statue of liberty

Glancing through some picture paper previews last week, I noticed an image that appeared to be a statue of Abraham Lincoln. Upon further review (and enlargement) my guess proved accurate. From the August 12, 1917 issue of the New York Tribune:

Lincoln Edinburgh (New-York tribune, August 12, 1917; LOC: image 4)

Lincoln on liberty

Caroline Hurley’s article in the American Studies Journal points out that the Edinburgh statue emphasizes President Lincoln’s role as the Great Emancipator and that after the Emancipation Proclamation “the American Consul in Glasgow found his office inundated with applications from local men who wished to join the Union army”. The author also explains the words on the monument’s front:

… The phrase engraved onto the front of the base is a quote from an 1864 letter from Lincoln to Governor Michael Hahn of Louisiana, in which he expresses his wish that extension of the franchise be made to a portion of the black male population.

It reads, “To preserve the jewel of Liberty in the framework of Freedom.” Again, rather than using a famous quote referring directly to the war, Bruce [American consul in Edinburgh responsible for the statue idea and its implemantation] and Bissell [the sculptor] have used a statement that underlines the memorial’s celebration of suffrage.[1]

Upon further review there appears to be evidence that the quote is possibly somewhat misquoted, at least in terms of the original letter as composed by Abraham Lincoln. An article in the June 23, 1865 issue of From The New-York Times includes Abraham Lincoln’s note to Louisiana Governor Michael Hahn:

THE LATE PRESIDENT LINCOLN ON NEGRO SUFFRAGE.; A Letter from Him to Gov. Hahn of Louisiana.

From the Washington Chronicle.

The following correspondence needs no comments. Hon. Wm. D. KELLEY, the able representative in Congress from the Fourth (Pennsylvania) District, known for his earnest advocacy of colored suffrage, writes to Hon. MICHAEL HAHN, Senator elect from Louisiana, calling forth a letter from the lamented President LINCOLN, which bears directly on that important subject, and will be found to be of valuable interest:

Lincoln Edinburgh statue (

nowadays in Edinburgh

WASHINGTON, Tuesday, June 20, 1865.

Hon. Michael Hahn:

DEAR SIR: Our late President did me the honor to show me a “private” note of congratulation which he addressed to you on your election to the office of Governor of Louisiana, in which he urged you to use your influence in promoting the extension of the right of suffrage to American citizens of African descent, He subsequently made it quite public by showing it to others in my presence, and intimated to me that he had authorized its publication. As he has been withdrawn from our midst, and many good people are anxious to know what opinions he held on the subject, may I not with propriety request a copy of that letter for publication? Hoping that you will, under the circumstances, feel free to furnish a copy for this purpose, I remain, very truly, yours.


WASHINGTON, Wednesday, June 21, 1865.

Hon. W.D. Kelley:

DEAR JUDGE: In compliance with your wishes, as expressed in your note of yesterday, I inclose you a copy of the only letter I ever received from President LINCOLN, bearing directly on the subject of negro suffrage. The letter, although marked “private,” was no doubt intended to be seen by other Union men in Louisiana beside myself, and was consequently shown to many members of our Constitutional Convention and leading free-State men.

Some months ago, pressed by many good citizens of Louisville to give publicity to Mr. LINCOLN’s opinion on this important question, I incidentally mentioned the request in a letter to Mr. LINCOLN, with the view of knowing whether the publication would be agreeable him. On this subject I received no answer. However, in a communication on colored suffrage, written some months ago by Senator GRATZ BROWN, of Missouri, and extensively published, direct reference is made to this letter, and an accurate quotation is made therefrom as furnished by Mr. LINCOLN. The copy which Mr. LINCOLN preserved was also read by him to a number of other gentlemen. In writing to a citizen of Louisiana recently, you used these words: “that letter belongs to history.” Under all the circumstances, I can see no impropriety in furnishing you with a copy.

The letter, written in the mild and graceful tone which imparted so much weight to Mr. LINCOLN’s simple suggestions, no doubt had great effect on the action of the Louisiana Convention in all matters appertaining to the colored man. The Convention, besides decreeing instantaneous, uncompensated emancipation, constitutionally provided for the education of all children, without distinction of color; for the enrollment of all men, white and black, in the militia; and invested the Legislature with power to extend to the colored man the highest privilege of citizenship.

Your friend, MICHAEL HAHN.

Lincoln Edinburgh statue (

compare and contrast



Hon. Michael Hahn:

MY DEAR SIR: I congratulate you on having fixed your name in history as the first free-State Governor of Louisiana. Now you are about to have a convention, which, among other things, will probably define the elective franchise. I barely suggest, for your private consideration, whether some of the colored people may not be let in, as, for instance, the very intelligent, and especially those who have fought gallantly in our ranks. They would probably help, in some trying time to come, to keep the jewel of liberty in the family of freedom. But this is only a suggestion, not to the public, but to you alone.

