Dickinson College, Spring 2024

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Underground Railroad

Statistical Gateway

  • Enslaved population in 1840: roughly 2 million
  • Enslaved population in 1860: roughly 4 million
  • Estimated number of antebellum slave sale transactions: 2 million
  • Ratio of antebellum slave marriages broken apart by sale: ¼
  • Annual temporary escapes from slavery (“laying out”): 100,000
  • Annual attempts at permanent escapes from slavery: 1,000
  • Documented recaption (kidnapping) efforts across North during 1850s: 150
  • Documented individual fugitive rendition cases between 1850-1861:  200
  • Total number of formal federal rendition hearings between 1850-1861:  125
  • Number of rendition hearings in New England states after 1854:  0
  • Percentage of nation’s rendition hearings held in Ohio 1855-1861: 75
  • Vigilance committee records for successful escapes during 1850s:  3,000+
  • Documented vigilance-led resistance efforts during 1850s:  80
  • Total casualties from antebellum resistance efforts:  100s
  • Number of UGRR operatives killed in free states: 0
  • Number of freedom seekers killed in free states:  1
  • Number of slaveholders or slave catchers killed in free states:  3
  • Number of UGRR operatives fined or imprisoned in free states:  about 10-12
  • People imprisoned for slave-stealing in South, 1840s-50s: 200+
  • Longest sentence issued for UGRR conviction under federal law:  3 months
  • Longest imprisonment for UGRR operative in a slave state:  17 years

Confederate Monument in Mechanicsburg

UPDATE:  The Jenkins monument was removed during the summer of 2020.  Read about the details from the Harrisburg Patriot-News coverage (July 3, 2020):  “Another Confederate Monument Falls, This Time on the West Shore.”


Before & after photographs of the Jenkins monument in Mechanicsburg (courtesy of John Quist)

Original post from 2015:

Courtesy of Cumberland Valley Visitors Bureau

Courtesy of Cumberland Valley Visitors Bureau

There is a monument honoring Confederate general Albert Jenkins in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania –paid for by donations from local residents and organized by the Camp Curtin Historical Society. It is the northernmost memorial for any Confederate officer and probably the only one paid for by northerners.  Yet Jenkins was one of the most controversial Confederate officers, one who destroyed northern civilian property and whose men conducted what they called a “slave hunt,” kidnapping black people during the Gettysburg campaign and hauling them into slavery in the South.

The text of the obelisk reads:

“BRIG. GEN. ALBERT G. JENKINS, C.S.A. Born November 10, 1830 in Greenbottom, Virginia. He was a graduate of Jefferson College and studied law at Harvard University. Albert Jenkins served as U.S. Congressman from 1857 to 1861 and then resigned to serve the Confederacy. Thereafter, he served as a Congressman for in the First Congress of the Confederate States prior to receiving his Brigadier General’s commission. Gen. Jenkins and his command occupied this property June 28-30, 1863 as he probed the defenses of Harrisburg, but was recalled by Gen. Lee to join the main army at Gettysburg. Gen. Jenkins suffered severe wounds from artillery fire during the Battle of Gettysburg on July 2, 1863 but recovered. In 1864, he was appointed commander of the Department of Western Virginia by the Confederacy. The General was again seriously wounded and captured at the Battle of Cloyd’s Mountain and died of those wounds on May 21, 1864.”

You can read more about Albert Jenkins at the House Divided Project research engine and more about the planning for the memorial at Camp Curtin Historical Society.  To learn more about the “slave hunt” conducted by Jenkins’s cavalry, see these articles from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the New York Times Disunion series.  On the question of whether or not this monument stands as a helpful symbol of national reconciliation or as a disgraceful obliteration of the past, that is for readers to decide but we would welcome your comments below.

However, before you venture a judgment about the monument in Mechanicsburg, it is worth putting this issue into national context.  There has been a recent movement to remove Confederate flags and monuments across the South.  This happened in the aftermath of the June 2015 mass shooting at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina. Here are some helpful articles on the impact of that tragedy and the subsequent political battles that have been erupting over Confederate heritage and history:

This post originally appeared in April 2015 and has been updated at various times to reflect developments in the debates over Confederate flags and monuments and following the removal of the monument itself in July 2020.

Music Parody by Patrick Horan

Below is a musical interpretation of Abraham Lincoln’s letter to William Seward, April 1, 1861, written and performed by Patrick Horan (Dickinson ’15) with Isabel Burlingame (Dickinson ’15). Lyrics can be found below the video.  For more information on the exchange between Lincoln and Seward, go to Lincoln’s Writings.

On the first day of April, 1861
Seward wrote to Lincoln
About Ft. Sumter’s guns
He told dear Whitman’s captain
In language frank and keen,
“Who really leads this union,
It remains to be seen!”

Lincoln gave his rival in March of ’61
A seat in the cabinet
State Department #1
“Administration needs a policy
Domestic and foreign, you see
Here is what I would do
Were it up to me!”

O Seward, a Republican
Thought he would be the one
To take hold of the Union
So for office he did run
But Lincoln won the primary
And stormed upon the scene
Stealing Seward’s thunder, oh
It made New Yorkers green!

The Great Emancipator
Though it wasn’t yet his name
Wrote back to William Seward
For his argument to maim
“A month into my term
And plenty done by me!
You give advice, I make the calls
That’s how it’s going to be!”


A Close Reading of Lincoln’s Letter to the Widow Bixby

6th Mass Soldiers

Infantryman of the Sixth Massachusetts (Courtesy of Library of Congress)

By Colin Martin

Throughout history, few pieces of writing have been able to echo through time in such a way as Abraham Lincoln’s 1864 letter to the Widow Bixby. Since 1776, almost every American generation can claim a number of surviving relatives who are able to attest to the pain that accompanies losing a loved one on the battlefield. As the conflict that claimed the highest number of American casualties in the nation’s history, the Civil War often held the mother of a fallen soldier as the most impacted of his kin. While the passage of years helps to heal physical wounds, a mother’s pain caused by losing a child at war will never cease. Bearing this in mind, it is not difficult to understand why President Lincoln might have taken a few moments to pen a message of sympathy to a mother who was dealing with this anguish.

On 24 or 25 November 1864, a note dated Nov. 21 was hand-delivered by General William Schouler to Lydia Bixby, a resident of Boston’s South End [1]. It was a simple letter of condolence. It contained only four sentences, but appeared to have been composed by a man who was familiar with the agony that Lydia was enduring at the time. The letter acknowledged that the author had personally been notified of the deaths of five of Bixby’s sons as they fought for the North. The creator of the memo continued by admitting that, while nothing could be expressed in an attempt to “beguile” Bixby’s agony, her boys had not perished in vain. In closing, the author begged that God ease her sorrow and leave her “only the cherished memory of the loved and lost,” [2] and that Mrs. Bixby may take solace in the fact that her sons had given their lives for the great cause of Freedom. The paper was signed at the bottom, A. LINCOLN.

Facsimile of the original Bixby Letter   Bixby Fasc   Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Abe Lincoln was no stranger when it came to dealing with the loss of children. Within the fifteen years preceding the date on the letter, Lincoln had buried two of his own sons. In 1850, Edward Lincoln died at the early age of three, and Lincoln’s third son, William, succumbed to typhoid fever only twelve years later [3].  In addition to being shaken by the premature deaths of half of his children, Lincoln was also unfortunate enough to experience first-hand how a mother copes with the loss of a child. In February of 1862, he watched as the First Lady slipped into severe depression and “refused to be comforted” after William’s passing [Ibid].  Mary Todd Lincoln dealt with her despair by visiting spiritual mediums in the Washington area, and eventually went so far as to hold séances in the White House in an attempt to reach the spirit of eleven-year-old Willie.  Ward Hill Lamon, a friend of Lincoln from his pre-White House days, opined that the president himself did not appear to place much stock in this sort of spiritualism, although he was willing to sacrifice his professional image for the sake of his “gullible wife.” [4]

In addition to dealing with personal tragedy, Lincoln was plagued by the predicament his country was experiencing. By 1864, the weight of the ongoing conflict within the United States had settled heavily on his shoulders. The significant but bloody battlefield advances made by the Union army at ever increasing costs of life, coupled with his standing for reelection in the face of growing public and political opposition, did nothing to lessen the burden carried by the sixteenth president [5]. Despite this overwhelming pressure of national significance, Lincoln remained quite sensitive to the plight of his fellow Americans. One of the president’s most-trusted bodyguards, William Crook (formerly of the Washington Police Force), recalled a scene he witnessed in early 1865 while traveling through the capital city with the president. As the presidential detail coincidentally crossed paths with a wounded and weary Union veteran, recently released from a hospital and still wearing his blue uniform, Lincoln paused to take a seat beside the freshly discharged soldier. Startled, Crook observed as the President of the United States casually made a personal appointment to meet with the man at the White House on the following day in order to cover his concerns [6].  This was the same president who, only months before, had received word from Massachusetts governor John Andrew of a widowed Bostonian whose sons had died while fighting for the Union.

In the midst of presiding over a nation at war with itself, Lincoln could not have had the time to individually answer all of the mail addressed to him at the White House. His trusted aide, John Hay, claimed that the president “did not read one [letter] in fifty that he received,” [7] and that Lincoln only personally answered roughly one piece of mail per day. Given these circumstances, many historians, professional and amateur alike, consider it very likely that John Hay was the actual source of the letter sent to Lydia Bixby. It is argued that with ample time spent around the president, Hay, a seasoned journalist and “gifted literary mimic,” [8] would have been familiar with the proper vernacular to employ in a letter of sympathy. According to Michael Burlingame’s research, while combing through several of Hay’s writings, the term beguile frequently appears in various forms, as Hay describes his dealings with Democrats, writes to possible love interests, and depicts the dietary habits of the infantry [Ibid].  Hay also reputedly claimed to have written the letter to the widow at various times throughout his life, as was put forth by his personal secretary, Spencer Eddy.  Additionally, other contemporaries, including Nicholas Murray Butler of Columbia University, admitted to having learned this from sources close to Hay [Ibid].  To the contrary, however: F. Lauriston Bullard, Pulitzer Prize recipient and advocate for Lincoln’s authorship of the letter, states that although he seemed to swagger before his peers over the matter, oddly, Hay never told his own family that he wrote the famous Bixby letter [9].  Another Lincoln historian agrees with Bullard.  William E. Barton personally interviewed Hays’ children and reported that none of them had ever heard their father speak of his involvement with the Bixby letter [Ibid].

In an article written for the American Heritage Society in 2006, Jason Emerson revisits some long-forgotten correspondence of Robert Todd Lincoln, the president’s oldest son.  As the Bixby letter controversy exploded on the media scene in the early twentieth century, many northeastern newspapers approached Lincoln about the authenticity of his father’s letter.  Robert Lincoln recounted to an Abraham Lincoln biographer, Isaac Markens, that while the president often kept hand-copied versions of mail sent on his behalf, he usually never retained copies of letters he personally composed [10].  As there is no known authentic copy of the original Bixby letter, this last account by Robert Lincoln lends credence to the argument for Lincoln’s authorship.  Robert Lincoln recorded having asked his good friend, Secretary of State John Hay, whether he knew of the origins of the famous note.  Hay had denied having any uncommon knowledge of the letter or its authorship .  This confession of ignorance by Abraham Lincoln’s secretary to the son of the man he served effectively undermines Hay’s previous claims as the letter’s author [Ibid].  In arguing for Lincoln’s case, the final blow often delivered to Hay proponents is the historical fact that a state governor requested the President to write to the mother of the Bixby boys after word of their deaths. Considering Lincoln’s familiarity with the loss of children and the anguish endured by a grieving mother, his willingness to engage the average American citizen, and his “deep respect for life in general,” [Ibid] it is probable that Abraham Lincoln was the actual author of his letter.

An examination of the original letter to the Widow Bixby could very possibly clear up any uncertainty as to the true source of words. Unfortunately for posterity, such an examination will most likely never be possible.  According to her grandchildren, not long after Mrs. Bixby took possession of the letter from General Schouler, she destroyed it. History has come to identify Lydia Bixby as a cheat, the supposed manager of “a house of ill repute,” and as a copperhead [11].  In addition to allegations of her Confederate sympathizing, Lydia’s reputation was further tarnished when it was eventually uncovered that three of her sons were not listed as war fatalities. Two of her sons were reported as deserters, one of whom was taken prisoner and later defected to the Confederacy. The remaining surviving Bixby received an honorable discharge at the end of hostilities [12].  These eye-opening developments, dumped on a grieving and sympathetic American public, eventually turned the flow of communal support against Lydia Bixby [13].

