Erin Carlson Mast
Foundation President & CEO
September 22nd marks the first day of fall and the anniversary of President Lincoln issuing the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. It is also, for us, the return of our Four Score Speaker Series online, featuring a presentation of Ulysses S. Grant. If you have not yet registered, you will find links below to register for this and other upcoming programs in our Four Score Speaker Series.
We’re also delighted to provide information on registering for a program we’re doing with the good people at Looking for Lincoln this month on the preliminary emancipation proclamation developed during Lincoln’s first season living at the Soldiers’ Home in Washington, DC. About a month prior to issuing the Preliminary version, which began the 100 day countdown to signing the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln had written his letter in response to Horace Greeley’s public complaints about his aims regarding emancipation. We know today what the public did not know then—and could not have gleaned from the published letter itself--which was that the president had been developing his emancipation proclamation for many months. Lincoln makes a very important distinction in the letter to Greeley about his “official duty”—he had taken an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution—versus what he stated was his unwavering, “oft-expressed personal wish that all men every where could be free.”
What we’re reading in September:
American Ulysses: A Life of Ulysses S. Grant by noted Lincoln scholar Ronald C. White, in preparation for our upcoming program on President Grant.
Becoming Americans: Four Centuries of Immigrant Writing, edited by Ilan Stavans. Our CEO’s recommendation of this book was recently published by the Washington Independent Review of Books.
In addition to several of the pieces referencing Abraham Lincoln, one of the entries is written by German revolutionary turned American reformer Carl Schurz. In June 1860, Lincoln wrote to Schurz, “To the extent of our limited acquaintance no man stands nearer my heart than yourself.”
What Abraham Lincoln read in September:
Prior to reading the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation to his Cabinet, President Lincoln shared a bit of humor, reading “High-Handed Outrage at Utica” by Artemus Ward (the pen name for Charles Farrar Browne). According to the Diary of Salmon P. Chase, President Lincoln’s Secretary of the Treasury, “All the members of the Cabinet were in attendance. There was some general talk; and the President mentioned that Artemus Ward had sent him his book. Proposed to read a chapter which he thought very funny. Read it, and seemed to enjoy it very much — the Heads also (except [Secretary of War] Stanton) of course.” Chase noted that Lincoln then took on a graver tone, and introduced his plans regarding the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. https://www.bartleby.com/library/prose/5547.html
Ainsworth Rand Spofford, sixth Librarian of Congress, in honor of National Library Card Sign-up Month. Spofford served as the Chief Assistant Librarian of Congress throughout the Civil War, under John Gould Stephenson, until President Lincoln promoted him following Stephenson’s retirement. Spofford is recognized for his efforts to dramatically expand the Library of Congress holdings, from 60,000 volumes to well over a million, and purpose, from a Congressional resource to a more national one. https://www.loc.gov/loc/legacy/librs.html
James Tate and Grandison Daniels, in honor of Historically Black Colleges and Universities week. Tate and Daniels founded the school that would later evolve into Atlanta University, the first HBCU in the southern states. Although the seeds of Atlanta University preceded the Civil War, Atlanta University, today known as Clark Atlanta University, was not officially chartered until 1867, with the help of Oliver Otis Howard (namesake of Howard University) of the Freedmen’s Bureau.
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