Monday, March 31, 2008

"Lincolniana on Ebay"

A big "thank you" to the readers who sent me email regarding my posts last week regarding various Lincoln-related items available for auction.

As I said previously, I not only want to know what items are on the market, but I want to know how much certain items are worth. In my view, the best way to learn is to monitor the online auction sites. In addition to Ebay, I routinely check Sotheby's, as well as Heritage Auction Galleries.

Readers seem to want to know about these auctions, so I have decided to make such updates a regular part of

Notice on the right-hand side of this blog, on the navigation bar, there is a new page titled "Lincolniana on Ebay." Each week I plan on updating the page with the latest Lincoln-related manuscripts, photographs, campaign memorabilia, and books that are available for auction.

If I ever figure out an effective way to highlight auctions from Sothebys or Heritage, I will be sure to add those as well.

Again, I hope you find the new page as useful as I do.

Friday, March 28, 2008

May I Have Your Autograph?

Lincoln Autograph at Gettysburg

I suspect more than one person asked Abraham Lincoln for his autograph while he was in Gettysburg, but only one such signature has survived. Sotheby’s thinks the lone Lincoln autograph could be worth a million dollars.

No word on who the autograph-seeker was, but the person was able to get the signature of nearly every dignitary who listened to the Gettysburg Address:

Secretary of State William H. Seward

Secretary of War Simon Cameron

Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtin

Two Generals who Fought at Gettysburg: Abner Doubleday and George Sykes

Lincoln’s Secretaries: John Hay and John Nicolay

Various Foreign Dignitaries

The entire autograph album will be on display at Sotheby’s gallery in New York until next Wednesday, but on Thursday, April 3, 2008 at 10 am, it hits the auction block.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

"Wishing to be Happy while She is Otherwise"

Joshua and Fanny Henning Speed

This is one of my favorite Lincoln letters.

He had just received a letter from his recently married friend Joshua F. Speed.

On this date in 1842, Lincoln penned an extraordinary reply.

In the first 200 words, Lincoln conveys how happy he is for his friend, but then he transitions to his own sad situation:

I am not going beyond the truth, when I tell you, that the short space it took me to read your last letter, gave me more pleasure, than the total sum of all I have enjoyed since that fatal first of Jany.'41.

For the next 100 words, Lincoln makes no effort to conceal his frustration. His troubled courtship with Mary Todd comes bubbling toward the surface. Speed and his new bride were happy, but Mary consumes Lincoln’s thoughts. He had made her unhappy. “That still kills my soul,” Lincoln writes. “I can not but reproach myself, for even wishing to be happy while she is otherwise.”

Lincoln suddenly stops himself from descending further into despair, but notice, it never completely fades away:

Dear Speed: Springfield, March 27th. 1842

Yours of the 10th. Inst. was received three or four days since. You know I am sincere, when I tell you, the pleasure it's contents gave me was and is inexpressible. As to your farm matter, I have no sympathy with you. I have no farm, nor ever expect to have; and, consequently, have not studied the subject enough to be much interested with it. I can only say that I am glad you are satisfied and pleased with it.

But on that other subject, to me of the most intense interest, whether in joy or sorrow, I never had the power to withhold my sympathy from you. It can not be told, how it now thrills me with joy, to hear you say you are ``far happier than you ever expected to be.'' That much I know is enough. I know you too well to suppose your expectations were not, at least sometimes, extravagant; and if the reality exceeds them all, I say, enough, dear Lord. I am not going beyond the truth, when I tell you, that the short space it took me to read your last letter, gave me more pleasure, than the total sum of all I have enjoyed since that fatal first of Jany.'41 [2]. Since then, it seems to me, I should have been entirely happy, but for the never-absent idea, that there is one still unhappy whom I have contributed to make so. That still kills my soul. I can not but reproach myself, for even wishing to be happy while she is otherwise. She accompanied a large party on the Rail Road cars, to Jack-sonville last monday; and on her return, spoke, so that I heard of it, of having enjoyed the trip exceedingly. God be praised for that.

You know with what sleepless vigilance I have watched you, ever since the commencement of your affair; and altho' I am now almost confident it is useless, I can not forbear once more to say that I think it is even yet possible for your spirits to flag down and leave you miserable. If they should, dont fail to remember that they can not long remain so.

One thing I can tell you which I know you will be glad to hear; and that is, that I have seen Sarah, [3] and scrutinized her feelings as well as I could, and am fully convinced, she is far happier now, than she has been for the last fifteen months past.

You will see by the last Sangamo Journal that I made a Temperance speech on the 22. of Feb. which I claim that Fanny and you shall read as an act of charity to me; for I can not learn that any body else has read it, or is likely to. Fortunately, it is not very long and I shall deem it a sufficient compliance with my request, if one of you listens while the other reads it. As to your Lockridge matter, it is only necessary to say that there has been no court since you left, and that the next, commences to-morrow morning, during which I suppose we can not fail to get a judgement. [4]

I wish you would learn of Everett [5] what he will take, over and above a discharge for all trouble we have been at, to take his business out of our hands and give it to somebody else. It is impossible to collect money on that or any other claim here now; and altho' you know I am not a very petulant ma[n,] I declare I am almost out of patience with [Mr.] Everett's endless importunity. It seems like [he n]to only writes all the letters he can himself; b[ut] gets every body else in Louisville and vicinity to be constantly writing to us about his claim.

I have always [h]eard that Mr. Evere[tt is] a very clever fellow, and I am very [sorry] he can not be obliged; but it does seem to me he ought to know we are interested [to] collect his money, and therefore would do [it] if we could. I am neither joking nor in a [pet] when I say we would thank him to transfer h[is] business to some other, without any compensation for what we have done, provided he will see the court cost paid, for which we are security.

The sweet violet you enclosed, came safely to hand, but it was so dry, and mashed so fla[t,] that it crumbled to dust at the first attempt to handle it. The juice that mashed out of it, stained a [place] on the letter, which I mean to preserve and ch[erish] for the sake of her who procured it to be se[nt.] My renewed good wishes to her, in particula[r,] and generally to all such of your relatives as know me. As ever LINCOLN


[1] ALS, IHi

[2] The date on which Lincoln asked to be released from his engagement to Mary Todd.

