Government of the Union is in the hands of the avowed enemies of one entire section. It is to be directed in hostility to the property of that section.” Would the South stand by and wait for the new government to assail them? “What is to be done, is the question that presses on every man," the editor concluded.

I have added the editorial to the Primary Documents section. Here it is in full:

Richmond Semi-weekly Examiner

[Richmond, Virginia]

November 9, 1860

It would seem that the sectional game has been fairly played out in the North. New York has gone for Lincoln by a majority larger than she cast for Fremont in 1856. Of the free States we see no reason to hope that the Black Republicans have lost more than two, and they amongst the smallest and weakest in political power -- those on the Pacific. The solid, compact mass of free States has solemnly given its sanction and its political power to the anti-slavery policy of the Black Republicans.--The idle canvass prattle about Northern conservation may now be dismissed. A party founded on the single sentiment, the exclusive feeling of hatred to African slavery, is now the controlling power in this Confederacy. Constitutional limitations on its powers are only such, in its creed, as its agents or itself shall recognize. It claims power for the Government which it will control, to construe the measure of its own authority, and to use the entire governmental power of this Confederacy to enforce its construction upon the people and States of this Union. No man can fail to see and know this who reads and understands what he reads. The fact is a great and a perilous truth. No clap trap about the Union, no details of private conversations of Northern men can alter it or weaken its force. It is here a present, living, mischievous fact. The Government of the Union is in the hands of the avowed enemies of one entire section. It is to be directed in hostility to the property of that section.

What is to be done, is the question that presses on every man.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

"The Tea Has Been Thrown Overboard"

Mary Boykin Chesnut

As the train made its way through South Carolina, Mary Boykin Chesnut’s traveling companion tapped her on the shoulder. “Lincoln’s elected,” she whispered.

“How do you know?”

“The man over there has a telegram.”

As word spread throughout the cabin, the “excitement was very great” and everyone began “talking at the same time.” One man stood up and announced: “The die is cast; no more vain regrets; sad forebodings are useless; the stake is life or death.” Another man cried out: “Now that the black radical Republicans have the power I suppose they will [John] Brown us all.”

Mary knew something important was happening. She recorded the scene in her diary and faithfully kept adding to it for the next four years.

The passengers aboard the train were not alone in their outrage. The Charleston Mercury had been calling for secession for several months. Now, just two days after the election, the newspaper called on South Carolina to take action.

I have added the following editorial to the Primary Documents section. Here it is in full:

“The News of Lincoln’s Election”

Mercury [Charleston, South Carolina]

November 8, 1860

Yesterday, November the 7th, will long be a memorable day in Charleston. The tea has been thrown overboard; the revolution of 1860 has been initiated. Intense though quiet excitement prevails throughout the community. The Government officials, as our columns will show, have resigned. From early evening on Tuesday, until two o'clock the next morning, the MERCURY office was crowded with anxious expectants of the news from New York. All day yesterday our bulletin board was surrounded and our office filled with a continually flowing crowd. At twelve o'clock was unfurled from our windows and stretched across the street a red flag, with the Palmetto and the Lone Star. A shout from below, and twice three hearty cheers, greeted its appearance. The Association of 1860 immediately assembled, and arrangements have been made for a public meeting to endorse the action of the Legislature in the call of a State Convention to assemble as soon as practicable. The feeling on all hands is for prompt separate State action. The Federal officers who have resigned their places are expected to address the meeting to assemble as soon as the Legislature shall have acted. Charleston is not behind the State, and will play her part in the grand drama now before us, as becomes her intelligence, her stake and her civilization. On every lip is the stern cry "vive la liberta!".

The city of Charleston looks to its legislators, as far as lies in their power, to see that the Commonwealth receives no detriment.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Trouble Has Passed

Free Port Wide Awake, November 17, 1860

The election results were in. In just their second national election, the Republicans had won the White House. Abraham Lincoln would be the sixteenth president of the United States.

Northern newspapers could not contain their enthusiasm. “Republicanism Triumphant over Fraud, Fusion, Cotton, Disunion, and Treason,” proclaimed the Chicago Tribune. The New York Times followed suit and praised the Northern electorate for “Rising in Indignation at the Menaces of the South.”