The Widow Lydia Bixby      Lyd Bixby      Courtesy of R.J. Norton

Regardless of her beliefs or loyalties, Mrs. Bixby remained a mother whose boys were in a combat zone far from home. Due to the complications brought on by unreliable period communication, hasty and limited record keeping, and the overall fog of war, any word received concerning combat casualties could have been considered definite.  It remains unknown when Bixby became informed of the reality of her sons’ fates. Lydia should not be blamed for destroying a piece of paper reminding her of the recent, if incorrect, news of the untimely deaths of her children.

There are a number of significant variables contained in the history of Lincoln’s letter to the Widow Bixby, including the widow’s allegiance, the honor of her sons, and even the man who penned the letter. To some, the holes existing in this story may cause the note’s overall effect to be diminished. On the other hand, almost fourscore years after the original manuscript was composed, the author’s words seemed eerily addressed to Tom and Alleta Sullivan of Waterloo, Iowa. It was January of 1943, and they had just been informed of the fates of their sons. All five Sullivan brothers perished in the sinking of the U.S.S. Juneau [14].  In spite of the controversy and scholarly debate that has erupted over the topic of Lincoln’s note, what is important to realize about the Bixby letter, and continues to remain relevant to this day, is that for more than one hundred and fifty years, this beautifully crafted message, comprised of only four carefully written sentences, has helped to comfort and console the countless loved ones left behind by fallen servicemen and women.  The man who wrote this letter, in the dark hours of late 1864, must have known that he was writing these words not only for Mrs. Bixby of Boston, but for countless American families of his time and for the relatives of the loved and lost for centuries yet to come.


[1]  Judith Giesberg. “In Defense of Boston’s Widow Bixby – The Boston Globe.” BostonGlobe.com. November 28, 2014. Accessed April 7, 2015. http://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2014/11/28/defense-boston-widow-bixby/1iiMKXLf27SEr8toEhRy8N/story.html.
[2]  “Abraham Lincoln to Mrs. Lydia Bixby, November 21, 1864.” Abraham Lincoln to Mrs. Lydia Bixby, November 21, 1864. July 2, 2013. Accessed April 7, 2015. http://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/node/40453.
[3]  “The Death and Funeral of Willie Lincoln.” The Death and Funeral of Willie Lincoln. January 1, 2015. Accessed April 7, 2015. http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/education/williedeath.htm.
[4]  Joe Nickell. “Paranormal Lincoln.” The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. June 1, 1999. Accessed April 7, 2015. http://www.csicop.org/si/show/paranormal_lincoln/.
[5]  Nathan Kalmoe. “The Fall of Atlanta and Lincoln’s Reelection: ‘Game-changer’ or Campaign Myth?” Washington Post. September 2, 2014. Accessed April 7, 2015. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2014/09/02/the-fall-of-atlanta-and-lincolns-reelection-game-changer-or-campaign-myth/.
[6]  “Employees and Staff: William Henry Crook (1839-1915).” Mr. Lincoln’s White House. January 1, 2015. Accessed April 7, 2015. http://www.mrlincolnswhitehouse.org/inside.asp?ID=55&subjectID=2. 
[7]  Jason Emerson. “America’s Most Famous Letter.” American Heritage. March 1, 2006. Accessed April 7, 2015. http://www.americanheritage.com/content/america’s-most-famous-letter?page=show. 
[8]  Michael Burlingame. “New Light on the Bixby Letter.” Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association. January 1, 1995. Accessed April 7, 2015. http://quod.lib.umich.edu/j/jala/2629860.0016.107/–new-light-on-the-bixby-letter?rgn=main;view=fulltext.
[9]  Michael Burlingame. “New Light on the Bixby Letter.” Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association. January 1, 1995. Accessed April 7, 2015. http://quod.lib.umich.edu/j/jala/2629860.0016.107/–new-light-on-the-bixby-letter?rgn=main;view=fulltext.
[10]  Jason Emerson. “America’s Most Famous Letter.” American Heritage. March 1, 2006. Accessed April 7, 2015. http://www.americanheritage.com/content/america’s-most-famous-letter?page=show.
[11]  Judith Giesberg. “In Defense of Boston’s Widow Bixby – The Boston Globe.” BostonGlobe.com. November 28, 2014. Accessed April 7, 2015. http://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2014/11/28/defense-boston-widow-bixby/1iiMKXLf27SEr8toEhRy8N/story.html.
[12]  Michael Burlingame. “New Light on the Bixby Letter.” Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association. January 1, 1995. Accessed April 7, 2015. http://quod.lib.umich.edu/j/jala/2629860.0016.107/–new-light-on-the-bixby-letter?rgn=main;view=fulltext.
[13]  Judith Giesberg. “In Defense of Boston’s Widow Bixby – The Boston Globe.” BostonGlobe.com. November 28, 2014. Accessed April 7, 2015. http://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2014/11/28/defense-boston-widow-bixby/1iiMKXLf27SEr8toEhRy8N/story.html.
[14]  C. Douglas Sterner. “The Sullivan Brothers.” Home of Heroes. January 1, 2014. Accessed April 7, 2015. http://www.homeofheroes.com/brotherhood/sullivans.html. 


Lincoln’s Response for Seward’s Consideration

Image of William Henry Seward courtesy of the House Divided Project

By Moyra Schauffler

No Secretary of State, or cabinet member, had ever or has ever submitted a document quite like William Henry Seward’s April Fool’s Day Memorandum entitled “Some thoughts for the President’s consideration”. [1]  The document was both critical and presumptuous with its assessment of Abraham Lincoln’s first month in office and its list of recommendations that Seward believed would better serve the country in the midst of the secession crisis.  However, the seemingly void-of-potential President, successfully shut down Seward’s propositions on the same day he received the letter, with an eloquent but firm response that provides a snapshot of Lincoln’s firm grasp of his role as president.  Although Lincoln wrote his response to Seward, he in fact read it aloud, which surely gave clear emphasis on Lincoln’s assertion that he alone made the policy of the United States and that if he felt the need to do so, could seek the advice of the cabinet, but that the cabinet could not do this job for him. [2]

Image of Seward’s memo courtesy of The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress

At this point in the build-up to the Civil War, Seward was dissatisfied by the trajectory – or lack thereof – of the President’s domestic and foreign policies. Seward’s frustration primarily lay in the fact that he maintained a deep belief that he would have been a better president than Lincoln. [3]  However, he also had “dominated the Republicans’ response to the [secession] crisis…” and now, “suddenly found himself left in the…impossible position of advocating…a minority view [within the cabinet].” [4] Seward’s recommendations throughout the memo provide insight on his personal opinion and frustration with the President’s first month in office. He concluded the memo by stating the importance of asserting these policies, and that the President should either pursue these changes on his own, or bestow the responsibility to one of his cabinet members. [5]

Image of Lincoln’s response courtesy of The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress

Throughout his response, Lincoln methodically picked apart each of Seward’s complaints and recommendations. He did this by quoting Seward’s original letter and then offering a rebuttal to the Secretary of State’s proposition.  For example, Lincoln wrote:

The first proposition in [your memorandum] is, “1st. We are at the end of a month’s administration, and yet without policy, either domestic or foreign.” [6]

Image of Fort Sumter in April 1861 courtesy of The House Divided Project

He then asserted that throughout the first month of the administration, that he created policies, which he believed Seward approved. In this section the domestic policy described by Lincoln and Seward is the controversial issue of Federal forts in Southern territory.  Leading up to April 1861, both Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina and Fort Pickens on Santa Rosa Island, Florida occupied the leaders’ attention.  Although Seward and Lincoln agreed that a civil war should be avoided, the two did not agree on the course of action regarding Federal control of the forts.  In his memo, Seward stated that he wanted to transfer control of Sumter to South Carolina in order to appease the Carolinians and change the focus of the rapidly approaching war from a question of slavery and party politics to a question of “Union or Disunion”. Seward then wrote:

For the rest, I would simultaneously defend and reinforce all Forts in the Gulf, and have the Navy recalled from foreign stations to be prepared for a blockade…I would maintain every fort and possession in the South.”


Image of Fort Pickens courtesy of The House Divided Project

Lincoln did not agree with Seward’s hypocritical policy of giving up one fort but keeping control of the rest.  Lincoln believed that refusing to give all Federal forts in Southern territory to the belligerents and then reinforcing them with adequate supplies was the best course of action.  In his letter to Seward, Lincoln recalled his inaugural speech on March 4th, in which he stated he would, “…hold, occupy, and possess the property and places belonging to the government…” He then wrote:

…I do not perceive how the re-inforcement of Fort Sumpter would be done on a slavery, or party issue, while that of Fort Pickens would be on a more national, and patriotic one.

In the end, Lincoln employed both secret and public efforts to re-supply Fort Sumter and Fort Pickens in order to maintain Federal control and keep the Confederates at bay.  According to James McPherson, Seward’s efforts prior to his April 1st letter, such as diverting, “the strongest available warship from the Sumter expedition” were unsuccessful in fulfilling his desire to prevent war by appeasing the belligerents. [7]  Ultimately the North was unable to hold Fort Sumter and Major General Robert Anderson surrendered the fort on April 14th, 1861 after thirty-three hours of Confederate shelling. [8] The second section of the memo complemented Seward’s goals to prevent civil war through appeasement by starting war with Europe as a way to unite the country under one flag.

Seward’s original letter to Lincoln begins the section regarding foreign policy with the title “For Foreign Nations”.  Throughout this portion, Seward named several different ways he wished to prevent a war between the states and instead, start a war with the major European powers.  Seward wrote:

I would demand explanations from Spain and France…I would seek explanations from Great Britain and Russia, and send agents into Canada, Mexico and Central America, to rouse vigorous continental spirit of independence on this continent against European intervention. And if satisfactory explanations are not received from Spain and France, Would convene Congress and declare war against them.

Image of the West Indies circa 1857 courtesy of The House Divided Project

This list of Seward’s policy recommendations surrounds the Spanish annexation of Santo Domingo – modern day Dominican Republic – that occurred on March 18, 1861.  Walter Stahr offers helpful explanations for why Seward named the European powers he did, and why they might have been a target for a war with the United States.  According to Stahr, Seward was apprehensive of the annexation because Spain directly violated the 1823 Monroe Doctrine, and the United States needed to respond accordingly in order to protect hemispheric security.  In the case of France, Seward likely referred to French interest in Mexico or a plan to annex Haiti, which would have been another violation of the Monroe Doctrine. [9]  Stahr speculates that the animosity towards Britain may be connected to the “possibility” that the country would admit the sovereignty of the Confederacy to ensure continued cotton imports. [10]  Finally, Stahr explains that the reason behind Seward’s call to “seek explanations” from Russia is largely unknown.  One story is that, according to his son, Frederick Seward, his father referred to the possibility of Russia recognizing the Confederacy, but there are no primary source documents that attest to this theory. [11]

Lincoln’s response to Seward’s demands to start war with Europe in order to unite the country speaks for itself.  The president completely ignored the suggestions to “seek explanations” from Spain, France, Britain, and Russia, and did not authorize agents to go to Canada, Mexico, and Central America for the purpose of rousing “vigorous continental spirit”.  Instead, all Lincoln wrote in his response was:

The news received yesterday in regard to St. Domingo, certainly brings a new item within the range of our foreign policy; but up to this point we have been preparing circulars, and instructions to ministers, and the like, all in perfect harmony, without even a suggestion that we had no foreign policy.

In this section, Lincoln explained to Seward that he had not had the time to come up with a specific foreign policy for the ongoing crisis in Santo Domingo. He also emphasized that throughout the month when he and the Secretary of State discussed similar policy matters and “gave instructions to ministers”, there was no sign that Seward believed the administration “had no foreign policy”.

The most significant aspect of Abraham Lincoln’s response to William Seward’s memo lies at the end of the document when Lincoln affirms his role as Commander and Chief.  Following the rebuttal to the accusation that the administration lacked a coherent foreign policy, the President quoted the last portion of Seward’s memo:

Whatever foreign policy we adopt there must be energetic prosecution of it. For this purpose it must be somebody’s business to pursue and direct it incessantly. Either the President must do it himself…or Devolve it on some member of his cabinet.

Lincoln’s negative response to the suggestion of a cabinet member taking control of creating American domestic and foreign policy showed the President’s opinion of his role and the role of his cabinet. He wrote:

I remark that if this must be done, I must do it. When a general line of policy is adopted, I apprehend there is no danger of its being changed without good reason, or continuing to be a subject of unnecessary debate; still, upon points arising in its progress, I wish, and supposed I am entitled to have the advice of all the cabinet.

