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.

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