Truly yours, A. LINCOLN.

You can actually see President Lincoln’s March 13, 1864 letter to Governor Hahn at the Library of Congress; it looks like “family of freedom”.

Civil War monuments are controversial in 2017. Currently many Confederate statues and monuments are being removed across the United States, and the public debates whether or not that should happen. In an article from Business Insider Daniel Brown has recently reported that after the war Robert E. Lee himself was opposed to Confederate monuments and the use of the rebel flag.

I doubt that the Lincoln monument is going to be dismantled any time soon, although nowadays people might be outraged that an American president encouraged suffrage only for black soldiers and “the very intelligent” black men. Mr. Lincoln was undoubtedly personally opposed to slavery, but at times he claimed that emancipation was secondary to his top priority of keeping the Union in one piece.

In a famous August 22, 1862 letter to Horace Greeley President Lincoln wrote: “… 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. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union …”

One of Mr. Lincoln’s statements that is most memorable to me was written in an April 4, 1864 letter to Albert G. Hodges, which begins, “I am naturally anti-slavery. If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong. I can not remember when I did not so think, and feel.” The rest of the letter maintained that the president’s main objective was to save the Union. He used the emancipation proclamation after the border states refused his compensated emancipation plan in 1862. He seemed to mostly justify the proclamation by the addition of 130,000 (black) “soldiers, seamen, and laborers”.

You can read more about the Edinburgh monument at the American Civil War Round Table UK
Both modern (color) images of the Edinburgh statue are by Caroline Hurley. Her work is licensed by Creative Commons. The Library of Congress provides Carol M. Highsmith’s photo of the Liberty Bell
The Liberty Bell, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (by Carol M. Highsmith; LOC:

family jewel

  1. [1] Hurley, Caroline. “Lincoln in Scotland: A Gift of the Gilded Age.” American Studies Journal 60 (2016). Web. 21 August 2017. DOI 10.18422/60-05.
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leaving New Orleans


too radical for the president

On August 12th President Andrew Johnson suspended Edwin M. Stanton and named General U.S. Grant as acting Secretary of War. 150 years ago today the president ordered the general to make some changes. Philip Sheridan was to be removed from command of the Fifth Military District (Louisiana and Texas) and replaced by George Thomas. There was some give and take; General Grant tried to stick up for Sheridan; General Thomas was reportedly ill. Eventually General Winfield Hancock assumed command of the Fifth District and Sheridan replaced him in the Department of Missouri. Here’s how General Sheridan remembered the events in his 1888 book. Registration referred to registering voters to elect delegates to a state constitutional convention. President Johnson was “outraged” that Sheridan sent a letter to Grant on June 22nd trying to “evade the president’s order to extend the registration period in Louisiana” and disagreeing with Attorney-General Stanbery’s interpretation of the Reconstruction Acts. Mr. Stanbery said that existing state governments and civilian courts should have more authority than the military governments.[1] General Sheridan seems to have gotten the timing wrong about when the president decided to remove him.

From the Personal Memoirs of General P. H. Sheridan (1888; at Project Gutenberg; Volume II, Chapter 11):

In accomplishing the registration there had been little opposition from the mass of the people, but the press of New Orleans, and the office-holders and office-seekers in the State generally, antagonized the work bitterly and violently, particularly after the promulgation of the opinion of the Attorney-General. These agitators condemned everybody and everything connected with the Congressional plan of reconstruction; and the pernicious influence thus exerted was manifested in various ways, but most notably in the selection of persons to compose the jury lists in the country parishes it also tempted certain municipal officers in New Orleans to perform illegal acts that would seriously have affected the credit of the city had matters not been promptly corrected by the summary removal from office of the comptroller and the treasurer, who had already issued a quarter of a million dollars in illegal certificates. On learning of this unwarranted and unlawful proceeding, Mayor Heath demanded an investigation by the Common Council, but this body, taking its cue from the evident intention of the President to render abortive the Reconstruction acts, refused the mayor’s demand. Then he tried to have the treasurer and comptroller restrained by injunction, but the city attorney, under the same inspiration as the council, declined to sue out a writ, and the attorney being supported in this course by nearly all the other officials, the mayor was left helpless in his endeavors to preserve the city’s credit. Under such circumstances he took the only step left him—recourse to the military commander; and after looking into the matter carefully I decided, in the early part of August, to give the mayor officials who would not refuse to make an investigation of the illegal issue of certificates, and to this end I removed the treasurer, surveyor, comptroller, city attorney, and twenty-two of the aldermen; these officials, and all of their assistants, having reduced the financial credit of New Orleans to a disordered condition, and also having made efforts—and being then engaged in such—to hamper the execution of the Reconstruction laws.