The North had elected Abraham Lincoln. He received 54 percent of the vote in the Northern states. If the other three candidates combined all of their Northern votes, they would not have won even the popular vote. Lincoln won all of the electoral votes in the free states (the only exception was New Jersey, where he split the seven electoral votes with Douglas).

However, Southern election results told a much different story. Lincoln’s name did not even appear on the ballot in any of the states that would later make up the Confederacy. He received a handful of votes from the Border States, but he won no electoral votes in any of the slave states. But again, if we add up all of the electoral votes won by Douglas, Breckinridge, and Bell, they still failed to surpass Lincoln’s total.

The slavery question had decided the election. The Republican Party took a clear stance on the issue; they would not touch slavery where the constitution protected it (in the slave states); however, they vowed never to allow the peculiar institution to expand into the territories.

A reporter caught up with Lincoln the day after the election. He watched as the president-elected received “the heartiest congratulations of his friends, or in other words, of the entire community.” That evening, Republicans held a reception at the statehouse. A number of politicians gave rousing speeches. At the end, they asked Lincoln if he would like to say a few words, but he declined.

The American people had already spoken. The people, both North and South, had exercised their constitutional right to participate in a free and fair election. When the ballots were counted, the Republican Party platform had prevailed. What was left to say?

It seems to me that history gives us a tremendous advantage. We know how this story will play out. We know that the Election of 1860 is the most important election in American history. We know that the election was not the end of a suspenseful story; instead, it was merely the beginning of a much larger tragedy. We know that it sparked secession, Civil War, and ultimately, the overthrow of American slavery.

But the participants did not have that luxury. As the Republicans listened to the victory speeches in the statehouse in Springfield, I have no doubt that many of them thought the trouble had passed. Unfortunately, we know they were mistaken.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

"We Are Elected!"

Cannons sounded and musicians struck up a tune at sunrise. This was no ordinary day in Springfield. Today was Election Day and one of their own might be elected president of the United States.

A crowd of well-wishers and reporters sat with Abraham Lincoln in his office in the statehouse. The mood was light. The presidential candidate was cracking jokes and focusing on local races.

After much prodding, William H. Herndon finally convinced Lincoln that he should cast a ballot in today’s election. At about 3 o’clock, Herndon, along with Ward Hill Lamon and Elmer Ellsworth, accompanied Lincoln to the polls. Refusing to cast a vote for president, Lincoln cut off the top of the ballot and instead voted for the state and local offices.

At about five o’clock, Lincoln took a break and headed home to tell Mary and their three boys about the day. After eating dinner with them and relaxing for a couple of hours, he returned to the state capitol.

A large crowd had already gathered outside.

The returns started to come in. The telegraph operator sent each message to Lincoln. A reporter noticed how Lincoln “seemed to understand their bearing on the general result in the State and commented upon every return by way of comparison with previous elections.”

By nine o’clock the returns were coming in with greater frequency. Lincoln decided to take the telegraph operator up on his offer from the previous day. Lincoln, along with a handful of friends, headed over to the telegraph office so they could read the returns as they arrived.

They received word that Illinois and Indiana had gone Republican, by ten o’clock Pennsylvania had joined them. Everything was going well, but they had still not heard a definite word from New York. New York meant everything.

At eleven o’clock Lincoln and his group filtered down to Watson’s Saloon, where local Republicans were serving supper. When Lincoln entered the saloon, he was greeted with the words, “How do you do, Mr. President?”

Lincoln remained in the telegraph office until about two o’clock in the morning. And then the news came across the wire. The Republican Party had carried New York.

Lincoln was the next president of the United States.

The room erupted in cheers. His friends shook him and asked him if he was happy. “Who could help being so under such circumstances?” Lincoln replied.

Word soon filtered out to the throng of well-wishers assembled in the street. The crowd cheered for “Old Abe.” Church bells began to ring.

Did Lincoln want to say a few words to his well-wishers? He declined, saying he just wanted to go home.

Lincoln later recalled that he “went home, but not to get much sleep, for I then felt as I never had before, the responsibility that was upon me.”