Image of Lincoln and his cabinet with General Scott in 1861 courtesy of The House Divided Project

The emphasis on Lincoln’s responsibility to authorize the domestic and foreign policy of the United States is the most important part of his response.  After a hectic few weeks in office during which the President exhibited a certain lack of “executive abilities”, Lincoln successfully asserted himself within his own administration and set the tone for the remainder of his time in office. [12]

Scholars ultimately disagree over the importance of Lincoln’s response to Seward’s, “Some thoughts for the President’s consideration”.  According to Adam Goodheart, the letter to Seward on April 1st constituted a significant turning point in the beginning of Lincoln’s time in office.  Goodheart writes that although Seward’s memo was “insulting”, it lifted the President out of the “funk” he was trapped in during the days prior to April 1st.  The author goes on to emphasize how important that, “the upstart lawyer from Illinois, had now bid defiance to…the nation’s most powerful…politician” was. [13]  Finally, Goodheart argues that the response was a turning point because Lincoln realized that his cabinet was unable to provide the right answers to the biggest questions that faced his administration, and that although they were available to help, “The path ahead would be his alone.” [14]

In contrast, Michael Burlingame describes the exchange in his work Abraham Lincoln: A Life as just one of many examples of Seward’s attempts to strong-arm the President.  Burlingame cites actions by Seward after his conversation on April 1st that demonstrate how Lincoln’s words failed to change the Secretary of State’s ambitions. [15]  For example, Burlingame explains that two days after Lincoln refused to accept his policy recommendations, Seward – clearly peeved that the administration had not changed its domestic and foreign policies – informed The New York Times about his recommendations, and the newspaper ran an editorial entitled “Wanted – A Policy”. [16]  The editorial reinforces Seward’s criticisms of Lincoln’s approach to policy making and demonstrates the Secretary of State’s opinions remained unchanged after the April 1st meeting.  Ultimately, by continuing to try to undermine the President through public printing of policy recommendations and accusations, Seward demonstrated he had learned little from Lincoln’s firm response to the April 1st memorandum. This viewpoint on the importance of the exchange between Seward and Lincoln outlines the complexity of the relationship between the two, but also bolsters the importance of both documents as a snapshot of the mechanics of the Lincoln administration’s first month in office.

There is no documentation that describes Seward’s reaction to Lincoln’s oral response to the memorandum. [17]  Seward was likely shocked because he had been so sure of the Lincoln’s approval of his suggestions that he called The New York Times‘ editor-in-chief, Henry Jarvis Raymond, to Washington to be able to immediately telegraph the news of Lincoln’s approval of Seward’s policies. [18]  Unfortunately for Seward – and Raymond, who had no big story to report – the President refused his policy recommendations and assured the Secretary of State that he could handle the policy-making. On April 1, 1861, Lincoln clearly made his point because Seward eventually backed down.  Although the President and the Secretary of State maintained their own strong opinions, throughout their time in office, they were able to work closely together and had a strong trust in one another that allowed them to successfully maneuver the country through the Civil War.

Works Cited

[1] Lawrence M. Denton, William Henry Seward and the Secession Crisis, North Carolina: McFarland and Company (2009), 140.

[2] Geoffrey Perret, Lincoln’s War, New York: Random House (2004), 23-24.

[3] Perret, Lincoln’s War, 13.

[4] Adam Goodheart, 1861, New York: Alfred A. Knope (2011), 158.

[5] William Henry Seward, “Some thoughts for the President’s consideration,” The Abraham Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress, April 1, 1861, http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/mal:@field(DOCID+@lit(d0866000)).

[6] Abraham Lincoln to William Seward, The Abraham Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress, April 1, 1861, http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/mal:@field(DOCID+@lit(d0860800)).

[7] James McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, New York: Oxford (1998), 270.

[8] McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, 270.

[9] Walter Stahr, Seward, New York: Simon & Schuster (2012), 271.

[10] Stahr, Seward, 271.

[11] Stahr, Seward, 272.

[12] Stahr, Seward, 272.

[13] Goodheart, 1861, 159.

[14] Goodheart, 1861, 159.

[15] Burlingame, Michael, Abraham Lincoln: A Life, Johns Hopkins University Press (2008), http://www.knox.edu/about-knox/lincoln-studies-center/burlingame-abraham-lincoln-a-life, 2376.

[16] Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life, 2380-2381.

[17] Stahr, Seward, 273.

[18] Goodheart, 1861, 158.

Lincoln’s April 15, 1861 Presidential Proclamation

By Riley Dickson (History 288: Civil War and Reconstruction, Spring 2015)

General Winfield Scott, the Commander of the Armies, assured the president on April 14th, 1861 that ““the capital can’t be taken, sir; it can’t be taken.” [1] Scott seemed to believe that a higher power would protect the capital from rebel forces. President Lincoln responded to Scott’s faith with cynicism, ““even if it has been ordained that the city of Washington will never be taken by the Southerners, what would we do, in case they made an attack upon the place, without men and heavy guns?” [2]

On April 14th, 1861 Fort Sumter was evacuated after a two-day siege. The bombardment, and subsequent surrender of the Fort in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina led President Lincoln to issue a proclamation on April 15, 1861. This executive order would have far reaching consequences that hastened the sectional divide between previously loyal southern states and the federal government. In Lincoln’s proclamation he admitted that the law “in the states of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Texas” was no longer enforceable by usual means. In order to restore the law in the southern states in rebellion Lincoln used his powers prescribed by the Militia Act of 1795 and called “seventy-five thousand” troops to restore federal power. [3]

First Page of Lincoln’s April 15, 1861 Proclamation. Courtesy of Senate.gov


The call for seventy-five thousand troops in the proclamation was and has been often criticized as being a half measure. Alexander J. Sessions, a Massachusetts clergyman, urged Lincoln to call for “half a million of troops” to put down the rebellion and protect Washington D.C. [4] A letter Lincoln received from Joseph Medill, of Chicago, also urged him to call up more volunteers in order to “crush the head of the rattle snake.” [5] Reproach for what many assumed was a limited call-up is not solely reserved for Lincoln’s contemporaries. The author Brian Holden Reid claims that Lincoln’s April 15th Proclamation indicated that “Lincoln expected the war to be a short police action.” [6]

The proclamation only called for seventy-five thousand men because that was the extent of Lincoln’s legal ability. The president only had the capability to call out a maximum of 75,000 militia from the States. [7] Therefore the criticism of Lincoln for his conservative call to arms from contemporaries and today is unfounded. In fact, according to the scholar Michael Burlingame, as the cabinet and the president constructed the proclamation they dealt with several legal issues including: “could the army and navy be expanded, unappropriated money be spent, Southern ports be blockaded, and the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus be suspended, all without Congressional approval?” [8] At the outset of the war, Lincoln used his war powers within the limits of pre-existing law.

Lincoln called on citizens to “aid” the endeavor of restoring the Union in anyway that they could support. His use of the word “loyal” was specifically directed at Unionists that were residents of states in rebellion. The verbiage of “facilitate” and “favor” was purposely pointed at loyal southerners because he didn’t expect them to join the militia that he was requesting. Simon Cameron, the Secretary of War, didn’t call-up any troops from the seceding states in his request for troops following the proclamation.

The proclamation laid out an initial strategy for the beginning of the war in the immediate aftermath of the fall of Fort Sumter. By the time of the proclamation most of the federal arsenals and forts within the Confederacy had been seized by the rebels. [9] The President was attempting to allay southern fears that a total war was going to be waged on the seceding territory and therefore publicly committed the new army to “reposes” captured federal property. He stated that the army would “avoid any devastation; any destruction of; or intereference with, property, or any disturbance of peaceful citizens, in any part of the country.”

Fort Sumter. Courtesy of the Library of Congress


The president was so adamant about the preservation of property for non-combatants because of the question of the loyalty border states and Southern states that were still in the Union. At the time of the proclamation the Secession Convention of Virginia was meeting in Richmond. [10] On April 4, 1861 the convention had voted down a proposed secession amendment by a number of 89 to 45. Lincoln, knowing that the fall of Fort Sumter required an immediate military response, took special care to attempt to reassure Virginians that he would take whatever necessary steps to limit collateral damage. Two days after the proclamation, the Secession Convention passed the Ordinance of Seccession.

The Virginia Ordinance of Secession. Courtesy of the Library of Virginia

The president also tempered his language in this paragraph as can be seen from the original draft of the proclamation. The militia is intended “to redress its injurious [in]sults, and injuries wrongs, already too long endured.” The elimination of the harsher language is important in conveying that Lincoln still hoped for reconciliation at the outset of the War. Conciliatory language was not common after the bombardment of Fort Sumter as the April 18th Chicago Tribune editorial showed, “they are now going to meet the despised and insulted Northerners where blood will flow, and blood will tell.” [11] The president was doubtless hoping that the tempered new language would have also given southerners hope that Lincoln understood their grievances and would address them if the conflict was ended quickly.

The April 15, 1861 Proclamation also laid out clemency for the forces in rebellion. Lincoln ordered the “persons” in revolt to “retire peaceably.” No punishment was lodged or threatened against them for taking up arms against the government. His amnesty for southern combatants indicated what many scholars claim, that Lincoln “had more faith in southern loyalists than events and people would justify.” [12] Lincoln’s call for southerners to return to their homes was unheeded as the southern ranks were bolstered, in response to Lincoln’s call for troops, by the secession of Virginia on April 17th, Arkansas on May 6th, North Carolina on May 20th, and Tennessee on June 8th. [13]

Joseph Medill’s Letter to President Lincoln. Courtesy of the House Divided Project

The president ends the proclamation by calling upon both houses of Congress to meet in a special session on July 4, 1861. He may have chosen the the date in order to feed upon the patriotic fervor taking hold throughout the North. The Chicago Tribune editorial page spoke about the “patriotism which has been kindled in every man’s breast,” in the North. [14] Lincoln used nationalistic wording throughout the proclamation to appeal to this growing sentiment amongst the non-seceding states. In the drafted copy Lincoln edits the proclamation in the following way, “which have been seized from the government; Union,” the replacement of “government” with “Union” illustrated Lincoln’s attempt to harness the current nationalistic attitude of the North that Joseph Medill describes as, “Douglas Dems and Lincoln Reps are a unit, and that is, that Sumter must be retaken.” [15]

Lincoln’s Proclamation of April 15, 1861 accelerated events in what had been a slow run-up to the war. Despite what contemporary and modern critics claim, Lincoln’s call-up of seventy-five thousand troops does not prove he believed the war would be quickly won. On the other hand, the president was mustering the maximum amount of men as prescribed by Congress. The document shows Lincoln’s attempt to harness the North’s patriotism as well his appeal to what he believed to be a mostly loyal South. Throughout the document the president tempered his language in order to appear more conciliatory to the rebels, most likely due to the meeting of the Virginia secessionists. Despite the proclamation’s attempt at assuaging the fears of southerners through a promise to avoid collateral damage and an offer of amnesty, four more states seceded and the bloodshed truly began.

[1] Alexander K. McClure, Abraham Lincoln and Men of War-Times (Philadelphia: Times, 1892), 68-69. [Google Books]

[2] Alexander K. McClure, “Abe” Lincoln’s Yarns and Stories (Chicago: n.p., 1904), 72-73. [Google Books]

[3] Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 2008), 2420. [file:///Users/lmsrileyblack/Downloads/Burlingame,%20Vol%202,%20Chap%2023%20(1).pdf]

[4] Alexander J. Sessions to Abraham Lincoln, April 16, 1861, Salem, MA, Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress, March 15, 2015 http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/alhtml/malhome.html.

[5] Joseph Medill to Abraham Lincoln, April 15, 1861, Chicago, IL, Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress, March 15, 2015 http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/alhtml/malhome.html.

[6] Brian Holden Reid, The Origins of the American Civil War (London: Longman, 1996), 358. [Google Books]

[7] United States Congress, General index to the laws of the United States of America from March 4th, 1789, to March 3rd, 1827 (Washington D.C.: William A. Davis, 1828), 324. [Google Books]

[8] Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 2008), 2422. [file:///Users/lmsrileyblack/Downloads/Burlingame,%20Vol%202,%20Chap%2023%20(1).pdf]

[9] Roland Marchand, “The History Project,” University of California Davis, March 18, 2015, http://historyproject.ucdavis.edu/lessons/view_lesson.php?id=13

[10] Nelson D. Lankford, “Virginia Convention of 1861.” Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. 10 Jan. 2011 <http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Virginia_Convention_of_1861>.

