Friday, June 27, 2008

Lincoln on Ebay: Attention Un-Reconstructed Southerners


This week's edition of Lincoln on Ebay comes to us in the form of a letter, written some eight months after the assassination.


D. M. Wharton, a citizen of Huntsville, Alabama, wrote his nephew a letter on November 4, 1865. He begins with the usual pleasantries by thanking his nephew for sending such a nice letter a couple of weeks back and shares his optimism that pre-war "prosperity was once more drawing upon you."


But then the cold reality of Reconstruction slaps him in the face. His letter takes an abrupt turn.


The "Black troops who were placed over the white citizens to mortify and spook us had been withdrawn," he announces, adding, "the prosperity of the African race, has caused much anxiety and loss to the honest part of our citizens."


After condemning black troops, as well as "the prosperity of the African race," Wharton turns to the new president, Andrew Johnson. He has heard that Johnson has been making enemies in Washington, refusing to work with the Republicans in humiliating the South. "I am glad to hear 'Johnson is now acting like a gentleman," he declares. If the rumors were true, Wharton had no doubt that "we shall soon hear of the liberation of Jeff Davis, who was cruelly kept in confinement for obeying the orders of his own sovereign state."


Now thoroughly warmed up, Wharton confronts the Lincoln assassination. Republicans tried to make the case that Davis "had some hand in killing Lincoln, but could not[.]" According Wharton, neither Davis nor the Confederacy had a hand in killing Lincoln; it was God Himself who did the deed.


"The god of justice had him promptly summoned," he concludes, "decree of the almighty god 'Sic Semper Tyrannis.'"


John Wilkes Booth could hardly have said it any better.