As he approached his house on Eighth and Jackson, Mary greeted him at the door.

“Mary, Mary,” he said, “we are elected!”

Monday, November 5, 2007

Election Eve

The election of 1860 was now just a day away and Springfield was crawling with reporters. The presidential frontrunner was not talking about policy matters with them, nor was he eager to discuss Southern threats of secession. Instead, he wanted everyone to know he was not worried. The democratic process would play out and the danger would pass. When a reporter approached him with pen and pad, Lincoln was more apt to tell a joke than to recite a speech.

A reporter for the New York Tribune filed a story detailing one such incident that occurred on this day in 1860. As Lincoln entered the post office to collect his mail, a bystander asked, “How are you going to vote tomorrow?”

“For [Richard] Yates for governor,” Lincoln replied.

The man shook his head, clarifying his question, “But how are you going to vote for president?”

“By ballot!” Lincoln winked.

I’ve always been fascinated by the letters Lincoln received during this period. Several sources tell us that he was receiving death threats on a daily basis. Lincoln himself referred to these letters, as did several of his contemporaries, who claimed to have read some of them. However, the letters have not survived. Friends reported that Lincoln burned them.

But what other sorts of letters did he receive during this period? A quick survey of the Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress for November 5, 1860 yields a fine cross-section.

The manager of the telegraph office in Springfield, C. F. McIntire, wrote Lincoln a short note, inviting him to spend election night in the telegraph office, where he promised “you can receive the good news without delay.”

Captain George W. Hazzard also offered his services to the presidential hopeful. He had a leave of absence of the army and was not expected to report back until spring. “I hope it is not improper for me to say that no person knows the American army better than I. I have studied its organization, laws, tactics and internal economy for seventeen years.” If Lincoln wished to speak with him about military affairs, he would travel to Springfield immediately.

Lincoln also received a letter from a former colleague. George N. Eckert had served a single term in the Thirtieth Congress along with Lincoln. He was delighted to report that Lincoln would win the state of Pennsylvania tomorrow. While that was good news, the former Whig wanted to warn Lincoln against making a grave mistake. If he had any ideas about placing Simon Cameron in his cabinet, he should be warned. “He is corrupt beyond belief. He is rich by plunder -- and can not be trusted any where,” he wrote. “The particulars I can give you on some convenient occasion. He being our Senator you should and must know him. I had intended to make you a visit this week for the express purpose of putting you on your guard against Genl Cameron, but circumstances forbid my absence.”

Lincoln received yet another letter from a political acquaintance. James Watson Webb had written Lincoln throughout the campaign with updates regarding the New York and Washington press. Weeks earlier, he had even encouraged Lincoln to issue some sort of statement to ease Southern fears, but Lincoln did not take his advice. Today, Webb warned of “a large band of ‘Plug-Ugly,’ and Rioters” who planned to disturb the election in Baltimore. Webb assured Lincoln that they would “be cared for.”

Though it is hardly a complete picture, the sketch provides some perspective of what Lincoln’s incoming correspondence might have looked like on one day in November, 1860.

Now the real waiting began. The election was just a day away.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Voices of Secession--Part 4

The election of 1860 was now just two days away. The voices of secession were growing louder, but it is important to remember that the voices were not shouting in unison. Though it seemed likely, no one could say with absolute certainty that the Republicans would triumph on Election Day, just as no one could predict what such a victory would mean for the South.

On this date in 1860, the editor of The Daily Picayune in New Orleans published an 1,800 word analysis of the upcoming election. By comparing American constitutional and political history against the current secessionist movement, the editor reached some startling conclusions. By the end of his essay, he advised every Southern man to vote in the upcoming election, but after having cast their vote, the editor pleaded with them to abide by the “decision of the ballot.”

Indeed, the voices of secession were not all shouting the same thing.

I have added the editorial to the Primary Documents section. Here it is in full:

“What Is the True Issue?”

The Daily Picayune, New Orleans

November 4, 1860

We are on the eve of a most important event. The result of the election just at hand may be fraught with momentous consequences. A determination is openly proclaimed in many quarters not to abide by the decision of a majority, if it secure a sectional triumph; and a great nation, blessed beyond all others in its basket and its store, but unfortunately torn by hostile and contending factions, seems on the very verge of revolution.