[11] “The Old Fire,” Chicago (IL) Tribune, April 18, 1861, p. 2: 1. [House Divided Project]

[12] William C. Harris, Lincoln’s Rise to the Presidency (Lawerence: University of Kansas Press, 2007). [JSTOR]

[13] Louis P. Masur, The Civil War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 24.

[14] “Quick, Sharp, and Decisive,” Chicago (IL) Tribune, April 15, 1861, p. 1: 1. [House Divided Project]

[15] Joseph Medill to Abraham Lincoln, April 15, 1861, Chicago, IL, Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress, March 15, 2015 http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/alhtml/malhome.html.

Lincoln’s Proclamation of Thanksgiving (October 3, 1863)

Close Reading – Proclamation of Thanksgiving (October 3, 1863)

By: Ellen Tuttle (History 288: Civil War & Reconstruction)

Image Courtesy of histsociety.blogspot.com.

Thanksgiving Day 1863: Image Courtesy of histsociety.blogspot.com.


One morning early in October, Seward entered the President’s room

“… I have come to-day to advise you, that there is [another] State right I think we ought to steal.”

Mr. Lincoln looked up from his papers, with a quizzical expression.

“Well, Governor, what do you want to steal now?”

“The right to name Thanksgiving Day!” [1]


When Secretary of State William H. Seward and President Abraham Lincoln discussed the implementation of a national day of Thanksgiving, both men agreed that such an establishment would be more valuable than having individual days organized within each respective state. In the years preceding Lincoln’s Proclamation of Thanksgiving, a handful of states had been celebrating their own days of thanks, all at different times of year. [2] Based on the account delivered in a compilation of his memoirs, Seward approached Lincoln with his opinion that a day of Thanksgiving be nationally recognized, and Lincoln agreed in saying that, “the usage had its origin in custom, and not in constitutional law; so that a President ‘had as good a right to thank God as a governor.” [1]

Although Lincoln physically communicated the establishment of the national holiday to the public, the organization of the annual celebration was multifaceted, and evolved from the input of other minds such as Seward and author/activist Sarah Josepha Hale. While historians continue to debate the true origins of Thanksgiving, the lobbying effort put forward in its establishment as a national holiday comes solely from Sarah Hale. For most of her career, Hale had written editorials and letters to Governors asking for a widely recognized day of thanks. Additionally, years after the Proclamation had been delivered and published, it was discovered that Secretary of State Seward was the true author of the document. While Lincoln included his own modifications in the transcript, the bulk of the Proclamation came from the pen of the Secretary of State. While Seward’s hand maneuvered the written text of the decree, Lincoln’s verbal delivery was equally vital to the overall success of the effort. In delivering the Thanksgiving Proclamation, and all of his speeches, Lincoln revolutionized the communication between the President and citizens. Despite the complicated nature of the holiday’s development, Hale, Seward, and Lincoln joined efforts to establish a national Thanksgiving which continues to be upheld.

Image acquired from Boston Women's Heritage Trail.

Sarah Josepha Hale: Image courtesy of Boston Women’s Heritage Trail.

Widow, poet, and writer, Sarah Hale had advocated for a national Thanksgiving for more than twenty years before it was enacted in 1863. Self-educated and the literary editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, Sarah Hale’s editorials evolved from raising questions concerning how the betterment of the domestic American life to focusing on her effort for a nationally recognized day of thanks. [3]

Hale’s first novel, Northwood (1827) set her thanksgiving crusade in motion. Having credited the pilgrims at Plymouth for the origins of Thanksgiving, Hale boldly expressed the moral goodness of having a day set aside for the sole purpose of giving thanks to God. While Northwood presented the idea of Thanksgiving in terms of a New England celebration, Hale’s following novel, Traits of American Life (1835), further pressed her argument for a national day of recognition. As more states, primarily in New England, began to recognize a day of Thanksgiving, Hale brought her opinions into her editorials in Godey’s Lady’s Book. Hale emphasized the religious implications of an established Thanksgiving while stressing its potential to unify an increasingly divided nation. [2]

Finally, in 1863, Sarah Hale drafted a letter to President Abraham Lincoln, beseeching him to use his presidential power to enact a national day of Thanksgiving. Hale firmly asserted her position by providing the support of her previous appeals while noting her contact with Secretary of State William H. Seward:

…You may have observed that, for some years past, there has been an increasing interest felt in our land to have the Thanksgiving held on the same day, in all the States; it now needs National recognition and authoritative fixation, only, to become permanently, an American custom and institution…I have written to my friend, Hon. Wm. H. Seward, and requested him to confer with President Lincoln on this subject… [4]

Hale’s success in communicating with President Lincoln, as well as her victory in the establishment of a national Thanksgiving, demonstrates Lincoln’s devotion to the people whom he governed. While Lincoln could have easily ignored Hale’s letter and request, he not only acknowledged her wishes but granted them as well. The successful correspondence between Hale and Lincoln sheds light upon his innovative approach to President-citizen communication.

Image Courtesy of American Experience at PBS.

Lincoln Converses with McClellan: Image Courtesy of American Experience at PBS.

Abraham Lincoln was forthright and consistent in his correspondence with the public domain. According to historian Karl Weber, Lincoln’s “risk taking as a communicator” serves as a “useful model for presidents in search of effective strategies”. [5] Lincoln had a talent of communicating with the common man; he often told anecdotes from his own humble life to relate with ordinary people. Additionally, Lincoln was not afraid to admit his shortcomings and failures. In his autobiographical sketch (1859), Lincoln writes about his early life in the back country of Illinois, his simple education, and both his successes and failures in professional life. While he does not attempt to aggrandize his accomplishments, Lincoln’s acknowledgement of his undistinguished history made him more appealing to common citizens. [6]

Another face of Lincoln’s communication effort that struck the public was his tendency to exercise restraint and respect his adversaries. Even when Lincoln discussed the people of the Confederacy, he regarded them as “brothers of whom he asked only that they lay down their weapons.” [5] He avoided from using hostile language or making direct accusations. When faced with opposing opinions, Lincoln simply sought compromise and encouraged the adoption of an open-mindedness approach.

In enacting a national Thanksgiving, Lincoln spoke directly to the people and circumvented state governments. He implored the nation to look beyond the suffering of the war and instead acknowledge the blessings that the nation experienced: retention of order and laws, expanding settlements, and abundance of natural resources. However, the decree made on October 3, 1863 was not the first Thanksgiving proclamation to have been made by Lincoln. By his death in 1865, Lincoln would issue a total of five thanksgiving proclamations and two decrees of national fast days [7]. Such proclamations were often issued after victorious events in the war. For instance, the first thanksgiving proclamation was issued on July 15, 1863 in response to the victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, declaring that August 6 of that year be set aside as a day of observance in gratitude for the good fortune that had graced the Union. [8] The proclamation delivered in October of 1863 only specified the celebration of Thanksgiving on the last Thursday in November of that year; Lincoln would deliver another proclamation in 1864 to permanently designate the last Thursday in November as a national day of thanksgiving.

Despite the fact that Lincoln delivered the announcement to the public, most credit concerning the composition of the document is given to Secretary of State William Seward. Acting as Lincoln’s faithful sounding board, Seward, like Lincoln, was a micromanager. Despite their similarities in their approach to organization, Lincoln was often subdued and reserved in his display of opinion, Seward was direct and bold. The contrasting personalities of the two men, in conjunction with their similar beliefs, created a balance that would remain successful throughout Lincoln’s presidency.

Image courtesy of Lincoln Cottage Blog at WordPress.

Lincoln and Seward: Image courtesy of Lincoln Cottage Blog at WordPress.

According to historian James McPherson, Seward often felt the need to exercise control over most presidential decisions because “[he] had not fully accepted his eclipse as Republican Party Leader.” [9] Having been defeated by Lincoln in the nomination for the Republican presidential candidate in 1860, historians such as McPherson surmise that Seward retained a sense of bitterness after having been conquered by an unknown Illinois lawyer. Seward had been politically distinguished for some years before Lincoln came into the picture. Before Lincoln became known to the general public, he gained popularity by speaking alongside Seward (who was often the keynote orator). However must resentment had existed for Seward after having been beaten Lincoln, he faithfully served the President throughout his time in office.

When the topic of enacting a national Thanksgiving arose, Seward communicated his opinions that one national holiday of Thanksgiving should exist for all states as opposed to “…letting the Governors of States name half a dozen different days…”. [1] While many historians believe that Seward wrote the bulk of Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation, others, such as Roy Prentice Basler, believe that such suppositions are entirely false. In his narrative, Basler delves into the proclamation, and points out errors, such as usage of language and writing characteristics, that falsify the argument that Seward wrote the document. [10] Other historians, such as Walter Stahr in his history of Seward, fully support the notion that Seward drafted the proclamation altogether. [11] Indeed, Lincoln had made his own alterations to the speech, however, it was Seward who developed the address.

In writing the proclamation, Seward made multiple references to God and religion. While frequent references to Christianity may have worked to facilitate Lincoln’s communication with the public, Lincoln himself had his own personal battles concerning religion.

…they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God…set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens…[1]

While historians continue to debate the nature of Lincoln’s belief in God, it is clear that he was not dogmatic in his faith. By the end of his life, Lincoln’s spiritual connection with religion had transformed considerably. While accounts from Mary Todd and William Herndon claim that, at times, Lincoln was openly anti-God, his prose often alluded to belief in a higher power, as seen in documents such as the Gettysburg Address and Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address. Based on the opinion of Stephen Mansfield in his Lincoln’s Battle with God, Abraham Lincoln did have periods in his life in which he was anti-religious. [12]

Lincoln was raised a Baptist, however throughout his adult life, he never joined a church. Furthermore, historians dispute over his religion during his early life. Gastón Espinosa, in his Religion and the American Presidency, argues that Lincoln was devoutly religious as a child, “reading the family Bible over and over”, [7] whereas Mansfield and historian James Matheny claim that Lincoln was heretic in his behavior, publicly denouncing the Bible and its teachings.

Lincoln and Tad Examine the Bible: Image Courtesy of Abraham Lincoln's Classroom at the Lincoln Institute.

Lincoln and Tad Examine the Bible: Image Courtesy of Abraham Lincoln’s Classroom at the Lincoln Institute.

The question becomes whether or not Lincoln’s faith simply evolved throughout his life or if his allusions were all empty. Because of the intense challenges placed upon Lincoln, beginning at an early age with the death of his mother, it is possible that he truly believed in God, however simply chose to privatize the bulk of his spiritual beliefs. Having endured deaths of those he loved, abuse from his father [12], a war within a divided nation, and challenges in his marriage, Abraham Lincoln may have found God in a time where much else was failing him. The topic, however, continues to be debated with many questions still left unanswered.

It is without a doubt that allusion to religion was intended in the Thanksgiving Proclamation. By touching upon Christianity, Lincoln and Seward targeted the innermost beliefs of the public and reminded them of the faith that they could not lose sight of. In alluding to God, Lincoln effectively communicated to citizens by referencing a topic that they could easily relate to; relate to Lincoln and to one another. By having the opportunity to find common ground with one another and the president, citizens could fulfill Sarah Hale’s hope that Thanksgiving would spark unity, and eventually heal the deep wounds of the nation. In working together to permanently establish the beloved national holiday, Hale, Seward, and Lincoln could not have foreseen the unifying effect that their efforts would have on the nation over one hundred fifty years later.

Works Cited:

[1] Frederick W. Seward and William H. Seward, William H. Seward 1861-1872 (Derby and Miller, 1891), 193-194.

[2] “The Godmother of Thanksgiving: The Story of Sarah Josepha Hale,” Pilgrim Society & Pilgrim Hall Museum, accessed March 18, 2015, http://www.pilgrimhallmuseum.org/pdf/ Godmother_of_Thanksgiving.pdf.

[3] “Sarah J. Hale,” National Women’s History Museum, accessed March 15, 2015,


[4] “Sarah J. Hale to Abraham Lincoln, September 28, 1863,” Lincoln Studies CEnter at Knox College, accessed March 17, 2015, http://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/ primarysourcesets/thanksgiving/pdf/sarah_hale.pdf.

[5] Karl Weber, Lincoln: A President for the Ages (PublicAffairs, 2012), 193-195.

[6] “Autobiographical Sketch (December 20, 1859),” Lincoln’s Writings: The Multimedia Edition, accessed April 07, 2015, http://housedivided.dickinson.edu/sites/lincoln/ autobiographical-sketch-december-20-1859/.