[3] Sarah Rickard.

[4] On March 28, Logan & Lincoln obtained judgment for $312.09 in James Bell & Company v. John Lockridge. Speed had been a partner in Bell & Company.

[5] A friend of Speed's who lived in Louisville, Kentucky.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Notes from the Microfilm Reader

Lincoln's Horse, Old Bob, in 1865

I spent some time at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library last weekend. If you’ve never killed an afternoon scanning microfilm, you're missing out.

Of course, I’m only half-joking.

I admit, the microfilm experience can be frustrating. It can be difficult to locate the right microfilm reel or the right article within the reel. Equipment can be difficult to operate and sometimes it completely breaks down.

Thankfully, bad microfilm experiences are few and far between at a first-rate facility like the ALPL.

I had a very good time while I was there. That’s right, a good time staring at microfilm.

How is that possible?

It happens when the room is dark and quiet and I’ve already found the things I was looking for. I can get lost in the experience.

It happened to me again last weekend.

I found myself just reading the newspaper. I’m talking about a newspaper written 170 years ago! Each issue was only a few pages long: a page for national news, another for local, and a page or two of advertisements.

The ads were especially good. The fantastic descriptions of law firms and miracle tonics more than made-up for the lack of colorful illustrations.

I read through a week or two of the Sangamo Journal [Springfield, IL] before I realized I had drifted off to the nineteenth century. This article, published 172 years ago today [March 26, 1836], caught my eye:

FROM a stable in Springfield, on Wednesday, 18th inst. a large bay horse, star in his forehead, plainly marked with harness; supposed to be eight years old; had been shod all round, but is believed to have lost some of his shoes, and trots and paces. Any person who will take up said horse, and leave information at the Journal office, or with the subscriber at New-salem, shall be liberally paid for their trouble. A. LINCOLN.

I don’t know if Lincoln ever found his horse, but as I was walking across campus today, I found myself hoping he did.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Ebay's Lincoln

I like to check the auction sites for Lincoln-related items. Though I have never bid on a Lincoln document or a period piece, I like to know what is out there. Ebay is one of the sites I monitor.

I thought it would be fun to pass along interesting items for your viewing pleasure. Recently, I learned how to create "widgets" like the one pictured above. It is an easy way to relay the information. You can see a very brief item description, the highest bid, as well as a countdown to the end of the auction. If you click the green bar that says "View & Bid," it will take you directly to the auction page where you will be able to read more about the item, view pictures, and place a bid if you so desire.

The item (pictured above) that caught my attention this week appears to be a letter of recommendation written by Lincoln on Executive Mansion stationary. According to my eyes, the letter reads as follows:

Executive Mansion,

Washington, Sep. 24, 1862

Major General Halleck,


Capt Thadeus P. Mott of the 19th Infantry, is now at New York as a mustering officer - I remember seeing him once or twice last year, and hearing him always represented as a superior artillery officer. His friends wish him to have a battery; and I wish think the question is worth considering -

Yours truly

A. Lincoln

The letter does not appear in The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. However, according to the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System, a soldier named Thaddeus P. Mott did indeed serve in the Union ranks. While Lincoln identified the soldier as a member of the 9th Infantry, the database identifies Captain Mott as a member of the 3rd Independent Battery, New York Light Artillery.

The date of the letter is very interesting. The Battle of Antietam occured just seven days earlier, while the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation was issued just two days before the president wrote this letter of recommendation.

According to the Lincoln Log: A Daily Chronology, Wednesday, September 24, 1862 was a very busy day for the president:

Special cabinet meeting considers expediency of treaties regarding voluntary colonization of Negroes and proper answer to treaty complaints of Cherokees. Official Records—Armies, 490-91.

President proclaims that "all Rebels and Insurgents" and their abettors guilty of any disloyal practice are subject to martial law, and all such persons arrested are deprived of benefits of writ of habeas corpus. Proclamation Suspending the Writ of Habeas Corpus, 24 September 1862, CW, 5:436-37.

Prepares letter of introduction for Hon. Edward Everett, orator, statesman, and former senator from Massachusetts. "While I commend him to the consideration of those, whom he may meet, I am quite conscious that he could better introduce me than I him, in Europe." Abraham Lincoln to Whom It May Concern, 24 September 1862, CW, 5:437-38.

Large crowd with band and speeches serenades President in honor of Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln says: "What I did, I did after very full deliberation, and under a very heavy and solemn sense of responsibility. I can only trust in God I have made no mistake." Washington Star, 24 September 1862; Randall, Lincoln, 3:12; Reply to Serenade in Honor of Emancipation Proclamation, 24 September 1862, CW, 5:438-39.

Disclaimer: Please understand that by highlighting an auction, I am in no way vouching for the authenticity of any item. Authentication is a process that requires much more than simply seeing a picture, reading the item description, and gathering information that is freely available online. Before placing a bid, I strongly encourage you to find out as much about the item, as well as the seller, as possible.

Click Here For More Lincolniana on Ebay!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Standing Where Lincoln Stood?

Mike Schneider, Monroe County, IL

Dozens of communities throughout the Midwest claim to have a connection to Abraham Lincoln. Signs marking the spot where he slept or spoke are not uncommon. Proving or disproving such claims is often quite difficult. Historians might assemble their evidence, but local tradition is often a hard thing to contradict. Today, I found a nice example of this phenomenon.

Officials in Monroe County, Illinois are planning to renovate the courthouse. They want to turn the old courtroom into a modern conference room. The project, which might cost as much as $125,000, calls for multi-media capabilities, wireless networking, and nice "upholstered, fold-up seats" to repelace the old nineteenth-century "church pew" seating.

Sounds good so far, right?

Well, local tradition says Lincoln, then just a young circuit-riding lawyer, argued a case in the old courtroom.

The community is proud of their Lincoln connection. When schoolchildren visit the courthouse, tour guides tell them they are standing where Lincoln once stood.

A Lincoln connection is unusual for a small county in the St. Louis Metro Area. Why would they erase their connection to Lincoln? Why convert a courtroom steeped in tradition into a mundane conference room?

It turns out their Lincoln connection is dubious.