The gravity of the occasion suggests the inquiry, what is the extent of the wrongs suffered, that so arouse the fears and passions of men as to obliterate the influence of patriotism, and outweigh every consideration of public and private interest? What cause have men of the South to appeal to the god of battles for justice? On what issue is the determination made up to seek safety in a disruption of the government which has only shown an almost unlimited capacity for good?

Those who now strive to excite a tempest of popular passion, declare the election of the chief of a sectional party sufficient cause for resistance; but, as if conscious of the weakness of such an issue before a people reverencing constitutional forms of action and taught the duty of yielding to the voice of a majority, they triumphantly ask, in the manner of the most positive assertion, has not the constitution been often violated? Has not outrage followed on the heels of outrage, and forbearance but encouraged aggression, until honor, and manliness, and safety, are only to be maintained by resistance? Aroused to jealousy by the fact that the free States, if united in sentiment, can control the majority of numbers, in the House of Representatives and the Senate, and have in their power the distribution of the spoils of office and the direction of the policy of the government -- excited beyond measure by the aggressive tendency of this Northern sectional party, that even now exults in the prospect of victory, and proclaims its irreconcilable hostility to slavery, they look back on the closed issues of the past, and all the bleeding wounds, cicatrized by time, open afresh. They seem to see but one continued series of assaults and weak defenses; one perpetual chain of concessions to be followed by those still more vital to the rights of the States, and these united in one bill of complaint are presented to the people, as an irresistible argument to stir them up to immediate and concerted resistance.

But can men of the South revive the strifes of the past to render the present issue with the North more strong? Is our cause of complaint so serious? Have the slave States been constantly suffering wrong, while possessing themselves in patience, always yielding yet never satisfying the grasping demands of the free States? Let us appeal to facts for a decision.

From the adoption of the constitution to the election of Martin Van Buren -- from 1789 to 1841 -- a period of sixty-two years, a Southern man occupied the honored post of Chief Executive of the nation, with the exception of the single term of each of the two Adams' from Massachusetts.

During this period -- that of nearly two generations -- two-thirds of the foreign missions and the more important of domestic offices were enjoyed by Southern men.

From 1841 to 1860, but two Presidents have been elected -- Harrison and Fillmore -- who were not emphatically the choice of the South and really nominated and elected by the South. Of the six Presidents since 1841, three were Southern men.

It was the boast of Southern statesmen as late as ten years ago that the South had dictated the domestic policy of the nation. The purchase of Louisiana Territory was at the instigation of the South.

The annexation of Texas was conceived by Southern minds and achieved by Southern votes.

The war of 1812, from which the country emerged with so much glory, was voted and sustained by the South.

The war with Mexico, which added an empire in extent to the territory of the Republic, is due to the policy of men of the South thus extending our Southern boundaries from the western limits of Texas to the Pacific Ocean. Of all this has the South reason to complain?

But our position is scarcely less improved in these series of years in regard to the question of slavery. If, under the operation of the laws of climate and production, slavery has been extinguished in that little patch of States denominated New England, in New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, the purchase of the Territory of Louisiana has given us Louisiana, Arkansas and Missouri as slave States -- a region of country much larger than that from which State sovereignty has eradicated human bondage.

The annexation of Texas, in 1845, devoted to slavery a territory equal to all New England, New York and New Jersey, and the acquisition of New Mexico by conquest, in which slavery has been established by territorial law, carries the institution two degrees above the line of the Missouri Compromise. Can we complain that the territorial limits of slavery have been circumscribed, or go back to this history of its extension to strengthen the catalogues of our grievances ?

But, it is said, the perpetual agitation of this question in and out of Congress has driven the South to unjust concessions, every one of which should have been made the cause of resistance to the Federal Government; and that each as it followed the other in the order of succession increased the intolerance and aggressions of the free North. The Missouri Compromise was the first in order. If it was wrong, the South has to blame only itself; for it came from a representative of a slave State, and was supported by the almost unanimous vote of Southern delegates in both Houses of Congress. It was ratified again and again by the popular vote of the slave States, until it came to be regarded to have almost as binding a character as the constitution itself.