[7] Gastón Espinosa, Religion and the American Presidency: George Washington to George W. Bush with Commentary Sources (Columbia University Press, 2009), 172-173.

[8] Gerald J. Prokopowicz, Did Lincoln Own Slaves?: And Other Frequently Asked Questions About Abraham Lincoln (Vintage Books, 2009),116-118.

[9] James McPherson, Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution (Oxford University Press, 1991), 118-119.

[10] Roy Prentice Basler and Abraham Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln: His Speeches and His Writings (Da Capo Press, 2001), 729.

[11] Walter Stahr, Seward: Lincoln’s Indispensable Man (Simon and Schuster, 2013), 380-381.

[12] Stephen Mansfield, Lincoln’s Battle With God: A President’s Struggle With Faith and What it Meant for America (Thomas Nelson Inc., 2012), xvi-xxi, 1-7.

Additional sources:

A.E. Elmore, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address: Echoes of the Bible and Book of Common Prayer (SIU Press, 2009), 1-3.

Donald Thomas Phillips, Lincoln on Leadership (Donald T Phillips, 1992), 155-156.

Gabor Boritt, The Gettysburg Gospel: The Lincoln Speech that Nobody Knows (Simon and Schuster, 2008), 165-168.

“Proclamation of Thanksgiving (October 3, 1863),” Lincoln’s Writings: The Multimedia Edition, accessed March 05, 2015, http://housedivided.dickinson.edu/sites/lincoln/ proclamation-of-thanksgiving-october-3-1863/.


Close Reading- Lincoln’s Fragment on the Constitution and the Union

By Katri Thiele, Civil War to Reconstruction (HIST 288), Spring 2015

Profound political, social, and moral divisions crippled the integrity of the United States leading up to Abraham Lincoln’s first election to presidency on November 6, 1860. In his efforts to preserve the remainder of the Union, Abraham Lincoln conversed with southern Congressman Alexander H. Stephens in what might be called “The Lincoln-Stephens Debates of 1860-1861.” Lincoln held steadily to the Congressman (who would eventually become the Vice-President of the Confederate States of America) as he tried to convince the president elect to promise southerners a future for the institution of slavery. A pragmatist, Lincoln knew not to directly threaten the southern institution, but would not allow his country to persist under a practice that, as he believed, was blatantly condemned by the Founding Fathers. Lincoln’s January 1861 “Fragment on the Constitution and the Union”  was a privately kept note in response to Stephens’s counsel that asked him to guarantee protection of slavery; a request which utterly contradicted his principles as a politician, but more so as a humane being. This note arguably reveals more about the foundations of Lincoln’s politics and morals, rooted in the Declaration of Independence, than do most known speeches or letters.

It was December 22, 1860. Short of two months following the controversial election of Abraham Lincoln to United States presidency, and only two days after the secession of South Carolina, the first state in the to-be Confederate States of America. Alexander Stephens, a Congressman hailing from Crawfordville, Georgia received a letter from the president elect, headed boldly with “For your own eye only…” The president elect was an old friend of Stephens’, the two having worked together as Whigs in Congress from the 1840s. [1] Both skilled politicians, they were in the midst of an exchange concerning the most significant political event to afflict the United States of America- the secession of southern states from the Union over Constitutional dissent.

Courtesy of “Alexander H. Stephens in Public and Private: With Letters Before, During, and Since the War”

Lincoln’s election in 1860 was hotly contested over his ideas regarding the institution of slavery. Southern states deeply feared that his interpretation of the Declaration of Independence focused too heavily upon the “self-evident” truth that “all men are created equal,” which would endanger the future of slavery- an institution in direct opposition of this moral principle. This threatened the way of life in the South and, especially frightening, the success of the southern economy. After South Carolina took initiative in December of 1860, the secessionist sentiment feverishly intensified throughout the South, becoming less of an empty threat and more of a reality. By February 1, 1861 seven more states had seceded from the Union. [2]

Courtesy of Wikipedia


On November 14, 1860- just five days following Lincoln’s election- Congressman Stephens traveled to Milledgeville, GA to acknowledge the expanding sentiment for secession in his state:

My object is…not to appeal to your passions, but your reason…In my judgment, the election of no man, constitutionally chosen to that high office, is sufficient cause to justify any State to separate from the Union. It ought to stand by and aid still in maintaining the Constitution of the country…The President of the United States is no Emperor, no Dictator– he is clothed with no absolute power. [3]

Stephens, counseling Georgians against a hasty decision for secession, held to the Constitution to make his point; the document had not been defied in Lincoln’s election, as pro-secessionists claimed. To consider secession out of fear that Lincoln might endanger their interests, Stephens claimed, would bestow upon them the burden of their own hypocrisy- rebellion against the Constitution. Stephens’ suggestion, instead, was to hold the threat of secession until the Republican president actively violated their Constitutional rights. Specifically, until he attempted to interfere with the institution of slavery under the law.

In late December of 1860 began the exchange between Stephens and Lincoln, opening with the president elect requesting a copy of Stephens’ Milledgeville speech, a request made out of admiration for the oration and its message. Stephens’ response initiated the necessary conversation regarding the state of the Union: “The country is certainly in great peril, and no man had heavier or greater responsibilities than you have in the present momentous crisis.” [3] The discussion maintained a cordial tone, as an attempt to cooperate in preservation of the remainder of the Union. Stephens earnestly advised Lincoln to make some action- a statement or otherwise- to appease those in the South who had not yet seceded; in other words, to guarantee protection of their ideals. “A promise from Lincoln to protect the constitutional status of slavery,” claims historian Jack Rakove, “would avoid the ‘consolidated despotism’ that any attempt to restrain seceding states by force would ultimately create.” [4] Stephens suggested some caution, respectfully reminding the president elect that he lacked the power, under the Constitution, to interfere with the institution of slavery.

Lincoln’s response to Stephens assured him that the South need not fear for their rights- the Republican administration had no intention to interfere with their treasured institution, either “directly or indirectly.” [2] His personal response however, in the form of a private note, was much more telling regarding his purposes and ultimate objectives as president of the United States. In this note, “Fragment on the Constitution and the Union,” Lincoln avows his devotion to the Declaration of Independence and, in turn, to the message of the Founding Fathers: a self-governing body shall only survive if it is true to liberty “not selfishly, but upon principle.” [5] Furthermore, Lincoln emphasized the importance of the people’s passion for liberty- as this liberty was the end to which the efforts of federal Union and governmental proceedings, such as the Constitution, were the means. Historian Lucas E. Morel highlights Lincoln’s point: “because the liberties each person possesses by nature are not self-enforcing, the mechanism by which these liberties were to be protected becomes especially important.” [5] Lincoln’s personal thoughts in response to Stephens begin as follows.

Without the Constitution and the Union, we could not have attained the result; but even these, are not the primary cause of our great prosperity. There is something back of these, entwining itself more closely about the human heart. That something, is the principle of ‘Liberty to all’ —the principle that clears the path for all— gives hope to all— and by consequence, enterprize, and industry to all.

The final sentence referred to those unalienable rights endowed by the Creator of men as stated in the Declaration of Independence: “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” One of the biggest challenges that Abraham Lincoln faced during his presidency, however, was to clarify the meaning of liberty- the spirit that should govern the lives of all Americans in the ideal self-governing nation, but which was vehemently debated. In a speech to the Women’s Central Association of Relief in Baltimore, MD, on April 18, 1864, Lincoln identified the large-scale distinction between liberty in the Union and in the Confederacy that created their mutual animosity in the Civil War: “With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor while with others the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men’s labor.” [5]  

It was this difference in ideas that created a divided nation, as it was from 1861 to 1865. The latter belonged to Confederate minds; as it defined liberty for certain classes of men, it defined slavery for others. Unequivocally, this directly violated those beliefs expressed by the document most important to Lincoln- the Declaration of Independence- whose authors considered slavery a “necessary evil.”

Without this [Declaration of Independence], as well as with it, we could have declared our independence of Great Britain; but without it, we could not, I think, have secured our free government, and consequent prosperity. No oppressed, people will fight, and endure, as our fathers did, without the promise of something better, than a mere change of masters.

The final sentence of this section indicated that the citizens of the United States would not toil for a unified, flourishing nation without the eventual promise of idyllic liberty and freedom. But what would this liberty entail, and how would it manifest itself in the United States of America? Without a doubt, Lincoln believed that as long as slavery persisted, liberty could not be. The two were mutually exclusive. As long as liberty, in its proper sense, did not dictate the spirit of the Union, it could not be the prosperous, self-governing nation that the Founding Fathers dreamed of during the Revolutionary War. Lincoln draws a direct connection between oppression by British rule and oppression by slavery. It was clear that these dictatorship efforts were analogous- yet somehow no empathy was evocable in the Confederate people.

Lincoln’s most direct response to Alexander H. Stephens’ letters came in the next section of his note. In a lengthy response to the president elect, dated December 30, 1860, the Georgia Congressman alluded to Proverbs 25:11 of the Bible, to urge Lincoln to somehow deliver a message that would placate the remaining Southern states: “A word ‘fitly spoken’ by you now, would indeed be ‘like apples of gold, in pictures of silver.’” [5]

Abraham Lincoln 16th President of the United States Portrai

While not a man of vehement religious beliefs, Lincoln certainly understood Stephens’ allusion and intended message. He inverted the simile somewhat, applying it to his own position:

The assertion of that principle, at that time, was the word, ‘fitly spoken’ which has proved an ‘apple of gold’ to us. The Union, and the Constitution, are the picture of silver, subsequently framed around it. The picture was made, not to conceal, or destroy, the apple; but to adorn, and preserve, it. The picture was made for the apple— not the apple for the picture.

The assertion of that principle, for Lincoln, is the Declaration of Independence and its emphasis on liberty. This, as the golden apple, enclosed by a silver frame- the Constitution and the established Union. Historian George Kateb evaluates this metaphor: “the Constitution and the Union were…instrumental: precious but not as precious as the golden…principle; neither thing of silver was an end in itself.” [7] Lincoln unequivocally established his opinion that the Declaration of Independence is the document upon which the United States was formed and shall be governed- preserving liberty, the sentiment deemed fundamental by our Founding Fathers. Kateb argues, “as long as the Constitution and the Union permitted slavery, they could not be golden.” [7]

Historian Allen Guelzo claims that “even among Lincoln’s admirers, there is a running current of discomfort at Lincoln’s apparent willingness to set the Constitution below the Declaration.” He refers to conservative historians Willmoore Kendall and Gottfried Dietz, among others, who argue that Lincoln manipulated and demolished the Constitution to “pursue dictatorial glory as president,” and “put himself in Washington’s place as the father of his country.” [8] This may have been the impression of pro-secessionists as well. However, Kerry T. Burch, author of Democratic Transformations: Eight Conflicts in the Negotiation of the American Identity, seems to more accurately identify Lincoln’s purpose; she claims that he was not so intent to degrade the Constitution in relation to the Declaration, but rather to emphasize his belief that “without the prior guidance of the Declaration’s values and principles, the Constitution would continue to function as no more than an amoral legal framework.” [9] Rakove, in his review of Alexander Tsesis’s tribute to the Declaration of Independence, For Liberty and Equality, highlights Lincoln’s reverence for Thomas Jefferson, an author of the Declaration, quoting Lincoln from April 1859: “All honor to Jefferson, for having the ‘capacity to introduce into a merely revolutionary document, an abstract truth, applicable to all men and all times.’” [4] Lincoln undoubtedly delivered this line with emphasis on “all men.”

In his final sentences of the note, Lincoln acknowledged secession. Here he addressed the United States as a coalition, and its people as a unified body. Lincoln called upon the people not only to obey the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Union, but to understand their power and value in both the history and the future of the United States. Those who favored secession and nullification saw the Union as a compact among sovereign states, from which they could opt out if in disagreement with its doctrines. The opposing side, being those who believed in “perpetual union,” saw it as a compact among people that required agreement of all parties to defy. Lincoln sided with the latter, declaring that “no State, upon its own mere notion, can lawfully get out of the Union…The central idea of secession is the essence of anarchy.” [2] Lincoln’s note stressed that secession would completely discount the efforts and intentions of the Founding Fathers. A universal understanding of liberty, in its true sense, would have squandered any notion for such blasphemy.

So let us act, that neither picture, or apple shall ever be blurred, or bruised, or broken.

That we may so act, we must study, and understand the points of danger.

