Today, March 4 represents the 150th anniversary of the inauguration of Abraham Lincoln as our nation’s 16th president. His address that day attempted to send a conciliatory message to the seceded states that they had nothing to fear from his administration regarding the status of slavery where it existed. I leave you with a link to that address and warm wishes. My post would have been longer, but I have had a long day helping and participating in the sixth annual Red River Valley History Conference, which is put on by our chapter of Phi Alpha Theta History Honor Society.
Thanks to Brett Schulte and the gang at TOCWOC for posting this update. As Civil Warriors first posted and I posted on January 25, Lincoln scholar Thomas Lowry admitted, then later denied, altering the date of a pardon issued by Lincoln. Now, Mr. Lowry is telling his side of the story in greater detail through his own blog, which does raise speculation about how the case was handled by the federal government. Having read the posting, I am willing to consider that Mr. Lowry may have been railroaded until shown otherwise. I will also modify my remarks on the damage being done here, and consider the possibility that someone researching years before Mr. Lowry may have tampered with the document, fooling both Mr. Lowry and the staff of the Archives until technology allowed a very detailed examination of the forensics of that item. I will say that, if innocent, he is vindicated in the media and I will happily post that.
Now, I will take issue with the characterization of the Civil War blogging community. When one blog, written by reputable historians, post a link to media reports dealing with some aspect of the war, or research on the period, others, myself included are going to pick it up and link to the original post. This is because it is a news worthy item and not every blog on the war has the same readership. Further, when the sources reporting include the Associated Press, National Archives, Washington Post and NPR, it is hard not to consider that it is legitimate.
With this new side to the story, I am now on the fence. If Mr. Lowry is proven right, the federal government has a serious problem on its hands. After reading his response, some of his observations are interesting. The criticism of the changing nature of the National Archives is truly worth exploring deeper. I hope that this case will be resolved soon.
Documents reveal Civil War era plans to resettle freed slaves in the Caribbean
February 9, 2011 (Washington, DC) – Recently discovered Civil War records have added a new twist to the familiar story of the Emancipation Proclamation. After signing the document that freed the slaves on January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln spent the better part of a year attempting to resettle African-Americans in the Caribbean.
Lincoln’s proposal to “colonize” the ex-slaves abroad involved a little known agreement with Great Britain to establish freedmen’s settlements in Belize and Guyana, at the time colonial possessions of the British Empire. Though the U.S. Government investigated the sites and even made preparations for sending the first ship of settlers, the plan later faltered amidst political wrangling within Lincoln’s own cabinet.
The forgotten story of Lincoln’s little-known colonization project was recently unearthed by historians Phillip W. Magness and Sebastian N. Page. They present their findings in “Colonization after Emancipation: Lincoln and the Movement for Black Resettlement,” (ISBN 978-0-8262-1909-1) due out next week from the University of Missouri Press.
Evidence of Lincoln’s post-emancipation plans remained hidden for almost 150 years until its discovery by Magness and Page in seldom-searched consular and diplomatic files at the British National Archives outside of London, and the U.S. National Archives in Washington, DC.
“Lincoln personally pitched the scheme to the British ambassador only three weeks after the Emancipation Proclamation,” said Magness. “It was a matter of diplomatic secrecy, so it left a very sparse paper trail.”
He also explained that several of the American files were dispersed in the fallout from a budgetary dispute that ultimately resulted in Congress suspending the project’s funding in 1864, adding another complication to the search.
“Most of the documents from the American side are missing, and the British files were all transported back to London,” Magness continued. “We essentially had to reconstruct what happened from letters and transcribed copies that were spread across the Atlantic.”
Among the records found at the UK Archives is an 1863 order by Lincoln granting a British agent permission to recruit volunteers among the freed slaves and transport them to Belize.
Dr. Magness is a researcher at George Mason University’s Institute for Humane Studies, and an Adjunct Professor at American University. Mr. Page is a Junior Research Fellow at the Queen’s College, University of Oxford.