The next great struggle on the question of slavery resulted in the compromise bill of 1850. Here again the South gave birth to the act, and it was sustained, not only by the Southern vote in Congress, but was ratified by the people themselves. Georgia and Mississippi and South Carolina made the issue of resistance against it, and the people, with majorities unprecedented in any political contest, sustained the work of the noble patriots of that gloomy day. The South is then precluded by its own action from reopening the issues then settled and making them living questions at this time. Right or wrong, they belong to the dead past. A golden era of peace and general accord followed, until the elements of sectional strife were again let loose from their sealed cavern by the repeal of the Missouri Compromise and the Kansas and Nebraska bill.

Whether the South originated this act or not, it united in almost solid phalanx to sustain it, while the North was almost alone in opposition to the measure.

This reopened the agitations happily set at rest, and again plunged the country into an excitement which has resulted in the birth of a party that now stands avowedly sectional, openly aggressive, and by its doctrines, insults and defies the South. But it has to make a forward step to present a tangible issue that can be met only by a revolution. Its principles are dangerous if an attempt be made to put them in practice. No man with a Southern heart will defend its fanatical fury, or excuse its menacing attitude towards those States coequal with the free commonwealths. But can we look back upon the history of the past and find serious reason to complain, except it be of our own blindness and folly? Can we hope to strengthen the issue now proposed by accumulating with it the series of acts, or any one of them, alluded to in this brief sketch?

The very agitation of which we complain has in one respect accrued to our benefit. It has evolved the true principles on which the institution of slavery is based. It has convinced all Southern men of the moral right, the civil, social and political benefit of slavery. It has done more; it has modified the opinion of a large number of men in the free States, on this subject, and is gradually changing the opinion of the world -- bringing it to regard slavery with more liberality.

The number of slaves has increased in a remarkable ratio, and today is stronger on the whole frontier line of the free States than it was ten, nay five years ago.

These notes of history cannot be denied, and when we meet the crisis created by the ballot of the nation about to be cast, let it be remembered that we have no cause to resist, except the unconstitutional, the weak, the untenable one of having lost our choice for the President of the Republic. The movement of demagogues and politicians to make this election, if adverse to the South, an opportunity for secession -- which we have previously shown is but a word to mask the idea of revolution -- is full of imminent peril to the South, not to the Union as we have been supposed to have asserted. Upon an issue so weak, to go into a contest which involves all the consequences of treason, the South must fail, for she cannot hope for accord among the citizens of anyone State. The time may come when disunion, with all its consequences, must be chosen, but a failure now precludes future confidence in leaders or hope in resistance.

Let every Southern man feel it to be a duty he owes not simply to his country, but to his family and himself, to vote in the coming election so that he shall in no manner countenance the idea that his State or his parish is in favor of resisting the decision of the ballot. The home perils which a contrary course involve are of the most terrible character. Nations die a terrible death, just in proportion to their strength and vitality. If it be the destiny of the Union now to perish, none can estimate the throes of agony, the terrible scenes of distress, which will precede it. If the fires of civil war be kindled -- and kindled they must be by any formidable movement in hostility to the Federal Government -- they will burn until all is consumed that is perishable, and the land become a waste over which shall brood the silence of another and hopeless desolation.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Voices of Secession--Part 3

The election of 1860 was still three days away, but the Southern editor could see what was happening. Abraham Lincoln would become the next president of the United States. That's right. A sectional party, devoted to preventing the expansion of slavery, would come to power.

On this date in 1860, the Charleston Mercury in South Carolina ran the following editorial. The voices of secession would only grow louder in the coming days.

I have added it to the Primary Documents section. Here it is in full:

“What Shall the South Carolina Legislature Do?”