The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln: Second Edition has documented the sixteenth president’s twenty-five year legal career. Researchers have identified 5,200 cases in which Lincoln was involved; unfortunately, there are no entries for Monroe County.

The database contains every known Lincoln legal case, but others may still be out there. Over the last eight years, researchers have added dozens of cases to the database. They will continue to do so whenever new cases emerge.

If documentary evidence of Lincoln in Monroe County exists, the folks at the Papers of Abraham Lincoln in Springfield would love to hear about it, as would, I suspect, the opponents of the courtroom-turned-conference room in Monroe County.

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Cornerstone Speech

Alexander Stephens

It is the most fundamental question of the Civil War Era. It may also be the most loaded question in all of American history—Why did the South secede?

For nearly a century and a half, historians have offered various answers; however, the participants themselves told us why they did it. Various newspaper editorials outlined the case for secession. Certainly the Confederate states laid out their reasons in their various Declaration of Causes for Secession. However, today also marks the anniversary of a very important speech that sheds light on the subject.

On March 21, 1861, Alexander Stephens delivered his famous “Cornerstone Speech” in Savannah, Georgia. Though he was an early opponent of the secessionist movement, when his home state of Georgia seceded, Stephens sided with them and became the Vice President of the Confederacy. He hoped his “Cornerstone Speech” would convince other Southern states to join the rebellion.

Stephens told the crowd that the new Confederate constitution secured “all our ancient rights, franchises, and liberties.” However, it was far superior to the constitution of 1787 in one important area:

The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution—African slavery as it exists amongst us—the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the “rock upon which the old Union would split.” He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. This idea, though not incorporated in the constitution, was the prevailing idea at that time. The constitution, it is true, secured every essential guarantee to the institution while it should last, and hence no argument can be justly urged against the constitutional guarantees thus secured, because of the common sentiment of the day. Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the government built upon it fell when the “storm came and the wind blew.

Stephens summed up the Confederate cause:

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery—subordination to the superior race—is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.

When the Vice President of the Confederacy tells me why the South seceded, I can only take him at his word.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

"The Little Lady Who Started This Great War”

Harriet Beecher Stowe

The best selling novel of the 19th Century was published 156 years ago today. In its first year, Harriett Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin sold 305,000 copies in the United States alone, while some 2.5 million copies were sold worldwide.

But we don’t remember the book because it was simply a commercial success. The book was a social phenomenon as well. It brought the realities of slavery into homes far removed from the American South. Long-suffering Uncle Tom, courageous Eliza, and young Harry put individual faces to previously unknown slaves, while the despicable slave owner finally got a name in Simon Legree.

Surprisingly, Uncle Tom’s Cabin is not a simple anti-slavery novel. Stowe does not hold the Southern states solely responsible for perpetuating slavery. In fact, the book takes great pains to show how the North was complicit as well. After all, Simon Legree might be the stereotypical evil slave owner, but he was not a Southerner by birth—he was a Yankee.

Nevertheless, the novel had a significant impact on the abolitionist movement, both in the United States and abroad. During the Civil War, Stowe visited the White House. Supposedly, Lincoln greeted her with the unforgettable line, “So this is the little lady who started this great war.”

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Five Years Ago Today

March 19, 2003

10:16 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: My fellow citizens, at this hour, American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger.

On my orders, coalition forces have begun striking selected targets of military importance to undermine Saddam Hussein's ability to wage war. These are opening stages of what will be a broad and concerted campaign. More than 35 countries are giving crucial support -- from the use of naval and air bases, to help with intelligence and logistics, to the deployment of combat units. Every nation in this coalition has chosen to bear the duty and share the honor of serving in our common defense.

To all the men and women of the United States Armed Forces now in the Middle East, the peace of a troubled world and the hopes of an oppressed people now depend on you. That trust is well placed.

The enemies you confront will come to know your skill and bravery. The people you liberate will witness the honorable and decent spirit of the American military. In this conflict, America faces an enemy who has no regard for conventions of war or rules of morality. Saddam Hussein has placed Iraqi troops and equipment in civilian areas, attempting to use innocent men, women and children as shields for his own military -- a final atrocity against his people.

I want Americans and all the world to know that coalition forces will make every effort to spare innocent civilians from harm. A campaign on the harsh terrain of a nation as large as California could be longer and more difficult than some predict. And helping Iraqis achieve a united, stable and free country will require our sustained commitment.

We come to Iraq with respect for its citizens, for their great civilization and for the religious faiths they practice. We have no ambition in Iraq, except to remove a threat and restore control of that country to its own people.

I know that the families of our military are praying that all those who serve will return safely and soon. Millions of Americans are praying with you for the safety of your loved ones and for the protection of the innocent. For your sacrifice, you have the gratitude and respect of the American people. And you can know that our forces will be coming home as soon as their work is done.

Our nation enters this conflict reluctantly -- yet, our purpose is sure. The people of the United States and our friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder. We will meet that threat now, with our Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and Marines, so that we do not have to meet it later with armies of fire fighters and police and doctors on the streets of our cities.

Now that conflict has come, the only way to limit its duration is to apply decisive force. And I assure you, this will not be a campaign of half measures, and we will accept no outcome but victory.

My fellow citizens, the dangers to our country and the world will be overcome. We will pass through this time of peril and carry on the work of peace. We will defend our freedom. We will bring freedom to others and we will prevail.

May God bless our country and all who defend her.

END 10:20 P.M. EST

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

John C. Calhoun: 'A Positive Good'

John C. Calhoun

Today is John C. Calhoun's birthday. I admit, the outspoken senator from South Carolinia is not one of my favorite characters in American history, but he is terribly significant.

I recently re-read one of Calhoun's most well-known speeches. Delivered on the floor of the United States Senate in 1837, Calhoun defended the institution of slavery. While some Americans begrudgingly admitted that slavery was a "necessary evil" in the country, Calhoun disagreed:

I hold that in the present state of civilization, where two races of different origin, and distinguished by color, and other physical differences, as well as intellectual, are brought together, the relation now existing in the slaveholding States between the two, is, instead of an evil, a good—a positive good.

