Monthly Archives: August 2012

Lincoln’s response to Greeley, printed on this day in 1862

The Confederate newspaper Richmond Whig printed Abraham Lincoln’s famous reply to New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley on the front page. Greeley’s August 20, 1862 letter, known as “The Prayer of Twenty Millions,” urged Lincoln to emancipate all the slaves in Union-held territory. Lincoln responded on August 22, declaring that his paramount goal was to save the Union—regardless of its effect on slavery—as well as his personal views that all men should be free.

“My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that.

I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty; and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men every where could be free.”

This letter is regularly cited as proof that Lincoln did not intend to abolish slavery, but unknown to Greeley and most Americans, Lincoln had already drafted the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation and was only waiting for a Union military victory to deliver it. Moreover, Lincoln makes a “divide and conquer” rhetorical move: he splits the issue, stating his constitutional duty as president is to keep the Union together, but simultaneously expressing his personal view of universal freedom.

The Richmond Whig is one of the less common—but still important—newspapers from the capital of the Confederacy.

In Four Years in Rebel Capitals: An Inside View of Life in the Southern Confederacy from Birth to Death, journalist T. C. DeLeon wrote that the Richmond Whig was among the South’s best wartime newspapers.

The Whig was allegedly involvement in a terror plot against New York City during the Civil War. The paper reputedly worked with the Confederate government to publish advertisements and editorials conveying secret messages to Southern sympathizers in the North. In October 1864, the Whig supposedly ran an editorial that signaled Southern supporters to set coordinated, widespread fires in New York, take over city and federal offices, and capture Major General John Adams Dix, the city’s military commander.

Read Lincoln’s letter, published 150 years ago today.

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Posted by on August 30, 2012 in General


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At the Second Battle of Bull Run, a Union General minimizes his defeat

‘We fought a terrific battle here yesterday with the combined forces of the enemy which lasted with continued fury from daylight until after dark, by which time the enemy was driven from the field, which we now occupy. . . . The enemy is still in our front, but badly used up. . . .’

Written on the final day of the Second Battle of Bull Run, Pope’s letter grossly exaggerates almost every aspect of the battle. Having underestimated the Confederate force, Pope either ignored or was unaware of the arrival of Confederate General James Longstreet’s forces. When Union troops attacked Stonewall Jackson’s troops on August 30, Confederate artillery crushed General Fitz John Porter’s corps and then Longstreet’s five divisions decimated the remainder of the Union force. Pope’s army was driven from the field in defeat.

Pope lost his command two weeks later, and blamed Porter, who was arrested, court martialed, and dismissed. Porter was exonerated by special commission in 1878.

Read Pope’s letter, published in a rare broadside 150 years ago today . . .

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Posted by on August 30, 2012 in General



Theodore Roosevelt gives rare praise to Woodrow Wilson on this day in 1908

On August 29, 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt wrote to the Reverend Lyman Abbott, a Congregationalist minister and longstanding proponent of Roosevelt’s Progressivism. Referring to Constitutional Government in the United States, written by Woodrow Wilson when he was president of Princeton University, Roosevelt tells Abbott,

That is a great quotation from Woodrow Wilson. I had not seen read the book, because I have felt rather impatient with his recent attitude on certain matters, notably the effort to control corporations; but this is a really first class paragraph.

In Wilson’s book, the future President observed that the present system of American government was gridlocked and lacked accountability, arguing that the Constitution allowed adaptation and reform when needed. One adaptation he advocated was the continued development of a stronger executive, something more akin to the British system where the prime minister was the leader of the party and could initiate policies—as well as being held responsible for them.

Perhaps Roosevelt thought Wilson, the academic, was too soft on corporations and trust-busting (areas of focus during Roosevelt’s two terms), but he no doubt found the call for reform and expanded executive power directly in line with his own presidential style and “bully pulpit” leadership.

Read the letter, written 104 years ago today . . .

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Posted by on August 29, 2012 in General


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New website features

We’re pleased to announce that you can now purchase items online, using our new shopping cart feature. Setting up an account is easy and it gives you the ability to log in to make future purchases. We currently accept Visa, MasterCard and American Express for online purchases. You can also contact us to use PayPal, but not through the new online system. Look for the “add to cart” button at the bottom of the item page and set up an account today.

You’ll also notice some other new buttons, giving you the ability to:

  • Share items on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest
  • Email a link to an item to a friend
  • Email us a query about an item

Speaking of Pinterest, check out our Pinterest boards—featuring Documents of Freedom, Presidents, African American History, Washington, Lincoln and much more.