This action settled matters in the city, but subsequently I had to remove some officials in the parishes—among them a justice of the peace and a sheriff in the parish of Rapides; the justice for refusing to permit negro witnesses to testify in a certain murder case, and for allowing the murderer, who had foully killed a colored man, to walk out of his court on bail in the insignificant sum of five hundred dollars; and the sheriff, for conniving at the escape from jail of another alleged murderer. Finding, however, even after these removals, that in the country districts murderers and other criminals went unpunished, provided the offenses were against negroes merely (since the jurors were selected exclusively from the whites, and often embraced those excluded from the exercise of the election franchise) I, having full authority under the Reconstruction laws, directed such a revision of the jury lists as would reject from them every man not eligible for registration as a voter. This order was issued August 24, and on its promulgation the President relieved me from duty and assigned General Hancock as my successor.

“NEW ORLEANS, LA., August 24, 1867.


“The registration of voters of the State of Louisiana, according to the law of Congress, being complete, it is hereby ordered that no person who is not registered in accordance with said law shall be considered as, a duly qualified voter of the State of Louisiana. All persons duly registered as above, and no others, are consequently eligible, under the laws of the State of Louisiana, to serve as jurors in any of the courts of the State.

“The necessary revision of the jury lists will immediately be made by the proper officers.

“All the laws of the State respecting exemptions, etc., from jury duty will remain in force.

“By command of Major-General P. H. SHERIDAN.

“GEO. L. HARTNUFF, Asst. Adj’t-General.”

Pending the arrival of General Hancock, I turned over the command of the district September 1 to General Charles Griffin; but he dying of yellow fever, General J. A. Mower succeeded him, and retained command till November 29, on which date General Hancock assumed control. Immediately after Hancock took charge, he revoked my order of August 24 providing for a revision of the jury lists; and, in short, President Johnson’s policy now became supreme, till Hancock himself was relieved in March, 1868.

My official connection with the reconstruction of Louisiana and Texas practically closed with this order concerning the jury lists. In my judgment this had become a necessity, for the disaffected element, sustained as it was by the open sympathy of the President, had grown so determined in its opposition to the execution of the Reconstruction acts that I resolved to remove from place and power all obstacles; for the summer’s experience had convinced me that in no other way could the law be faithfully administered.

The President had long been dissatisfied with my course; indeed, he had harbored personal enmity against me ever since he perceived that he could not bend me to an acceptance of the false position in which he had tried to place me by garbling my report of the riot of 1866. When Mr. Johnson decided to remove me, General Grant protested in these terms, but to no purpose:

“WASHINGTON, D. C., August 17, 1867

“SIR: I am in receipt of your order of this date directing the assignment of General G. H. Thomas to the command of the Fifth Military District, General Sheridan to the Department of the Missouri, and General Hancock to the Department of the Cumberland; also your note of this date (enclosing these instructions), saying: ‘Before you issue instructions to carry into effect the enclosed order, I would be pleased to hear any suggestions you may deem necessary respecting the assignments to which the order refers.’

“I am pleased to avail myself of this invitation to urge—earnestly urge—urge in the name of a patriotic people, who have sacrificed hundreds of thousands of loyal lives and thousands of millions of treasure to preserve the integrity and union of this country—that this order be not insisted on. It is unmistakably the expressed wish of the country that General Sheridan should not be removed from his present command.

“This is a republic where the will of the people is the law of the land. I beg that their voice may be heard.

“General Sheridan has performed his civil duties faithfully and intelligently. His removal will only be regarded as an effort to defeat the laws of Congress. It will be interpreted by the unreconstructed element in the South—those who did all they could to break up this Government by arms, and now wish to be the only element consulted as to the method of restoring order—as a triumph. It will embolden them to renewed opposition to the will of the loyal masses, believing that they have the Executive with them.

“The services of General Thomas in battling for the Union entitle him to some consideration. He has repeatedly entered his protest against being assigned to either of the five military districts, and especially to being assigned to relieve General Sheridan.

“There are military reasons, pecuniary reasons, and above all, patriotic reasons, why this should not be insisted upon.

“I beg to refer to a letter marked ‘private,’ which I wrote to the President when first consulted on the subject of the change in the War Department. It bears upon the subject of this removal, and I had hoped would have prevented it.

“I have the honor to be, with great respect, your obedient servant,

“General U. S. A., Secretary of War ad interim.

“His Excellency A. JOHNSON,
“President of the United States.”