Calhoun continued on with his theme, extolling the virtues of American slavery:

I may say with truth, that in few countries so much is left to the share of the laborer, and so little exacted from him, or where there is more kind attention paid to him in sickness or infirmities of age. Compare his condition with the tenants of the poor houses in the more civilized portions of Europe—look at the sick, and the old and infirm slave, on one hand, in the midst of his family and friends, under the kind superintending care of his master and mistress, and compare it with the forlorn and wretched condition of the pauper in the poorhouse. But I will not dwell on this aspect of the question; I turn to the political; and here I fearlessly assert that the existing relation between the two races in the South, against which these blind fanatics are waging war, forms the most solid and durable foundation on which to rear free and stable political institutions. It is useless to disguise the fact. There is and always has been in an advanced stage of wealth and civilization, a conflict between labor and capital. The condition of society in the South exempts us from the disorders and dangers resulting from this conflict; and which explains why it is that the political condition of the slaveholding States has been so much more stable and quiet than that of the North. . . Surrounded as the slaveholding States are with such imminent perils, I rejoice to think that our means of defense are ample, if we shall prove to have the intelligence and spirit to see and apply them before it is too late. All we want is concert, to lay aside all party differences and unite with zeal and energy in repelling approaching dangers. Let there be concert of action, and we shall find ample means of security without resorting to secession or disunion. I speak with full knowledge and a thorough examination of the subject, and for one see my way clearly. . . . I dare not hope that anything I can say will arouse the South to a due sense of danger; I fear it is beyond the power of mortal voice to awaken it in time from the fatal security into which it has fallen.

This speech is important. Calhoun gives us a bit of insight into how a slave-owner might justify his actions. Moreover, when I re-read this speech, I was struck by how familiar the rhetoric sounded. Throughout the 1840s and 1850s, pro-slavery men--the real defenders of American slavery--adopted many of the same arguments.

Take, for example, William J. Grayson. Not only was this South Carolinian a representative in the United States Congress, he was also a poet. A book of his poetry was published in 1855. One of his most interesting poems compared Northern workers and Southern slaves. Like Calhoun, Grayson reached a startling conclusion:

"The Hireling"

Free but in name -- the slaves of endless toil...
In squalid hut -- a kennel for the poor,
Or noisome cellar, stretched upon the floor,
His clothing rags, of filthy straw his bed,
With offal from the gutter daily fed...
These are the miseries...the wants, the cares,
The bliss that freedom for the serf prepares...

"The Slave"

Taught by the master's efforts, by his care
Fed, clothed, protected many a patient year,
From trivial numbers now to millions grown,
With all the white man's useful arts their own,
Industrious, docile, skilled in wood and field,
To guide the plow, the sturdy axe to wield...
Guarded from want, from beggary secure,
He never feels what hireling crowds endure,
Nor knows, like them, in hopeless want to crave,
For wife and child, the comforts of the slave,
Or the sad thought that, when about to die,
He leaves them to the cold world's charity...

"Social theorist" George Fitzhugh took the argument further. He had been defending slavery in print for nearly a decade when, in 1857, he published Cannibals All! Or Slaves Without Masters.

Though the book contains a great many memorable passages, this excerpt expands on Calhoun's point that slavery was indeed "a positive good:"

The negro slaves of the South are the happiest, and in some sense, the freest people in the world. The children and the aged and infirm work not at all, and yet have all the comforts and necessaries of life provided for them. They enjoy liberty, because they are oppressed neither by care or labor. The women do little hard work, and are protected from the despotism of their husbands by their masters. The negro men and stout boys work, on the average, in good weather, no more than nine hours a day. The balance of their time is spent in perfect abandon. Besides, they have their Sabbaths and holidays. White men, with so much of license and abandon, would die of ennui; but negroes luxuriate in corporeal and mental repose. With their faces upturned to the sun, they can sleep at any hour; and quiet sleep is the greatest of human enjoyments. "Blessed be the man who invented sleep." 'Tis happiness in itself-and results from contentment in the present, and confident assurance of the future. We do not know whether free laborers ever sleep. They are fools to do so; for, whilst they sleep, the wily and watchful capitalist is devising means to ensnare and exploit them. The free laborer must work or starve. He is more of a slave than the negro, because he works longer and harder for less allowance than the slave, and has no holiday, because the cares of life with him begin when its labors end. He has no liberty and not a single right. . . .

I have added Calhoun's speech, Grayson's poem, and several excerpts from Fitzhugh's book to the Primary Documents section for future reference.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Ready to be President on "Day One"

Crisis at Fort Sumter

Hillary Clinton often says she will be ready to be president on “day one.” No need for a “week of orientation” or any “on the job training.” No, if elected, she will “hit the ground running.”

The message is clear. She believes she has more experience than her Democratic rival, Barrack Obama. After all, while Barrack was toiling away in the Illinois state legislature, Hillary was in the White House. She knows she will be ready, she isn’t sure he will be.

Stephen A. Douglas might have been swayed by such logic. While Abraham Lincoln was trudging along the law circuit in Illinois, Douglas was one of the most influential members of the United States Senate.

The election of 1860 threatened to rip apart the country. Who was better prepared to handle the crisis? Who would “hit the ground running” on “day one?”

There was no question. Douglas was clearly the more experienced candidate.

But history didn’t go his way.

Douglas did not take the oath of office on March 4, 1861.

But he was there.

He watched as his rival put his hand on the Bible.

He held his rival’s hat while he delivered his inaugural address.

He listened as his rival reminded his “dissatisfied fellow countrymen” that “we are not enemies, but friends.”

He hoped that “the better angels of our nature” would indeed prevail and bloodshed would be averted.

What did “day one” of the Lincoln administration look like?

It wasn’t easy.

Lincoln remembered it well:

The first thing that was handed to me after I entered this room, when I came from the inauguration was the letter from Maj. Anderson saying that their provisions would be exhausted before an expedition could be sent to their relief, 1861.

The Buchanan Administration had left a crisis for the new president to handle. The flash point would be Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina.

Not an easy first day, right?

The acting Secretary of War Joseph Holt told Lincoln that surrender was inevitable.

Lincoln asked General Winfield Scott for his opinion. The situation was bleak.

