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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Abe Lincoln and Clever Presidential Political Move to Freedom.!

      As a Yankee from Connecticut it is very interesting to read here stories of the American Civil War! Some here are still fighting while others have laid the issues to rest. In the Sunday paper (The News and Observer-N.C.) there were two interesting articles that caught my interest and brought things to light for this trained History teacher! My writings are based upon those articles. (See Note at end.*)
       In the first article John David Smith Prof. of American History at UNC Charlotte N.C. makes observations on the book  "Emancipating Lincoln" by Harold Holzer. In this article it was interesting to see that at Lincoln's Inaugural Address he stated clearly that " I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists," and went on to say, "I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so." This position was reversed two years later when he stated "all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State."  He also stated " as a fit and necessary war measure"..."that such persons  of suitable condition, will be received into the armed service of the United States to garrison forts, positions, stations and other places and to man vessels of all sorts." It might be noted that this was interpreted in practice by several discrimination policies by officers and others well into the 1900's. It might be also notes that just recently a Black man that manned guns on a battleship in Pearl Harbour was finally given his due recognition and medal some 65 years later!!! During the Civil war some 200,000 blacks filled the Union ranks of the war....many with outstanding service!
        Holzer points a finger at those that felt that Lincoln just went along with those that felt that slaves should be free and did not have that feeling himself. (It might be noted that my Dad and I were baby sit by a Black lady that was very young but had been a cook with her mom in Lincoln's White House!) Holzer points out that Lincoln's route to Emancipation was a clever route framed by "legal, military and political realities." Holzer I feel rightly says that Lincoln never really wavered from his hatred of slavery. It was stated that the 1861 Slaveholders Rebellion that gave Lincoln an opening for the Constitutional power to destroy slavery! It might be a suggestion to Obama that his idle  Lincoln had respect of the Constitution ....something Obama has often side stepped! Lincoln waited on the war it seems for a chance to fire of Emancipation. It was the battle of Antietam Creek in 1862 that gave this fire the oxygen of timing for the president. It is pointed out that with the use of timing and use of military victories and ability to walk around the media of the day that Lincoln made the step of Emancipation with relative ease and warm reception! It was by far one of the greatest freedom statements of all time and helped secure not only slavery's demise but centered Lincoln's critics on right and left. It helped with foreign enemies, border states and gave the Union a boost in troops...."it redefined American liberty!" I feel that it is a policy that is still evolving in the United States as we are honored to celebrated Black History Month. In ending here I think back to a time when in Tarboro in the Anglican (Episcopal Parish) Church there that a black man invited me to his house. It had no floor but dirt. His prize possessions were the broken irons of his parents slave days and a crumpled paper of Emancipation of them signed by Abe Lincoln!!!!

      The other article that caught my attention was a man that was nearly forgotten called Alexander Gardner. He was a photographer of note that did many of the figures in a media that was just starting as our Civil War broke out! The article begins with what one might think of as hidden treasures in 1893. A photographer found a stash of dust covered glass negatives under the stairs of an old house on Pennsylvania Ave. Washington D.C......there were portraits of Abe Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant and others from the Civil War. The were the works of Alexander Gardener. A man that was overlooked by a former boss Mathew Brady and by the public, but was the photographer that took many of the most famous pictures of the War and political figures of the day....such as the stark image of the hanging of assassination conspirators in 1865!!! He also took more pictures of the War than anyone else....Brady took the credit! Garnet had come from Scotland in 1856 and had emerged as one of the best of the Civil War's Photographers especially of outside shots at such places at Gettysburg and Antietam Creek. In 1869 after the war Gardner asked that Congress purchase his photos of the war. they were not interested! (Another era where congress failed to take up something good!) Many of his negatives were sold as scrap glass. Some were bought by collectors and some were offered again in 1884 to the government for sale and were declined. It was in 1942 that the Library of Congress acquired a smaller trove of photos that had been bought earlier by a Connecticut collector. It might be noted here that many were lost for ever by Congressional mistake! In 2010 a single photo by Gardner went up for auction at $35,000! (Many of the Civil War's best photographs many by Gardner are at  )

     * Articles: "How Abe Lincoln made America a land of the free." and "Stark images, obscure legacy.'

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