Abraham Lincoln was an eloquent and thoughtful writer and orator. His “Fragment on the Constitution and on the Union” provided major insight into his reaction to southern state secession following his first election to presidency. These thoughts of his were never publicized so cohesively as in this note, however his eventual triumph in achieving nationwide moral and political change was largely a result of his compelling public discourse. What made him so successful, as both a lawyer and a politician, was his ability to maintain radical objectives in private, but deliver them moderately in the public eye.

In a speech at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, on February 22, 1861, soon after the alleged writing of this note, Lincoln made clear his passion to preserve the integrity of the United States of America. He was confident that this could be accomplished, but not without cohesive effort and mutual understanding among the American people. This would require a common sense of liberty and universal realization of the interdependence between politics and morals. Lincoln was not credulous as to expect a Union victory in the Civil War to dissolve racist sentiments throughout the country. He recognized that pragmatism in politics was the way to accomplish de jure equality, in order to create the path that would one day lead to de facto liberty in the United States. Lincoln’s reelection to presidency in 1864 confirmed that it was common understanding that he was the one capable of leading the nation to this fate.

I have often inquired of myself, what great principle or idea it was that kept this Confederacy so long together. It was not the mere matter of the separation of the colonies from the mother land; but something in that Declaration giving liberty, not alone to the people of this country, but hope to the world for all future timeNow, my friends, can this country be saved upon that basis? If it can, I will consider myself one of the happiest men in the world if I can help to save it. If it can’t be saved upon that principle, it will be truly awful. But, if this country cannot be saved without giving up that principle–I was about to say I would rather be assassinated on this spot than to surrender it. [10]

It was also at Independence Hall that, four years later, Abraham Lincoln’s body lay in state after his assassination, as his funeral train made its way from Washington, D.C. to lay him to rest in his hometown of Springfield, Illinois. [10]

Works Cited

[1] University of Georgia Libraries. “Abraham Lincoln Letter to Alexander Stephens.” Hargrett Rare Book & Manuscript Library (2013). http://www.libs.uga.edu/hargrett/selections/ confed/letter.html

[2] Masur, Louis P. The Civil War: A Concise History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

[3] Johnston, Richard Malcolm and William Hand Browne. Life of Alexander H. Stephens. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co, 1883. (Google eBook)

[4] Rakove, Jack. “Fitly Spoken: A Review of Alexander Tsesis’s  For Liberty and Equality.” The New Republic, 2012. http://www.newrepublic.com/book/review/liberty-equality-alexander-tsesis

[5] Morel, Lucas E. Lincoln, Liberty, and the American Constitutional Union: Chapter 6- Lincoln, Liberty, and the American Constitutional Union, (pg 130). Kentucky: The University Press of Kentucky, 2014.

[6] Cleveland, Henry. Alexander H. Stephens in Public and Private. With Letters and Speeches Before, During and Since the War. Philadelphia: National Publishing Company, 1886. (Google eBook)

[7] Kateb, George. Lincoln’s Political Thought, (pg 59). Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2015. (Google eBook)

[8] Guelzo, Allen C. Abraham Lincoln as a Man of Ideas, Chapter 6- Apples of Gold in a Picture of Silver (pg 105-115). Illinois: Southern Illinois University Press, 2009. (Dickinson Library Online)

[9] Burch, Kerry T. Democratic Transformations: Eight Conflicts in the Negotiation of the American Identity. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2012. (Google eBook)

[10] Abraham Lincoln Online. “Speech at Independence Hall.” Speeches & Writings (2015). http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/speeches/philadel.htm

Lincoln photo courtesy of Jeremy Penn, Stephens photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Abraham Lincoln’s Letter to Andrew Johnson, September 11, 1863

By Brendan Birth

By September 1863, the Union was gradually regaining control of Tennessee. This was good news for President Abraham Lincoln, who was facing the prospect of a re-election campaign in 1864. In spite of this development, however, there were three things the president still needed to see accomplished, as of September 1863, for the ultimate success of his war policy.  First, he wanted Tennessee maintained as a state in the Union, second, that emancipation was brought into the state, and third, that African Americans who lived there would be allowed to serve in the Union army.

In order to carry out these policies, Lincoln needed the cooperation of Andrew Johnson, who was then the Military Governor of Tennessee (and later became President of the United States after Lincoln was assassinated). As a result, Lincoln wrote an important letter in September 1863 letter dealing with these issues that he hoped would become a reality under Governor Johnson.[1] However, that is the key word: hope. While Lincoln wanted Johnson to embrace his agenda embraced, The Tennessee politician had been slow to act, especially on emancipation and black rights.[2] As a result, Lincoln felt the need to mobilize Johnson and to do so soon.  This explains the sense of urgency which permeates this revealing confidential letter.

Isham G. Harris, Confederate Tennessee Governor

Isham G. Harris, Confederate Governor of Tennessee. Image courtesy of the House Divided Project at Dickinson College.

Naturally, Lincoln’s first goal was to keep Tennessee out of Confederate hands. Unfortunately, the historical events of 1863 made it clear that this was no easy task. With secessionists such as Isham G. Harris, the Confederate Governor of Tennessee, trying to get involved in the affairs of the state, the president had his hands full.[3] He knew that there was only one way for Lincoln and Johnson to keep control of the state out of the hands of people like Harris: by “re-inaugurating a loyal State government.”[4] Therefore, Lincoln conveyed this fact when he wrote to Johnson.

While Union control over the state was at the top of the president’s priority list, he also needed Johnson to move more quickly on emancipation. While Lincoln praised the governor because “I see that you have declared in favor of emancipation in Tennessee,” he also wanted Johnson to “get emancipation into your new State government.”[5] These quotes were based on the fact that Johnson was pro-emancipation at the time yet unwilling to enact this policy within his state government. As a September 8, 1863 article in The New York Times stated, he was “on the extreme anti-slavery ground” yet believed that the people of Tennessee should be the ones to take action in freeing the slaves (not the federal government, or state governments).[6] What this article failed to mention was that Johnson was dragging his feet with the issue,[7] and that even by the time that he was in favor of immediate emancipation, “his deep-seated racial antipathies never faded away.”[8] Maybe Lincoln knew of this fact, and that as a result he felt the need to keep Johnson focused on this issue so that he did not let prejudices get in the way of emancipation.

Lincoln briefly made a third demand to Andrew Johnson: allowing African American troops to serve in the army. He bluntly made that request when he said that, “The raising of colored troops I think will greatly help every way.”[9] This had to be a jarring statement to Andrew Johnson, who has been described by contemporary biographers as “no supporter of black soldiers.”[10] Consequently, the president had to work on convincing Governor Johnson to allow African Americans in the military.

While Lincoln was pushing Johnson to do three different things, these requests shared something in common: they all involved the president asking Johnson to take action as possible. This leads one to ask why Lincoln felt such a sense of urgency.

Andrew Johnson

Andrew Johnson, who was the Military Governor of Tennessee at the time Lincoln wrote to Johnson. Image courtesy of The New York Times.

Part of the answer was that Johnson was slow to act on Lincoln’s agenda. With governmental issues, Johnson was hesitant to run elections in Tennessee because he feared that the Confederates would win; this concern was highlighted in Hans L. Trefousse’s biography of Andrew Johnson.[11] His problems with emancipation and African American soldiers were different. On these two issues, he was either procrastinating (as with emancipation)[12] or rejecting Lincoln’s ideas (as with not allowing African American soldiers).[13] Those actions, or a lack thereof, could explain why Lincoln felt impatient with the then-Military Governor of Tennessee.

There was another reason why Lincoln needed Johnson to act quickly: there was the potential for a new president to be elected as soon as autumn of the next year. Not only that, but it was possible that the new commander-in-chief would be hostile to what Lincoln had done. He made this clear when he said that, “It is something on the question of time, to remember that it can not be known who is next to occupy the position I now hold, nor what he will do.”[14]

Lincoln probably didn’t just mention the upcoming election for the sake of saying that he might be defeated in 1864. Instead, may’ve mentioned this in order to mobilize Johnson. By bringing up the fact that the president’s goal of bringing the Union back together (and therefore Johnson’s goal of bringing the Union back together) was in danger of being undone in the near future, Lincoln was able to convey to Johnson the fact that he needed to act soon.

But was Lincoln successful at telling Johnson that he needed to act soon? Based on other September 1863 correspondence between Lincoln and Johnson, the answer seems to be a qualified “yes.” This is for one simple reason: while Johnson’s policies reflected some of Lincoln’s policy ideals, he was still slow to act on emancipation.

Storming of Fort Donelson

This is a depiction of the storming of Fort Donelson in Tennessee. This picture depicts the sort of invasion from outside forces that Governor Johnson wanted to avoid when he asked Lincoln to apply Article IV, Section 4 of the Constitution. Image Courtesy of the National Park Service.

Johnson’s replies clearly seemed in line with Lincoln’s ideas on how to keep Tennessee in the Union. Lincoln wanted a government that was not only loyal to the Union, but one that he hoped would be “recognized here as being one of the republican form, to be guaranteed to the state, and to be protected against invasion and domestic violence.”[15] This language sounds eerily similar to the “4th section of the Constitution” that Johnson wanted Lincoln to use;[16] this section (which seems to be shorthand for Article IV, Section 4 of the Constitution) has a “guarantee to every state in this union a republican form of government, and shall protect each of them against invasion.”[17] Less clear was the way in which he wanted this section of the Constitution applied. Did he want this provision enforced so that the federal government would take more action in Tennessee (whatever that would entail), or did he have something else in mind?

The correspondence between Lincoln and Johnson does not provide one with an obvious answer, so it’s hard to tell whether this part of the constitution was used in a substantive way in Tennessee’s case. Nevertheless, the president responded positively to the idea of using Article IV, Section 4 of the Constitution in the way that Johnson wished.[18] Lincoln even elaborated on how he wanted Johnson “to exercise such powers as may be necessary and proper to enable the loyal people of Tennessee to present such a republican form of state government.”[19]

Clearly, the president was able to mobilize Johnson on how to keep the state in the Union. At the same time, he seemed to successfully convince Johnson that African Americans should serve in the military. This was what Johnson said about that issue:

“If we were authorized to offer $300 in addition to the present bounty to loyal masters consenting to their slaves entering the service of the United States it would be an entering wedge to emancipation, and for the time paralyzing much opposition to recruiting slaves in Tennessee, the slave to receive all other pay and his freedom at the expiration of term of service.”[20]

He was finally addressing Lincoln’s desire for African American troops to serve in the military. He did this by seemingly implying that, if slave masters took the appropriate action, they could have slaves fight in their place (hence opening the door for African Americans to serve in the military).

But it was not just enslaved African Americans who were encouraged to join the military. A September 27, 1863 newspaper article from the Nashville Union (a newspaper clipping which Johnson sent to Lincoln) mentioned recruitment of African Americans to serve in the military, both slaves and free persons alike.[21] This was a change-in-tune from Johnson’s former opposition to allowing African Americans in the military.


A Civil War recruitment poster for slaves, albeit not for Tennessee. This is the sort of recruitment that one would expect from Governor Johnson and Tennessee after he allowed African Americans to serve in the military. Image courtesy of archives.gov.

This action would have almost immediate consequences. On October 3, 1863, just a few days after correspondence between Lincoln and Johnson ended, African American soldiers were for the first time recruited in Tennessee.[22] Based on the timing of this War Department order, it almost seemed like the president was waiting for Governor Johnson to declare his support for such a measure.

This evidence indicates that Lincoln got his wish on African Americans serving in the military. At the same time, the quote from a few paragraphs ago also shows that the president did not get his wish on slavery. Instead of getting emancipation in Tennessee State Constitution, the president instead got military service from slaves, which Johnson considered a “wedge to emancipation.”[23] In other words, Lincoln failed to get immediate emancipation as he requested, but military service for African Americans, which might lead to emancipation later (gradual emancipation).

Indeed, Tennessee took a long time to act on Lincoln’s request for immediate emancipation. He asked for this in his September 1863 letter to Johnson, but this would not come into law until February 22, 1865.[24] In other words, the September 8, 1863 New York Times article was correct when it said that the governor was in favor of emancipation (supported by Lincoln’s correspondence with Johnson, where the governor said that he was in favor of immediate emancipation)[25] yet rejected the notion that the government taking substantive action on the issue[26] (constitutionally-supported immediate emancipation didn’t happen in Tennessee until a couple weeks within the beginning of his vice presidency).[27]

Lincoln got some, but not all, of what he requested for in his September 11, 1863 letter. However, one should not be overly critical of the president for not getting quite everything he wanted out of Johnson. While he didn’t get constitutional emancipation out of the governor, he got much more if he should have expected. Sources like Aaron Astor’s Disunion piece in The New York Times make some imply that Johnson would procrastinate on issues such as emancipation and getting African American soldiers into the army,[28] yet he had devised a plan for both issues (albeit not having immediate emancipation, but a more gradual one) within 2 1/2 weeks of beginning his correspondence with the president. For that reason, Lincoln should get credit for his ability to convince even skeptics to follow many of his plans.