When asked how long the soldiers in the fort could hold out, Scott replied:

In respect to subsistence, for the garrison, he has hard bread, flour & rice for about 26 days, & salt meat (pork) for about 48 days; but how long he could hold out against the whole means of attack which the South Carolinians have in, & about the city of Charleston & its Harbour, is a question that cannot be answered with absolute accuracy.

Could Scott resupply or reinforce Fort Sumter with “all the means now in your control?”

“No,” replied the general, “Not within many months.”

How long would a re-supply mission take and what would he need?

A fleet of war vessels & transports, 5,000 additional regular troops & 20,000 volunteers, in order to take all the batteries in the Harbor of Charleston (including Ft. Moultrie) after the capture of all the batteries in the approach or outer Bay. And to raise, organize & discipline such an army, would require new acts of Congress & from six to eight months.

The new president was still not satisified.

On March 15, 1861, Lincoln formally requested a written opinion from each member of his Cabinet. The president’s letter to Secretary of State William H. Seward was typical of the letter each member received:

The Hon. Secretary of State Executive Mansion

My dear Sir March 15. 1861

Assuming it to be possible to now provision Fort-Sumpter, under all the circumstances, is it wise to attempt it?

Please give me your opinion, in writing, on this question. Your Obt. Servt. A. LINCOLN.

Later that day, the president began to receive the written replies.

Secretary of State Seward advised against such a mission at this time :

...If it were possible to peacefully provision Fort Sumter, of course, I should answer, that it would be both unwise and inhuman not to attempt it. But the facts of the case are known to be, that the attempt must be made with the employment of military and marine force, which would provoke combat, and probably initiate a civil war…I would not provoke war in any way now

Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles agreed with Seward:

...The question has two aspects, one military, the other political. The military gentlemen…represent that it would be unwise…and I am not disposed to controvert their opinions…In a political view, I entertain doubts of the wisdom of the measure…I do not…think it wise to attempt to provision Fort Sumter.

Attorney General Edward Bates echoed their assessment:

...I am persuaded, moreover, that in several of the misguided states of the South, a large proportion of the people are really lovers of the Union, and anxious to be safely back, under the protection of its flag. A reaction has already begun, and, if encouraged by wise, moderate, and firm measures on the part of this Government, I persuade myself that the nation will be restored to its integrity, without the effusion of blood…I am willing to evacuate Fort Sumter, rather than be an active party in the beginning of civil war...

Postmaster General Montgomery Blair offered a radically different opinion:

The evacuation of Fort Sumpter when it is known that it can be provisioned and manned will convince the rebels that the administration lacks firmness and will therefore tend more than any event that has happened to embolden them and so far from tending to prevent collision will, ensure it unless all the other forts are evacuated and all attempts are given up to maintain the authority of the United States...Mr. Buchanans policy has I think re-rendered collision almost inevitable & a continuance of that policy will not only bring it about but will go far to produce a permanent division of the Union.

The president heard from the rest of his cabinet the following day.

Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase was in favor of resupplying the fort:

...If the attempt will so inflame civil war as to involve an immediate necessity for the enlistment of armies and the expenditure of millions I cannot advise it...But it seems to me highly improbable that the attempt...will produce such consequences...I return, therefore, an affirmative answer...

Secretary of War Simon Cameron advised against it:

…it would be unwise now to make such an attempt…I am greatly influenced by the opinions of the Army officers who have expressed themselves on the subject, and who seem to concur that it is, perhaps, now impossible to succor that fort, substantially, if at all…All the officers within Fort Sumter, together with Generals Scott and Totten, express this opinion…

Secretary of the Interior Caleb B. Smith did not think such a mission was wise:

...After a careful consideration of the opinions of Gens. Scott and Totten, and also those of Commodore String[h]am and Mr. Fox…I have arrived at the conclusion that the probabilities are in favor of the success of the proposed enterprise, so far as to secure the landing of the vessels at the Fort, but…it would not be wise under all circumstances to attempt to provision Fort Sumpter...

The president had a great deal to think about.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Compensated Emancipation

Abraham Lincoln, 1862

Abraham Lincoln hoped that a grand plan of compensated emancipation might bring a speedy end to the rebellion. Though Senator Charles Sumner doubted the plan’s success, he worked with the president and his cabinet. On March 6, 1862, the president sent a special message to Congress, calling for a joint resolution offering “pecuniary aid” to any border state that would initiate a gradual plan of compensated emancipation. As Lincoln explained, the plan would help save the Union because:

The leaders of the existing insurrection entertain the hope that this government will ultimately be forced to acknowledge the independence of some part of the disaffected region, and that all the slave states North of such part will then say ``the Union, for which we have struggled, being already gone, we now choose to go with the Southern section.'' To deprive them of this hope, substantially ends the rebellion; and the initiation of emancipation completely deprives them of it, as to all the states initiating it.

On this date in 1862, Lincoln tried to convince Senator James A. McDougal to support “gradual emancipation with compensation.” Using statistics, Lincoln pleaded his case in a detailed letter. He began with a brow-raising claim: “Less than one half-day’s cost of this war would pay for all the slaves in Delaware at four hundred dollars per head.” Lincoln claimed that Delaware had 1,798 slaves in 1860. If the government paid $400 for each slave, that would only cost $719,000. At the same time, each day of war cost the Union $2 million. Furthermore, Lincoln ran the statistics for Maryland, the District of Columbia, Kentucky, and Missouri and found the government could ‘purchase’ all of their slaves for a little over $173 million, roughly the same amount the government would spend in 87 days of war.

Lincoln spent the rest of March trying to garner Congressional support. Though he was unsuccessful, he did not entirely abandon his plan of compensated emancipation.

That July, Lincoln called border state representatives to the White House and again tried to convince them to accept some form of compensated emancipation, but again with no success.

The plan appears again in his Annual Message to Congress in December 1862.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

"The Jewel of Liberty"

Gov. Michael Hahn

Good news is sweet to hear, especially when recent news has been particularlly sour. Abraham Lincoln had reason to be happy on this date in 1864.

The war was still going on, but Louisiana was already on the road toward Reconstruction. On February 22, 1864 the state held an election. The results were encouraging.

