Letter to Henry Raymond (December 18, 1860)

Contributing Editors for this page include Susan Williams Phelps

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#110 on the list of 150 Most Teachable Lincoln Documents

Annotated Transcript

“Yours of the 14th. is received. What a very mad-man your correspondent, Smedes is. Mr. Lincoln is not pledged to the ultimate extinctinction [sic] of slavery; does not hold the black man to be the equal of the white, unqualifiedly as Mr. S. states it; and never did stigmatize their white people as immoral & unchristian; and Mr. S. can not prove one of his assertions true.”

On This Date

HD Daily Report, December 18, 1860 

Close Readings

Susan Williams Phelps, “Understanding Lincoln” blog post (via Quora), August 19, 2013

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How Historians Interpret

“Lincoln was doubtless correct in thinking that no statement would placate the Deep South.  The editors of the Charleston Mercury had announced that even if he were ‘to come out and declare that he held sacred every right of the South, with respect to African slavery, no one should believe him; and, if he was believed, his professions should not have the least influence on the course of the South.’  Lincoln’s legendary patience wore thin as disunionists continued to misrepresent him.  He lamented that the South ‘has eyes but does not see, and ears but does not hear.  William C. Smedes, president of the Southern Railroad Company of Mississippi, claimed that the president-elect ‘holds the black man to be the equal of the white,’ ‘stigmatizes our whole people as immoral & unchristian,’ and made ‘infamous & unpatriotic avowals . . . on the presentation of a pitcher by some free negroes to Gov: Chase of Ohio.’”

Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (2 volumes, originally published by Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008) Unedited Manuscript By Chapters, Lincoln Studies Center, Volume 1, Chapter 17 (PDF), pp. 1944-1945

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Searchable Text

Confidential
Springfields, Ills.
Dec. 18, 1860
 
Hon. H. J. Raymond 
My dear Sir 
Yours of the 14th. is received. What a very mad-man your correspondent, Smedes is. Mr. Lincoln is not pledged to the ultimate extinctinction [sic] of slavery; does not hold the black man to be the equal of the white, unqualifiedly as Mr. S. states it; and never did stigmatize their white people as immoral & unchristian; and Mr. S. can not prove one of his assertions true.
Mr. S. seems sensitive on the questions of morals and christianity. What does he think of a man who makes charges against another which he does not know to be true, and could easily learn to be false?
As to the pitcher story, it is a forgery out and out. I never made but one speech in Cincinnati—the last speech in the volume containing the Joint Debates between Senator Douglas and myself. I have never yet seen Gov. Chase. I was never in a meeting of negroes in my life; and never saw a pitcher presented by anybody to anybody.
I am much obliged by your letter, and shall be glad to hear from you again when you have anything of interest. 
Yours truly
A. LINCOLN
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