[1] Abraham Lincoln, “Abraham Lincoln to Andrew Johnson, September 11, 1863.” In The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, 440-441. Vol. 6. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1953. Accessed March 4, 2015.

[2] Aaron Astor, “When Andrew Johnson Freed His Slaves.” The New York Times, August 9, 2013.

[3] Sam Davis Elliott, Isham G. Harris of Tennessee: Confederate Governor and United States Senator. Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 2010: 146-47.

[4]  Abraham Lincoln, “Abraham Lincoln to Andrew Johnson, September 11, 1863.” In The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, 440-441. Vol. 6. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1953. Accessed March 4, 2015.

[5]  Abraham Lincoln, “Abraham Lincoln to Andrew Johnson, September 11, 1863.” In The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, 440-441. Vol. 6. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1953. Accessed March 4, 2015.

[6] “State Unity and Emancipation: Governor Johnson of Tennessee.” The New York Times, September 8, 1863: 4.

[7] Aaron Astor, “When Andrew Johnson Freed His Slaves.” The New York Times, August 9, 2013.

[8] Hans L. Trefousse, Andrew Johnson: A Biography. New York, W.W. Norton & Company, 1989: 196.

[9] Abraham Lincoln, “Abraham Lincoln to Andrew Johnson, September 11, 1863.” In The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, 440-441. Vol. 6. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1953. Accessed March 4, 2015.

[10] Glenna R. Schroeder-Lein and Richard Zuczek, Andrew Johnson: A Biographical Companion. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2001: 31.

[11] Hans L. Trefousse, Andrew Johnson: A Biography. New York, W.W. Norton & Company, 1989: 170-171.

[12] Ibid, 171.

[13] Glenna R. Schroeder-Lein and Richard Zuczek, Andrew Johnson: A Biographical Companion. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2001: 31.

[14] Abraham Lincoln, “Abraham Lincoln to Andrew Johnson, September 11, 1863.” In The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, 440-441. Vol. 6. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1953. Accessed March 4, 2015.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Andrew Johnson, “Andrew Johnson to Abraham Lincoln, September 17, 1863.” In The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress.  Accessed June 15, 2015.

[17] “The Constitution of the United States,” Article IV, Section 4. Accessed at https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/articleiv. Accessed June 15, 2015.

[18] Abraham Lincoln, “Abraham Lincoln to Andrew Johnson, September 19, 1863.” In The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, 468. Vol 6. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1953. Accessed June 15, 2015.

[19] Abraham Lincoln, “Enclosure to Letter from Abraham Lincoln to Andrew Johnson, September 19, 1863.” In The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, 469. Vol 6. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1953. Accessed June 15, 2015.

[20] “Andrew Johnson to Abraham Lincoln, September 23, 1863.” In The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. Accessed June 15, 2015.

[21] “The Northwestern Railroad.” Nashville Union, September 27, 1863. Accessed at The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. Accessed June 15, 2015.

[22] University of Maryland Freedmen and Southern Society Project, “Chronology of Emancipation during the Civil War.” Revised May 21, 2014. Accessed June 20, 2015.

[23] “Andrew Johnson to Abraham Lincoln, September 23, 1863.” In The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. Accessed June 15, 2015.

[24] University of Maryland Freedmen and Southern Society Project, “Chronology of Emancipation during the Civil War.” Revised May 21, 2014. Accessed June 20, 2015.

[25] Andrew Johnson, “Andrew Johnson to Abraham Lincoln, September 17, 1863.” In The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress.  Accessed June 15, 2015.

[26] “State Unity and Emancipation: Governor Johnson of Tennessee.” The New York Times, September 8, 1863: 4.

[27] University of Maryland Freedmen and Southern Society Project, “Chronology of Emancipation during the Civil War.” Revised May 21, 2014. Accessed June 20, 2015.

[28] Aaron Astor, “When Andrew Johnson Freed His Slaves.” The New York Times, August 9, 2013.


Astor, Aaron. “When Andrew Johnson Freed His Slaves.” The New York Times, August 9, 2013. Accessed at http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/08/09/when-andrew-johnson-freed-his-slaves/?_r=0. Accessed June 15, 2015.

Elliott, Sam Davis. Isham G. Harris of Tennessee: Confederate Governor and United States Senator. Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 2010: 146-47.

Johnson, Andrew. “Andrew Johnson to Abraham Lincoln, September 17, 1863.” In The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress.  Accessed June 15, 2015.

Johnson, Andrew. “Andrew Johnson to Abraham Lincoln, September 23, 1863.” In The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. Accessed June 15, 2015.

Lincoln, Abraham. “Abraham Lincoln to Andrew Johnson, September 11, 1863.” In The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, 440-441. Vol. 6. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1953. Accessed March 4, 2015.

Lincoln, Abraham. “Abraham Lincoln to Andrew Johnson, September 18, 1863.” In The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, 463. Vol. 6. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1953. Accessed June 15, 2015.

Lincoln, Abraham. “Abraham Lincoln to Andrew Johnson, September 19, 1863.” In The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, 468. Vol 6. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1953. Accessed June 15, 2015.

Lincoln, Abraham. “Enclosure to Letter from Abraham Lincoln to Andrew Johnson, September 19, 1863.” In The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, 469. Vol 6. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1953. Accessed June 15, 2015.

Schroeder-Lein, Glenna R. and Richard Zuczek. Andrew Johnson: A Biographical Companion. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2001.

“State Unity and Emancipation: Governor Johnson of Tennessee.” The New York Times, September 8, 1863: 4.

“The Constitution of the United States.” Accessed at https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/overview. Accessed June 15, 2015.

Trefousse, Hans L. Andrew Johnson: A Biography. New York, W.W. Norton & Company, 1989.

University of Maryland Freedmen and Southern Society Project. “Chronology of Emancipation during the Civil War.” Revised May 21, 2014. Accessed June 20, 2015.

Close Reading – Third Debate with Douglas

by Jacob Heybey, HIST 288, Spring 2015

On July 13, 1858, the New York Times commented, “Illinois is from this time forward, until the Senatorial question shall be decided, the most interesting political battle-ground in the Union.”[1] Democratic Senator Stephen A. Douglas had just announced the start of his reelection campaign and the contest between Douglas and his Republican challenger, Abraham Lincoln, held national interest. For Douglas, a well-known and respected Senator, the election promised to be one of the biggest political challenges of his career. Having recently split with Democratic President James Buchanan and his supporters over the admission of Kansas to the Union, Douglas not only had to deal with his opponent, but also had to defend himself from the administration’s supporters.

Seeking to capitalize on the split between Douglas and his party, the Illinois Republican convention took the unprecedented step of officially endorsing Abraham Lincoln as their “first and only choice” for Senate on June 16, 1858.[2] The ensuing election was hotly contested and both candidates heavily canvassed the state. By himself, Lincoln traveled 4300 miles and gave 63 notable speeches, plus numerous smaller ones. Douglas made a comparable number of speeches and covered even more ground.[3] “Such exertions for a Senate race” writes Richard Brookhiser, “were unheard of in American politics.”[4]

Courtesy of House Divided

Courtesy of House Divided

In late July, encouraged by prominent Republicans to put pressure on Douglas, Lincoln proposed a series of debates with the incumbent. Douglas agreed, on the condition that he be allowed to set the times, places, and format of the debates. He proposed (and Lincoln accepted) seven “joint discussions” starting in late August and ending in October, each with the same format; one candidate delivered an hour long address, the other was allowed an hour and a half to reply, and then the first candidate concluded the debate with a short half hour long speech.[5]

The third debate was held on Sep. 15, in Jonesboro, Illinois, in the southernmost part of the state. In comparison to the first two debates, held in Ottawa and Freeport, attendance was sparse, tallying approximately 1500 spectators, as opposed to the large crowds that had  gathered for the previous debates. This was in part because Jonesboro was in one of the poorest, most unpopulated, and heavily Democratic regions of the state; Allen Guelzo mentions “not only were the Buchanan loyalists undisposed to show up for Douglas’s benefit, but the Illinois State Fair had opened the day before… and that pulled still more of Union County’s thin population away from the debate.”[6] Lincoln spoke second at Jonesboro, using the vast majority of his time to directly answer Douglas’s opening speech. (Lincoln’s full speech here, featured excerpt here)

Courtesy of House Divided

Word cloud for the Jonesboro debate.Courtesy of House Divided

Overall Summary

Lincoln opened on a conciliatory note; he declared that he had no disagreement with Douglas on the basic doctrine of states’ rights. He then quickly shifted to discussing Douglas’s views on slavery from a historical perspective, claiming that Douglas had strayed from the ideas of the Founders on slavery, whereas Lincoln was true to their original intent. This section comprises the featured fragment, which is analyzed in detail below.

As in any political campaign, conspiracy charges abounded. Douglas had accused Lincoln of conspiring with Democrat turned Republican Senator Lyman Trumbull to “abolitionize” both the Illinois Whig and Democratic parties.[7] Lincoln flatly denied the charge and challenged Douglas to provide proof.

Lincoln then abruptly changed course and began defending his House Divided doctrine (discussed in detail later). Douglas had pointed out that each state necessarily and rightfully had different local laws and institutions and that the same should be true in regards to slavery. Popular sovereignty, Douglas asserted, would calm the debate over slavery by leaving it in the hands of the people, rather than the partisans in Congress.[8] Lincoln countered that slavery was a special case; while he agreed that variety in other institutions had been “the very cements of this Union,” slavery had always been divisive and Congress merely reflected this reality. “Have we not always had quarrels and difficulties over it [slavery]?” Lincoln asked.

Changing topics once again, Lincoln took a page from Douglas’s book. Douglas had attempted to tie Lincoln to abolitionist platforms adopted by radical Republicans in Illinois. Responding in kind, Lincoln brought up various Democratic anti-slavery platforms written at various times and places in Illinois, and even one from Vermont, Douglas’s home state. Lincoln tried to dispose of this particular accusation by asserting that Douglas was just as responsible for the anti-slavery Democratic platforms as Lincoln was for the abolitionist Republican ones.[9]

In his final major argument, Lincoln attacked Douglas’s Freeport Doctrine. The Freeport Doctrine (named for the site of the previous debate, where Douglas most famously advocated it) claimed that the Dred Scott decision did not undermine popular sovereignty because slavery could not exist without local police regulations supporting it.[10] If the majority did not support slavery, then they would not pass the necessary regulations, regardless of the Supreme Court’s decision. Lincoln attacked the doctrine on two fronts. First, he pointed out that the doctrine was empirically false; Dred Scott had been held as a slave despite the lack of local police regulations in Minnesota. Second, he accused the doctrine of being inherently hypocritical; Douglas had sworn to uphold the Constitution, and the Dred Scott decision declared that the Constitution protected slavery in the territories. How could Douglas support the Court’s decision while simultaneously arguing that the territories had a right to subvert it?[11]

Lincoln concluded his address with a revealing (and in hindsight, amusing) complaint. Douglas had proclaimed in an earlier speech at Joliet that Lincoln had been so overwhelmed after the first debate at Ottawa that he had to be carried off the platform by his disheartened supporters. While it was true that Lincoln had been carried off the platform, it was by celebratory supporters and against his will. Lincoln indignantly pointed out the bizarre falsehood, wondering if “the Judge is crazy” before yielding the stage to Douglas, saying, “…let him set my knees trembling again, if he can.”

Featured Excerpt Analysis

Lincoln began his reply in a typically understated fashion, saying that “There is very much in the principles that Judge Douglas has here enunciated that I most cordially approve…” Guelzo notes that Lincoln liked “to give ‘away 6 points’ in a case, then turn and hang the case and the opposing counsel ‘on the 7th.'”[12] Following this strategy, Lincoln stressed that he entirely agreed with Douglas’s sentiment “that all States have the right to do exactly as they please about all their domestic relations, including that of slavery…”

With that said, Lincoln turned his attention to two of Douglas’s rhetorical questions. First, “Why can’t this Union endure permanently, half slave and half free?” and second, “Why can’t we let it stand as our forefathers placed it?”