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Posted by on August 29, 2012 in General


Great review of our Washington catalog

The Fine Books magazine blog has a great review by Rebecca Rego Barry of our catalog, Washington, the Revolution and the Founding.

“This is very much a reading catalogue–full of histories, long excerpts from correspondence, and provenance details. This catalogue of highlights contains documents, newspapers, maps, books, and artwork that manifest the vibrancy of American history. Of course this is all par for the course for the NY-based Seth Kaller, who has acquired, appraised, and sold some of the most important historic documents.”

Read the review. Read the catalog.

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Posted by on August 24, 2012 in General


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FDR praises the Constitution on this day in 1934

On this day in 1934, Franklin Roosevelt expounds on the significance of America’s venerated frame of government.

Writing to the commander of American Legion Post No. 10, in Newark, New Jersey, President Roosevelt says,

“The Constitution of the United States, framed nearly a century and a half ago by as high intelligence as our nation has ever produced, has been during all these years and still is our Magna Charta.”

Read this letter, written 78 years ago today . . .

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Posted by on August 21, 2012 in General


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On this day in 1791

On this day in 1791 Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton disbursed “one hundred Dollars towards providing for the use of Society for the establishment of Manufactures in the State of New Jersey certain machines & models of Machines . . .”

The Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures (S.U.M.), which Hamilton references by a slightly different name, was a public-private partnership intended to industrialize the area around the Great Falls of the Passaic River. By utilizing the falls’ water power, assistant Treasury Secretary Tench Coxe and Hamilton envisioned a planned industrial community that would promote their industrial vision for the United States.

“Hamilton did not lend his prestige to the scheme from afar,” biographer Ron Chernow has written. “In July 1791 . . . he traveled to New York to drum up support for the society’s first stock offering, which sold out instantly.  He then attended the subscribers’ inaugural meeting in New Brunswick, New Jersey.”

Here, Alexander Hamilton similarly “puts his money where his mouth is” by providing William Pearce, an English engineer recruited to work for S.U.M., with $100 to begin building models and machines. Four months later, Hamilton’s policy recommendations were codified in his Report on Manufactures, which capped his efforts to build America’s industrial economy.

See Hamilton’s handwritten receipt, written 221 years ago today . . .

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Posted by on August 20, 2012 in General



On this day in 1846

On this day in 1846 Frederick Douglass wrote from London to the woman who was attempting to buy his freedom. He mentions his desire to return to America, the negotiations with his owner, and his speaking engagements in London.

“My Anna says ‘Come home’ and I have now resolved upon going home . . . I shall sail for America on the fourth November—and hope to meet the beloved one of my heart by the 20th of that month. Do not allow this arrangement [to] interfere in any way with your correspondence with my owner—as whether you succeed or fail good may come of the effort.”

Read this letter, written 166 years ago today . . .

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Posted by on August 19, 2012 in General


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On this day in 1788


On this day in 1788, the Massachusetts Centinel published a circular letter by New York Governor George Clinton laying out the state’s conditions for ratifying the Constitution.

“Several articles . . . appear so exceptionable to a majority of us, that nothing but the fullest confidence of obtaining a revision of them by a General Convention . . . could have prevailed upon a sufficient number to ratify it . . .”

New York was the third-to-last state to ratify the U.S. Constitution, doing so only after New Hampshire’s ratification, as the ninth state, made the document law on June 21, 1788. However, without Virginia or New York, the success of the fledgling government was in jeopardy. Virginia finally ratified on June 25, and knowing the Old Dominion was on board, the Empire State followed the next day.

Nevertheless, New York ratified with significant conditions and declarations enumerating what it was not giving up by joining the federal union. While approving ratification, the state convention listed two dozen conditions and Governor Clinton sent this circular letter to the other states calling for a second convention to discuss amendments and a bill of rights. Less than a year later, James Madison would rise in the House of Representatives to propose the amendments that would eventually become the federal Bill of Rights.

Read this letter, published 224 years ago today . . .

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Posted by on August 16, 2012 in General



On this day in 1782


On this day in 1782, George Washington humorously lays the guilt on thick while waiting for answers about funding and maintaining troop levels prior to the final peace treaty ending the Revolutionary War. His highly personal letter to Dr. James McHenry shows a glimpse of the man behind the otherwise stolid image.

McHenry served as Washington’s secretary from 1778 to 1780 as a volunteer without rank or pay. Their friendship remained strong even after McHenry left to become aide-de-camp to the Marquis de Lafayette.

Read this letter, written 230 years ago today . . .

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Posted by on August 15, 2012 in General


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