The Charleston Mercury, November 3, 1860

The issue before the country is the extinction of slavery. No man of common sense, who has observed the progress of events, and who is not prepared to surrender the institution, with the safety and independence of the South, can doubt that the time for action has come—now or never. The Southern States are now in the crisis of their fate; and, if we read aright the signs of the times, nothing is needed for our deliverance, but that the ball of revolution be set in motion. There is sufficient readiness among the people to make it entirely successful. Co-operation will follow the action of any State. The example of a forward movement only is requisite to unite Southern States in a common cause. Under these circumstances the Legislature of South Carolina is about to meet. It happens to assemble in advance of the Legislature of any other State. Being in session at this momentous juncture—the Legislature of that State which is most united in the policy of freeing the South from Black Republican domination—the eyes of the whole country, and most especially of the resistance party of the Southern States, is intently turned upon the conduct of this body. We have innumerable assurances that the men of action in each and all of the Southern States, earnestly desire South Carolina to exhibit promptitude and decision in this conjuncture. Other states are torn and divided, to a greater or less extent, by old party issues. South Carolina alone is not. Any practical move would enable the people of other States to rise above their past divisions, and lock shields on the broad ground of Southern security. The course of our Legislature will either greatly stimulate and strengthen, or unnerve the resistance elements of the whole South. A Convention is the point to which their attention will be chiefly directed.

The question of calling a Convention by our Legislature does not necessarily involve the question of separate or co-operative action. That is a question for the Convention when it assembles, under the circumstances which shall exist when it assembles. All desire the action of as many Southern States as possible, for the formation of a Southern Confederacy. But each should not delay and wait on the other. As these States are separate sovereignties, each must act separately; and whether one or the other acts first or last, we suppose is of no sort of consequence. What is really essential is this—that by the action of one or more States, there shall be the reasonable probability that a Southern Confederacy will be formed. We say probability,—because there is no certainty in the future of human affairs; and in the position in which the South will be placed by the election of an Abolitionist white man as President of the United States, and an Abolitionist colored man as Vice President of the United States, we should not hesitate, somewhat to venture. The existence of slavery is at stake. The evils of submission are too terrible for us to risk them, from vague fears of failure, or a jealous distrust of our sister Cotton States. We think, therefore, that the approaching Legislature should provide for the assembling of a Convention of the people of South Carolina, as soon as it is ascertained that Messrs. LINCOLN and HAMLIN will have a majority in the Electoral Colleges for President and Vice President of the United States. The only point of difficulty is as to the time when the Convention shall assemble. In our judgment, it should assemble at the earliest possible time consistent with the opportunity for co-operative action of other Southern States, which may, like ourselves, be determined not to submit to Black Republican domination at Washington. Delay is fatal, while our move will retard no willing State from co-operation. South Carolina, as a sovereign State, is bound to protect her people, but she should so act as to give the other Southern States the opportunity of joining in this policy. The Governors of Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia can act simultaneously. With this qualification, the earliest time is the best, for the following reasons:

1. Our great agricultural staples are going to market. The sooner we act, the more of these staples we will have on hand, to control the conduct of the people of the North and of foreign nations, to secure a peaceful result for our deliverance. Thousands at the North, and millions in Europe, need our Cotton to keep their looms in operation. Let us act, before we have parted with our agricultural productions for the season.

2. The commercial and financial interests of the South require that we should act speedily in settling our relations towards the North. Suspense is embarrassment and loss. Decision, with separation, will speedily open new sources of wealth and prosperity, and relieve the finances of the South through the establishment of new channels. In all changes of Government, respect should be had to all classes of the people, and the least possible loss be inflicted on any.

3. The moral effect of promptitude will be immense. Delay will dispirit our friends, and inspire confidence in our enemies. The evils against which we are to provide are not the growth of yesterday. They have been gathering head for thirty years. We have tried, again and again, to avert them by compromise and submission. Submission has failed to avert them; and wise, prompt and resolute action is our last and only course for safety.

4. Black Republican rule at Washington will not commence until the 4th of March next—four short months. Before that time all that South Carolina or the other Southern States intend to do, should be done. The settlement of our relations towards the General Government, in consequence of our measures of protection, should be completed during the existing Administration.

5. It is exceedingly important, also, that our measures should be laid as soon as possible before the present Congress. The secession of one or more States from the Union must be communicated to the President of the United States. He has done all he could to arrest the sectional madness of the North. He knows that we are wronged and endangered by Black Republican ascendancy, and he will not, we have a right to suppose, lend himself to carry out their bloody policy.