On the date of his nomination for the Senate seat, Lincoln delivered his famous “House Divided” speech, the most memorable line being, “‘A house divided against itself cannot stand.’ I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free.”[13] As David Zarefsky notes, Douglas attacked the “House Divided” speech throughout the campaign, and the Jonesboro debate was no exception.[14] Douglas devoted a fair portion of his opening speech in Jonesboro to accusing Lincoln of insulting the Founders and the Constitution. “When” Douglas roared, “did he learn, and by what authority does he proclaim, that this Government is contrary to the law of God and cannot stand?…Surely, Mr. Lincoln is a wiser man than those who framed the Government.”[15]

At Jonesboro, Lincoln countered Douglas by arguing that his two questions were not actually equivalent; in Lincoln’s view, it was Douglas, not Lincoln, who had deviated from the Founders’ original thoughts on slavery. The Founders, Lincoln explained, prohibited slavery in the territories, and he merely wanted to reimpose those limits. Furthermore, Lincoln argued that the Founders had thought slavery was on the path to extinction, and wrote the Constitution accordingly. It was Lincoln and the Republicans, not Douglas, who wanted the country to stand as their forefathers placed it. Lincoln and Douglas represent two sides of a debate still being argued today; does the original version of the Constitution (and by extension, the Founders themselves) support slavery, or merely tolerate it as an existing evil? Throughout his political career Lincoln firmly maintained that the Constitution merely tolerated slavery and the Founders had assumed and intended that slavery would ultimately become extinct.[16]

Lincoln goes on to support his argument by quoting the vehemently pro-slavery Representative Preston Brooks, who, Lincoln is happy to remind his audience, famously caned abolitionist Senator Charles Sumner on the floor of the Senate two years earlier[17], receiving “dinners, and silver pitchers, and gold-plated canes…for the feat.” Brooks himself, Lincoln noted, agreed with Lincoln’s view of the Founders, observing “when this Government was originally established, nobody expected that the institution of slavery would last until this day.” Lincoln goes on to sardonically remark that some Southern Democrats would admit this, but a Northern Democrat never would.


A political cartoon of Brooks attacking Sumner. Courtesy of the United States Senate.

Lincoln’s “House Divided” doctrine was a key point in the Lincoln-Douglas debates. It may surprise modern readers that the speech was seen as a liability for Lincoln. According to Zarefsky, the speech, though often praised as visionary today, was seen as ominous and war-mongering by Lincoln’s contemporaries. Douglas not only criticized it as contrary to the Founders views, but also blurred the lines between prediction and desire, depicting Lincoln as a radical waging war on slaveholders.[18]

However, Lincoln maintained his position, and in the process, revealed the fundamental difference between himself and Douglas. Douglas viewed the debate over slavery in the territories as having three sides; pro-slavery in the form of Southern Democrats, anti-slavery Republicans, and popular sovereignty. Having been heavily influenced by Andrew Jackson, Douglas was committed to the idea of popular sovereignty, consistently promoting it as the best way to deal with the question of slavery in the territories.[19] Even in the face of strident opposition from his own party and president, Douglas continued to support the right of territories to decide their own laws.[20]

This arrangement set Douglas up as the reasonable middle-ground between two unbending factions. Lincoln deconstructed this idea. In his “House Divided” speech, Lincoln said the Union can’t stay permanently half-slave and half-free; it must become all one or the other. Therefore, there is no middle ground; if you are not opposed to the spread of slavery, then you are for it. Douglas attempted to combat this characterization by relying on the Founders for support; America’s revered forefathers had set the country up as half-slave and half-free and the country could endure half-slave and half-free. But Lincoln says the half and half nature of the country was necessity, not choice. Therefore, Lincoln argues, Douglas’s attempt to portray himself as a reasonable compromise between the two sides using the Founders as support was an illusion; in fact, Founders agreed with Lincoln, not Douglas. Secondly and most importantly, Douglas’s policy would lead to the spread of slavery as surely as Brooks’ or any other Southern Democrat’s policy; the difference, Lincoln caustically pointed out, is that Brooks was honest about it.

Lincoln’s argument as stated at Jonesboro (referred to as the historical argument by Zarefsky) was only one part of his argument with Douglas regarding the House Divided doctrine. The historical argument lent the Founders’ support to the concept, but the full import of the doctrine would become clear in later debates. Lincoln placed Douglas in the same boat as more vocal supporters of slavery by contending that, in practice, there was no significant distinction between Douglas’s doctrine of popular sovereignty and the Southern Democrats’ pro-slavery doctrine. Douglas’s neutrality in regards to slavery was the same as support due to the moral significance of the issue.

1860 Lincoln-Douglas cartoon. Despite being two years later, it captures the public perception of the two candidates. Courtesy of House Divided.

1860 Lincoln-Douglas cartoon. Despite being two years later, it still captures the public perception of the two candidates. Courtesy of House Divided.

Lincoln concluded the debates in Alton with that very point; “[Douglas] contends that whatever community wants slaves has a right to have them. So they have, if it is not a wrong. But if it is a wrong, he cannot say people have a right to do wrong.”[21]

While Douglas could directly contradict Lincoln concerning the Founders’ opinions on slavery with some justification, he had very little answer for Lincoln’s overarching moral argument. Douglas refused to argue that slavery was either a moral good or even neutral, primarily because he did not view slavery as moral issue. The closest he came to directly addressing Lincoln’s moral argument was the sixth debate at Quincy, where he said, “I do not discuss the morals of the people of Missouri, but let them settle that matter for themselves… they bear consciences as well as we, and… are accountable to God and their posterity, and not to us.”[22] Zarefsky likens their debate to the modern debate over abortion. Pro-life supporters have moral objections to abortion, as Lincoln had moral objections to slavery, while many pro-choice supporters, like Douglas, claim it is not a moral issue at all or that it is not their place to make moral judgments on the behalf of others. The two arguments exist “on different planes altogether. Neither participant can imagine the other’s categories as relevant to the matter ultimately at hand.”[23] It was the moral argument and the fundamental disconnect it created that made Lincoln and Douglas, and by extension, the nation, incapable of avoiding the coming conflict.


[1]New York Times, “Senator Douglas at Chicago,” July 13, 1858, House Divided, Dickinson College, transcribed May 15, 2008, http://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/node/16382
[2]”Online Essay.” House Divided, Lincoln-Douglas Debates Digital Classroom. Accessed March 16, 2015. http://housedivided.dickinson.edu/debates/essay.html
[3]George H. Mayer, The Republican Party, 1854-1964 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1964), quoted in David Zarefsky, Lincoln, Douglas, and Slavery: In the Crucible of Debate (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990), 51.
[4]Richard Brookhiser, Founder’s Son: A Life of Abraham Lincoln (2014; Basic Books, 2014), chap. 8, http://site.ebrary.com/lib/dickinson/reader.action?docID=10956815
[5]Stephen Douglas, “Stephen Douglas to Abraham Lincoln, July 30, 1858,” House Divided, Dickinson College, adapted March 3, 2009, http://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/node/25347
[6]Allen C. Guelzo, Lincoln and Douglas: The Debates that Defined America (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2008), 172-173.
[7]Ibid., 173.
[8]Ibid., 175.
[9]Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (2008: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), chap. 13, http://www.knox.edu/about-knox/lincoln-studies-center/burlingame-abraham-lincoln-a-life
[10]Among other things, the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Dred Scott case said that any law barring slavery in the territories was in violation of the Fifth Amendment, seemingly making Douglas’s simultaneous support of popular sovereignty and support of the Court’s decision contradictory.
[11]Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life, chap. 13.
[12]Guelzo, Lincoln and Douglas, 151.
[13]Abraham Lincoln, “A House Divided,” House Divided, Dickinson College, adapted May 30, 2013, http://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/node/40361
[14]Zarefsky, Lincoln, Douglas, and Slavery, 142.
[15]Stephen Douglas, “Third Joint Debate at Jonesboro, Mr. Douglas’s Speech,” Bartleby.com, accessed March 17, 2015, http://www.bartleby.com/251/31.html
[16]Brookhiser, Founder’s Son, chap. 8.
[17]”The Caning of Senator Charles Sumner,” The United States Senate, accessed March 19, 2015, https://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/minute/The_Caning_of_Senator_Charles_Sumner.htm
[18]Zarefsky, Lincoln, Douglas, and Slavery, 141-142.
[19]Eric T. Dean Jr., “Stephen A. Douglas and Popular Sovereignty,” Historian 57, no. 4 (1995): 739-740, https://envoy.dickinson.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=hlh&AN=9508234209&site=eds-live
[20]Douglas split with Buchanan and Southern Democrats over Kansas’ admission to the Union under Lecompton constitution. Pro-slavery Kansans gathered in Lecompton, Kansas to write the state constitution. Suspecting fraud, Free-Soilers boycotted the convention and refused to have anything to do with the product. While many Democrats, including Buchanan, strongly advocated for Kansas to be admitted as a slave state under the Lecompton constitution, Douglas openly defied them, arguing that the document was not the result of popular sovereignty and should be discarded. See http://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/node/9601 and Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life, chap. 12.
[21]Abraham Lincoln, “Last Joint Debate at Alton, Mr. Lincoln’s Reply,” Bartleby.com, accessed March 18, 2015, http://www.bartleby.com/251/1001.html
[22]Stephen Douglas, “Sixth Joint Debate at Quincy, Mr. Douglas’s Reply,” Bartleby.com, accessed April 8, 2015, http://www.bartleby.com/251/62.html
[23]Zarefsky, Lincoln, Douglas, and Slavery, 195.


Brookhiser, Richard. Founder’s Son: A Life of Abraham Lincoln. 2014. Basic Books, 2014. ProQuest ebrary. http://site.ebrary.com/lib/dickinson/reader.action?docID=10956815

Burlingame, Michael. Abraham Lincoln: A Life. 2008. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008. http://www.knox.edu/about-knox/lincoln-studies-center/burlingame-abraham-lincoln-a-life.

“The Caning of Senator Charles Sumner.” The United States Senate. Accessed March 19, 2015. https://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/minute/The_Caning_of_Senator_Charles_Sumner.htm.

Dean Jr., Eric T. “Stephen A. Douglas and Popular Sovereignty.” Historian 57, no. 2 (1995): 733-748. https://envoy.dickinson.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=hlh&AN=9508234209&site=eds-live

Douglas, Stephen. “Stephen Douglas to Abraham Lincoln, July 30, 1858.” House Divided. Dickinson College. Adapted March 3, 2009. http://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/node/25347.

Douglas, Stephen. “Third Joint Debate at Jonesboro, Mr. Douglas’s Speech.” Bartleby.com. Accessed March 17, 2015. http://www.bartleby.com/251/31.html.

Douglas, Stephen. “Sixth Joint Debate at Quincy, Mr. Douglas’s Reply.” Bartleby.com. Accessed April 8, 2015. http://www.bartleby.com/251/62.html

Guelzo, Allen. Lincoln and Douglas: The Debates that Defined America. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2008.

Huston, James L. “Democracy by Scripture versus Democracy by Process: A Reflection on Stephen A. Douglas and Popular Sovereignty.” Civil War History 43, no. 3 (1997): 189-200. http://eds.a.ebscohost.com/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=b86ad2be-b0fd-4ea9-92ac-2ff9c00887e9%40sessionmgr4002&vid=6&hid=4211

Lincoln, Abraham. “A House Divided.” House Divided. Dickinson College. Adapted May 30, 2013. http://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/node/40361.

Lincoln, Abraham. “Last Joint Debate at Alton, Mr. Lincoln’s Reply.” Bartleby.com. Accessed March 18, 2015. http://www.bartleby.com/251/1001.html

Mayer, George H. The Republican Party, 1854-1964. New York: Oxford University Press, 1964. Quoted in David Zarefsky, Lincoln, Douglas, and Slavery: In the Crucible of Public Debate (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1990), 51.

New York Times. “Stephen Douglas at Chicago.” July 13, 1858. House Divided. Dickinson College. Transcribed May 15, 2008. http://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/node/16382.

“Online Essay.” House Divided, Lincoln-Douglas Debates Digital Classroom. Accessed March 16, 2015. http://housedivided.dickinson.edu/debates/essay.html.

Woods, Michael E. Review of Stephen A. Douglas and Antebellum Democracy by Martin H. Quitt and The Failure of Popular Sovereignty: Slavery, Manifest Destiny, and the Radicalization of Southern Politics by Christopher Childers. Civil War History 60, no. 2 (2014): 205-208. http://eds.a.ebscohost.com/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=b86ad2be-b0fd-4ea9-92ac-2ff9c00887e9%40sessionmgr4002&vid=4&hid=4211

Zarefsky, David. Lincoln, Douglas, and Slavery: In the Crucible of Public Debate. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990.

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