CONTACT: Phillip Magness ~ 281-923-6702 (cell) ~ email@example.com
February 8 represents the 150th anniversary of the formation of the Confederate States of America. I purposely put nation in quotes to reflect the unrecognized status of the Confederacy. The Confederacy is an interesting creation, as several influential Southerners viewed their nation as the heir to the Revolution, resisting the tyranny of Washington. I wonder how they would react today. The Confederacy stirs many emotions today, but it can not be denied that its short history is wrapped in its role in beginning our nation’s bloodiest war. While the actual Confederacy lasted only four years, the idea lives on through historical memory, first dominated by the Lost Cause, and now through the ongoing debates in history over secession and the current divide over states’ rights, etc. I will close this short post with the encouragement to go out and read the histories on the Confederacy to understand how the views on the southern creation have changed over the last 150 years.
BackStory (www.backstoryradio.org) is a nationally aired public radio show that brings historical perspective to the events happening around us today. On each show, the U.S. historians Ed Ayers, Peter Onuf, and Brian Balogh tear a topic from the headlines and plumb its historical depths.
As part of its three-part Civil War Sesquicentennial series, BackStory is planning a show made up entirely of listener questions! 150 years after the fall of Fort Sumter, are there things about the conflict that still interest you? Tens of thousands of books have been written on the subject, but what makes the Civil War relevant to us today, in 2011? Has America’s involvement in recent wars been shaped by lessons from the Civil War? Should it be? How have Americans understood the Civil War in earlier generations, and how have historians’ interpretations of it changed over time? And finally — in what ways might discussion about the Civil War benefit from the BackStory “trans-century” approach?
Being a caller is really simple and takes about 15 minutes; it’s pre-taped, low-pressure, and a lot of fun! If you are interested in participating as a caller and posing a Civil War question to the History Guys, either email producer Catherine Moore (firstname.lastname@example.org) or leave a comment on Civil War Call-In Show page (http://backstoryradio.org/civil-war-call-in-show/). We look forward to hearing from you!
My latest book review for H-Net posted a few days ago. I reviewed the book Army Life: From a Soldier’s Journal: Incidents, Sketches, and Record of a Union Soldier’s Army Life, in Camp and Field, 1861-1864 by Albert O. Marshall, veteran of the Thirty-Third Illinois Infantry Regiment, and edited by Robert G. Schultz. Overall, I found the book quite good and a reliable primary source on the Civil War. I encourage you to read it here on the H-Net site.
Thanks to Civil Warriors for increasing the awareness of this story. With the 150th anniversary of the war coming up and the first inauguration of Abraham Lincoln, negative news about scholarship and research on these subjects is likely to increase. According to their posting and the linked articles, Lincoln scholar Thomas Lowry admitted to tampering with a pardon Lincoln issued. The original document, which can be viewed through this article, was written on April 14, 1864, but Lowry used a fountain pen to alter the date to April 14, 1865, attempting to make it be one of the last documents written by Lincoln the day he was assassinated. As if to add more fuel to this fire, Lowry denied the falsification of the document, according to an article posted by NPR.
The National Archives turned the case over to the Justice Department, but the statute of limitations expired, so Lowry will not face prosecution. He is banned from the facilities, but the damage has been done. The document may be forever altered and raises questions of how many other documents have been similarly been damaged, which could have implications for existing research. Further, what consequences will this incident have to access for other scholars to the National Archives and other manuscript repositories.
This case reminds me of an incident my mentor Dr. James Davis recalled when we visited Washington, DC in 2004 to research at the Library of Congress and National Archives. It involved theft of documents from the manuscript reading room at the LOC, which resulted in increased security. You needed to sign in and out just to go to the restroom or retrieve something from your locker. The culprits were apparently imprisoned for many years and maybe still in jail.
The lesson from this is to be honest in your research and attempt to see the value in all documents. True, there will always be those who attempt to make a name for themselves through dishonest means, which will place greater scrutiny on scholarship, as well as make it more difficult to research in archives. However, these individuals will not destroy the passion many of us have for the past and researching new areas within that past. Until next time, keep researching and reading.