The new governor was an interesting figure. Born in Bavaria and orphaned in New Orleans, Michael Hahn was a Republican who had originally opposed secession, avoided swearing an oath to the Confederacy, and worked with Federal occupation forces. Now he was the first free-state governor of Louisiana.

On this date in 1864, Lincoln wrote Hahn a congratulatory letter. He encouraged the new governor to so something extraordinary. For the first time, Lincoln endorsed the idea of allowing African Americans to vote.

Private Executive Mansion, Hon. Michael Hahn Washington,

My dear Sir: March 13. 1864.

I congratulate you on having fixed your name in history as the first-free-state Governor of Louisiana. Now you are about to have a Convention which, among other things, will probably define the elective franchise. I barely suggest for your private consideration, whether some of the colored people may not be let in---as, for instance, the very intelligent, and especially those who have fought gallantly in our ranks. They would probably help, in some trying time to come, to keep the jewel of liberty within the family of freedom. But this is only a suggestion, not to the public, but to you alone. Yours truly A. LINCOLN


[1] ALS, owned by Roger W. Barrett, Chicago, Illinois; ADfS, DLC-RTL. In an election held on February 22, 1864, Michael Hahn defeated Benjamin F. Flanders and J. Q. A. Fellows for governor. The new constitution drafted by the convention which met beginning April 6 and adopted at an election held on September 5, 1864, contained no provisions for Negro suffrage.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Slaves Called Her "Moses"

Harriet Tubman

"I was conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years, and I can say what most conductors can't say--I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger," remembered Harriet Tubman.

She escaped from slavery, but that was not enough. She returned more than a dozen times and led an estimated 300 slaves to freedom.

One of my favorite quotes about Tubman comes from famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass. In 1868, he sent Tubman a poetic letter, in which he compared himself with the woman slaves called Moses.

The difference between us is very marked. Most that I have done and suffered in the service of our cause has been in public, and I have received much encouragement at every step of the way. You, on the other hand, have labored in a private way. I have wrought in the day--you in the night...The midnight sky and the silent stars have been the witnesses of your devotion to freedom and of your heroism: Excepting John Brown--of sacred memory--I know of no one who has willingly encountered more perils and hardships to serve our enslaved people than you have.

If you are going to be in the Chicago-area this evening and want to know more about Harriet Tubman, you are in for a treat.

Kathryn Harris, director of library services at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, will present the life of Harriet Tubman from 7 to 8 pm at Gail Borden Public Library, 270 N. Grove Avenue, in Elgin.

For more information, call 847.429.4680

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

1864: "Clear Before My Own Conscience"

Ulysses S. Grant

The president needed a general.

Though he “never professed to be a military man or to know how campaigns should be conducted,” Abraham Lincoln was nonetheless frustrated by the inaction of Generals George McClellan, Ambrose Burnside, Joseph Hooker, and George Meade. Too often, these procrastinating generals forced him into issuing ill-conceived military orders. By 1864, he was eager to find a general who saw the war the way he did, someone who was willing to take advantage of the Union’s vast resources, and ultimately, end the rebellion once and for all.

Lincoln had never met Ulysses S. Grant, but he liked what he read about him. Grant was a fighting general from the West. The president summoned him to the White House.

When Grant arrived in Washington, news of his new assignment had already leaked out. Grant would be promoted to the rank of lieutenant general, a position last held by George Washington.

Grant and the president held a brief interview. They discussed overall strategy, but did not talk specifics. In the past, the president had taken a very hands-on approach to the war, but necessity had required it then. Now, Lincoln was eager to relinquish some of that control to a military man who would “take responsibility and act.”

The president had finally found a general who understood that "awful arithmetic" of Union resources, but implementing that advantage would be gruesome. Some of the bloodiest fighting of the war occured in 1864. Northern newspapers soon dubbed Lincoln's new general "Grant the Butcher."

Politically, 1864 would not be any easier. By late August, the president feared he would not win reelection. He drafted a particularly gloomy memo, folded it in half, and sealed it. During the next Cabinet meeting, he asked each of his Cabinet members to sign their name to it.

Of course, we know how the story turns out. Atlanta fell a little more than a week later. When Northern voters went to the polls in November, they believed that victory was possible and Lincoln was indeed reelected for a second term.

About a week after the election, the president held another Cabinet meeting. The president's secretary, John Hay, recorded the events in his diary:

At the meeting of the Cabinet today, the President took out a paper from his desk and said, "Gentlemen, do you remember last summer when I asked you all to sign your names to the back of a paper of which I did not show you the inside? This is it. Now, Mr. Hay, see if you can get this open without tearing it?" He had pasted it up in so singular style that it required some cutting to get it open. He then read as follows:

Executive Mansion

Washington, Aug. 23, 1864.

This morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probable that this Administration will not be re-elected. Then it will be my duty to so co-operate with the President elect, as to save the Union between the election and the inauguration; as he will have secured his election on such ground that he can not possibly save it afterwards. A. LINCOLN

The president went on to explain why he had written the document:

"You will remember that this was written at a time (6 days before the Chicago nominating Convention) when as yet we had no adversary, and seemed to have no friends. I then solemnly resolved on the course of action indicated above. I resolved, in case of the election of General McClellan, being certain that he would be the candidate, that I would see him and talk matters over with him. I would say, "General, the election has demonstrated that you are stronger, have more influence with the American people than I. Now let us together, you with your influence and I with all the executive power of the Government, try to save the country. You raise as many troops as you possibly can for this final trial, and I will devote all my energies to assisting and finishing the war."

At this point in the conversation, Secretary of State William H. Seward interrupted the president:

And the General would answer you "Yes, Yes;" and the next day when you saw him again and pressed these views upon him, he would say, "Yes, Yes;" & so on forever, and would have done nothing at all.

With the other Cabinet members nodding in agreement, Lincoln conceeded the point, but added:

At least I should have done my duty and stood clear before my own conscience.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Edward Baker Lincoln

Eddie Lincoln

Today is Eddie Lincoln’s birthday.

Abraham and Mary Lincoln’s second son, Edward Baker Lincoln, was born on March 10, 1846. “We have another boy,” Lincoln wrote shortly after his birth, adding, “he is very much such a child as Bob [their oldest son] was at his age—rather of a longer order.”