6. By communication from the President of the United States, as well as by the withdrawal from Congress of the members of the seceding States, the question of the right of a State to secede from the Union, with the question of a Force Bill, must arise in Congress for action. The Representatives from the other Southern States will most probably be forced either to continue members of a body which orders the sword to be drawn against the seceding States, or they must leave it. They will most probably leave it; and thus the South will be brought together by action in Congress, even though they fail to co-operate at once by their State authorities. It will not be wise to pretermit either of these intrumentalities for the union and co-action of the Southern States; but, it is our opinion, that Congress is the best place to unite them. By prompt action, and through the question of secession in Congress, the agitations which must ensue, will not only tend to unite the Southern members of Congress, but to unite and stimulate State action in the States they represent. We conclude, therefore, by urging the Legislature about to assemble, to provide for the calling a Convention, as soon as it is ascertained that Messrs. LINCOLN and HAMLIN have the majority in the Electoral Colleges for President and Vice President of the United States; and that this Convention shall assemble at the earliest day practicable, consistent with the knowledge of our course by our sister Southern States. To this end we would respectfully suggest Nov. 22d and 23d as the day of election, and December 15th as the time of assembling the Convention of the people of South Carolina.

Friday, November 2, 2007

"A Few Appropriate Remarks"

Gettysburg National Cemetery

The casualties were staggering. Almost 50,000 men were killed, wounded, or captured during the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863.

Three days of war had transformed the little town in Pennsylvania. Homes, schools, businesses, and churches became hospitals. Moms and dads, teachers and students, carpenters and preachers all became nurses.

The work was horrific.

Some 3,000 horse carcasses were scattered among the 8,000 men lying dead beneath the summer sun. The men needed to be buried, but the horses could be burned. As the smoke rose into the air and filtered through the town, the people of Gettysburg became violently ill. The scenes of death and dying were ghastly, but the stench was unbearable.

Four months later, the town had come a long way. A site adjacent to the battlefield had been purchased and work began on a proper cemetery for the fallen.

Local attorney David Wills deserves much of the credit for Soldiers National Cemetery at Gettysburg. A soldier’s monument stands at the center of the cemetery, while the graves of individual soldiers are arranged in a series of semicircles around the monument.

Wills also organized the dedication ceremony. He arranged for renowned orator Edward Everett to address the crowd. He would give a lengthy address, detailing the complete history of the battle. But Wills also wanted the president to attend the ceremony. It was a long shot, but it was worth a try. On this date in 1863, Wills sent President Lincoln an invitation:

Gettysburg Nov. 2nd 1863


The several States having soldiers in the Army of the Potomac, who were killed at the Battle of Gettysburg, or have since died at the various hospitals which were established in the vicinity, have procured grounds on a prominent part of the Battle Field for a Cemetery, and are having the dead removed to them and properly buried.

These Grounds will be Consecrated and set apart to this sacred purpose, by appropriate Ceremonies, on Thursday, the 19th distant,--

Hon Edward Everett will deliver the Oration.

I am authorized by the Governors of the different States to invite You to be present, and participate in these Ceremonies, which will doubtless be very imposing and solemnly impressive.

It is the desire that, after the Oration, You, as Chief Executive of the Nation, formally set apart these grounds to their Sacred use by a few appropriate remarks.

It will be a source of great gratification to the many widows and orphans that have been made almost friendless by the Great Battle here, to have you here personally; and it will kindle anew in the breasts of the Comrades of these brave dead, who are now in the tented field or nobly meeting the foe in the front, a confidence that they who sleep in death on the Battle Field are not forgotten by those highest in Authority; and they will feel that, should their fate be the same, their remains will not be uncared for.

We hope you will be able to be present to perform this last solemn act to the Soldier dead on this Battle Field.

I am with great
Respect, Your Excellency's
Obedient Servant,

David Wills

Agent for
A. G. Curtin Gov. of Penna, and acting for all the States.

PS: I will be posting more "Voices of Secession" on Saturday and Sunday!