We don’t know very much about Eddie. When his father went to Washington to participate in Congress, two-year-old Eddie told his mother that father was “gone tapila.” We also know that Eddie liked cats and had quite a quarrel with his grandmother when she refused to let him keep one of his favorites in her house.

In addition to those meager details, we also know that he was a sickly little boy. He battled an extended illness in 1848 and again the following year. However, toward the end of 1849, Eddie's condition worsened. He came down with a high fever, brutal coughing fits, and overall exhaustion. Doctors initially thought he had a case of diphtheria, but Eddie probably had a more chronic condition called pulmonary tuberculosis. Commonly called consumption, it killed more Americans in 1850 than any other disease.

After battling this final illness for 52 days, three-year-old Eddie died on February 1, 1850.

A decade later, when President-elect Lincoln bid Springfield “an affectionate farewell,” he referred to his son Eddie. “Here I have passed from a young man to an old man,” Lincoln told the crowd, “Here my children have been born, and one is buried.”

While in the White House, the Lincolns lost another son, Willie.

Today, Abraham and Mary Lincoln are buried in Springfield, alongside three of their children, Eddie, Willie, and Tad. Lincoln’s oldest son, Robert, is buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C.

Friday, March 7, 2008

A $5 Million Letter for Auction?

Lincoln to Mrs. Horace Mann, April 5, 1864

As I was getting out of the car this morning, I caught the end of an interesting news report. Sotheby’s will offer a very special letter for auction next month. It was written in 1864 by Abraham Lincoln and dealt with slavery. The reporter said the winning bid is expected to reach as high as $5,000,000. That was all I heard.


As I trudged through the snow, I wondered which letter this could be.

It had to be a major letter, something like Lincoln’s letter to A. G. Hodges, which includes the famous passages:

``I am naturally anti-slavery. If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong. I can not remember when I did not so think, and feel.”


“I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me.”

As it turns out, my best guess was off the mark. The letter that is being offered for auction is not the Hodges letter, but a much more obscure one.

Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts had given Lincoln a petition, signed by 195 school children from his state, which called on the president to free every slave child in the country.

On April 5, 1864, Lincoln replied to the woman who organized the petition. His reply is the letter now being offered for auction. It appears in the Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (7:287). Here is the letter in full, along with the annotations:

To Mrs. Horace Mann [1]

Mrs. Horace Mann, Executive Mansion,

Madam, Washington, April 5, 1864.

The petition of persons under eighteen, praying that I would free all slave children, and the heading of which petition it appears you wrote, was handed me a few days since by Senator Sumner. Please tell these little people I am very glad their young hearts are so full of just and generous sympathy, and that, while I have not the power to grant all they ask, I trust they will remember that God has, and that, as it seems, He wills to do it. Yours truly



[1] ADfS, DLC-RTL; ALS-F, ISLA. See Lincoln to Sumner, infra. The ``Petition of the Children of the United States; that the President will free all slave children'' bears one hundred ninety-five signatures (DLC-RTL). In reply to Lincoln's letter, forwarded by Senator Sumner, Mrs. Mann wrote: ``It was wholly without my knowledge that my name was sent to you in connection with the petition of persons under eighteen in Concord . . . but I cannot regret it, since it has given me this precious note from your hand. . . . We intend immediately to scatter fac-similes of your sweet words to the children like apple blossoms all over the country---and we look with more hope than ever for the day when perfect justice shall be decreed, which shall make every able bodied colored man spring to the defence of the nation which it is plain the white man alone cannot save. . . .'' (Ibid.).

In deference to Mrs. Mann's desire to remain anonymous, the facsimiles, which were widely distributed, show instead of ``Mrs. Horace Mann'' ``Mrs.---(of Concord Mass.).''

Ironically, Lincoln's reply to Mrs. Mann was written just a day after the more widely known Hodges letter.

Is the letter worth $5,000,000? I'm just not sure. I suppose we will have to wait until April 3 to find out.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Dred Scott Decision: 151 Years Later

Roger B. Taney

It happened 151 years ago today.

Dred Scott was a slave from Missouri whose owner had taken him to Rock Island, Illinois, a free state, and then to Fort Snelling in the Minnesota Territory, where the Northwest Ordinance had excluded slavery. After his owner passed away, Scott sued for his freedom, citing his earlier residency in a free state and a free territory. The case made it all the way to the Supreme Court.

On this date in 1857, Roger B. Taney, the eighty year old Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, issued his infamous opinion in Dred Scott v. Sandford.

Taney declared that Scott was not a free man. First, residency in a free territory was meaningless because Congress never had the authority to exclude slavery from any territory; therefore, the imaginary line drawn during the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional.

Second, Taney wrote that Scott’s residency in a free state was also meaningless because slaves were not citizens, they were property, and the U.S. Constitution protected private property in both free and slave states.

Furthermore, Taney delcared that African Americans could not be citizens of the United States, nor could they sue in federal court because the founding fathers had never included them in the nation's founding documents.

CLICK HERE to read Taney's opinion, as well as the opinions written by the other six justices.

Abraham Lincoln commented on the controversial decision on June 26, 1857. Lincoln sided with the dissenting opinions of Justices John McLean and Benjamin R. Curtis. He strongly disagreed with Taney's assertion that African Americans were excluded from the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

Around this time, Lincoln began talking about a conspiracy to nationalize slavery. It went something like this:

The Dred Scott decision declared that slavery could not be excluded from a territory.

Lincoln believed the Court would soon use the logic to declare that slavery could not be excluded from a state.

When this hypothetical decision came down, the Court would declare free state constitutions, which prohibited slavery from its borders, unconstitutional.

Lincoln feared that northern cities like Chicago would be transformed into slave markets.

Lincoln continued to develop his "conspiracy theory." By 1858, he implicated current and past presidents, members of the U. S. Supreme Court, as well as his opponent for a seat in the U. S. Senate, Stephen A. Douglas.

Take a moment to reread Lincoln's "House Divided Speech." If you had heard this speech a century and a half ago, would you have become a conspiracy theorist?

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Lincoln Museum in Fort Wayne Closing its Doors

Lincoln Museum in Fort Wayne, Indiana

Abraham Lincoln only lived in Indiana for fourteen years, but the Lincoln Museum has been in Fort Wayne for nearly four score years.

Unfortunately, it looks like their run is coming to an end. On Monday, museum officials announced they are closing their doors on June 30. They cite falling attendance numbers, as well as declining interest in traditional history museums.

Site officials claim the decision to close the museum was not a financial decision.

“There will be no money saved [from the closing]. This is not at all in the interest of saving money,” said a site official.

Yet, according to the news story I read, the museum’s total income was about $458,000, while the foundation’s income was about $113,000. However, their total operating costs reached nearly $1.6 million. That number includes nearly $325,000 in salary and benefits to the four highest paid museum employees.

“The revenue certainly has not covered the cost,” conceded an official.

The Lincoln Museum claimed to have the largest private collection of Lincoln-related material in the world, which included dozens of Lincoln family belongings, signed copies of the Emancipation Proclamation and the Thirteenth Amendment. Researchers have had access to 5,000 original nineteenth century photographs, 200,000 newspaper and magazine clippings, 340 nineteenth century sheet music titles.

What will happen to the museum’s prodigious collection?

Site officials will not sell the collection to private collectors. Instead, they will seek large institutions that can demonstrate both the financial means to maintain the collection and space to exhibit the items.

A site official tried to put a good spin on selling the collection to larger institutions. "The Lincoln Museum will now have a bigger stage," said the official.

If I were the director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, I would place a phone call ASAP.

The future of Lincoln Lore, the museum’s magazine, remains less certain.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

A. Lincoln Blog No More

Brian Dirck

Unfortunate news today from the blogosphere. It seems Brian Dirck is going to retire his very informative A. Lincoln Blog.

I was a regular reader of the A. Lincoln Blog. Dirck's insights into current Lincoln-related news stories, as well as his thoughts on the many new Lincoln and Civil War books, will certainly be missed.

I will also miss hearing about his various projects. Dirck often talked about his teaching experiences and speaking engagements. It was fascinating to read as Dirck workshopped his ideas for future books and articles.

While I certainly respect Dirck's decision to retire as an active blogger, I want to extend an invitation to him. If he should ever feel the need to come out of retirement for an occasional post on a subject of his choosing, would be happy to publish it!

Monday, March 3, 2008

"Founded on Both Injustice and Bad Policy"

Slavery, 1837

I think the advertisement pictured at the top of this post is extremely interesting. It reads:

OUTRAGE. Fellow Citizens, AN ABOLITIONIST, of the most revolting character is among you, exciting the feelings of the North against the South. A seditious Lecture is to be delivered THIS EVENING, at 7 o'clock, at the Presbyterian Church in Cannon-street. You are requested to attend and unite in putting down and silencing by peaceable means this tool of evil and fanaticism. Let the rights of the States guaranteed by the Constitution be protected. The Union forever!

When was the advertisement placed in the newspaper?

On the eve of the Civil War? No, much earlier.

Just after John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry? No, earlier still.

How about during the heated debate following the controversial Kansas-Nebraska Act? No, even earlier.

This advertisement was placed in the newspaper on February 27, 1837. Why were proslavery men concerned with abolitionists in 1837?

Six years earlier, outspoken abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison began publishing his radical newspaper, The Liberator. A few months later, a Virginia slave named Nat Turner led a slave revolt that eventually claimed the lives of 57 white men, women, and children. Southern slave holders saw a correlation between Northern abolitionists such as Garrison and bloody slave insurrections like the one Turner led.

Southerners, as well as many Northerners, identified abolitionists as the problem. After all, the institution of slavery was protected by the constitution itself, yet these radicals continued to preach their troubling gospel. Thus, the abolitionists were enemies of law and order, they were agents of instability. These radicals were enemies of Southern rights; they were enemies of the state. For some unprovoked reason, they hated their own country and were plotting to tear it apart. So you see, for the sake of the Union, the abolitionists must be resisted.

By 1837, Northern legislators and governors received letters and public resolutions from the Southern states, calling on them to publicly condemn abolitionism. In Illinois, for instance, the governor called on the legislature to issue a series of sympathetic resolutions. The legislature responded favorably. In January 1837, the legislature condemned abolitionists and reminded the population that slavery was indeed protected by the constitution. These resolutions passed the Illinois state legislature by an overwhelming vote of 77 to 6.

Abraham Lincoln was a member of the state legislature. He was one of the six members who voted against the resolution. But that was not the end of the story.

On this date in 1837, Lincoln, along with fellow Whig Daniel Stone, issued a protest statement to explain why they opposed Illinois' anti-abolitionist resolutions:

March 3, 1837

The following protest was presented to the House, which was read and ordered to be spread on the journals, to wit:``Resolutions upon the subject of domestic slavery having passed both branches of the General Assembly at its present session, the undersigned hereby protest against the passage of the same.

They believe that the institution of slavery is founded on both injustice and bad policy; but that the promulgation of abolition doctrines tends rather to increase than to abate its evils. They believe that the Congress of the United States has no power, under the constitution, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the different States.

They believe that the Congress of the United States has the power, under the constitution, to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia; but that that power ought not to be exercised unless at the request of the people of said District.

The difference between these opinions and those contained in the said resolutions, is their reason for entering this protest.''



Representatives from the county of Sangamon.

It was the first time Lincoln had gone on the record and defined his position on slavery. As you can see, his position was complicated. First, at 28, Lincoln was anti-slavery, but he was no abolitionist. Second, radical abolitionists were indeed a threat to the American experiment in popular government because their militancy often led them to disregard the law. Lincoln was a lawyer and he absolutely believed that reformers must work within the political system.

Third, I view the protest statement much like a photograph; it is merely a snapshot of Lincoln's slavery stance during a particular moment in time. In this case, the statement defines Lincoln's stance in 1837, but notice, it does not necessarily bind him in the future.

However, Lincoln liked to point out how consistent his political views remained. In his 1860 campaign biography, he explained that the protest statement, "briefly defined [my] position on the slavery question; and so far as it goes, it was then the same as it is now."

Is that true? Did Lincoln's views on slavery really remain consistent for the next quarter-century?