I was ordered to command the Department of the Missouri (General Hancock, as already noted, finally becoming my successor in the Fifth Military District), and left New Orleans on the 5th of September. I was not loath to go. The kind of duty I had been performing in Louisiana and Texas was very trying under the most favorable circumstances, but all the more so in my case, since I had to contend against the obstructions which the President placed in the way from persistent opposition to the acts of Congress as well as from antipathy to me—which obstructions he interposed with all the boldness and aggressiveness of his peculiar nature.

On more than one occasion while I was exercising this command, impurity of motive was imputed to me, but it has never been truthfully shown (nor can it ever be) that political or corrupt influences of any kind controlled me in any instance. I simply tried to carry out, without fear or favor, the Reconstruction acts as they came to me. They were intended to disfranchise certain persons, and to enfranchise certain others, and, till decided otherwise, were the laws of the land; and it was my duty to execute them faithfully, without regard, on the one hand, for those upon whom it was thought they bore so heavily, nor, on the other, for this or that political party, and certainly without deference to those persons sent to Louisiana to influence my conduct of affairs.

Some of these missionaries were high officials, both military and civil, and I recall among others a visit made me in 1866 by a distinguished friend of the President, Mr. Thomas A. Hendricks. The purpose of his coming was to convey to me assurances of the very high esteem in which I was held by the President, and to explain personally Mr. Johnson’s plan of reconstruction, its flawless constitutionality, and so on. But being on the ground, I had before me the exhibition of its practical working, saw the oppression and excesses growing out of it, and in the face of these experiences even Mr. Hendricks’s persuasive eloquence was powerless to convince me of its beneficence. Later General Lovell H. Rousseau came down on a like mission, but was no more successful than Mr. Hendricks.

During the whole period that I commanded in Louisiana and Texas my position was a most unenviable one. The service was unusual, and the nature of it scarcely to be understood by those not entirely familiar with the conditions existing immediately after the war. In administering the affairs of those States, I never acted except by authority, and always from conscientious motives. I tried to guard the rights of everybody in accordance with the law. In this I was supported by General Grant and opposed by President Johnson. The former had at heart, above every other consideration, the good of his country, and always sustained me with approval and kind suggestions. The course pursued by the President was exactly the opposite, and seems to prove that in the whole matter of reconstruction he was governed less by patriotic motives than by personal ambitions. Add to this his natural obstinacy of character and personal enmity toward me, and no surprise should be occasioned when I say that I heartily welcomed the order that lifted from me my unsought burden.

Harriet Beecher Stowe agreed with General Grant that Philip Sheridan did a good job in the Fifth District. In her 1868 book she said that Sheridan’s prior rule over a Native-American tribe was a lot like running an “unreconstructed” rebel city. From Men of Our Times or Leading Patriots of The Day (pages 418-419):

General Sheridan’s administration as military governor at New Orleans, was a surprise to his friends, from its exhibition of broad and high administrative qualities. Yet there is much that is alike in the abilities of a good general and a good ruler. Gen. Grant is a very wise judge of men, and his brief and characteristic record of his estimate of Sheridan might419 have justified hopes equal to the actual result. To any one remembering also his early days of authority over the Yokimas in Oregon, it would doubtless have done so; for a Yokima community and the community of an “unreconstructed” southern rebel city are a good deal alike in many things. What Grant said of Sheridan was as follows, and was sent to Secretary Stanton just after Cedar Creek, and a little while before Sheridan’s appointment as Major-General in the Regular Army, in place of McClellan, resigned:

“City Point, Thursday, Oct. 20, 8 p. m.

Hon. E. M. Stanton, etc.:

I had a salute of one hundred guns from each of the armies here fired in honor of Sheridan’s last victory. Turning what bid fair to be a disaster into a glorious victory, stamps Sheridan what I always thought him, one of the ablest of generals.

U. S. Grant, Lieutenant-General.”

The extraordinary series of popular ovations which have attended Sheridan’s recent tour through part of the North, have proved that he is profoundly admired, honored and loved by all good citizens; and unless we except Grant, probably Sheridan is the most popular—and deservedly the most popular—of all the commanders in the war. Such a popularity, and won not by words but by deeds, is an enviable possession.

  1. [1] Trefousse, Hans L. Andrew Johnson: A Biography. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1997. Print. pages 288-289,297.
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women’s work

It is obvious that war changes things, that wars have consequences. Here’s an example from that Great War as published in the August 12, 1917 issue of The New-York Times

NYTimes August12, 1917( LOC:

three Womanpower

Photography probably changes things, too. The same issue of the Times leads with “U-BOAT ATTACK ON U. S. TRANSPORTS SHOWN BY CAMERA” I was slightly reminded of watching the first moon landing/ walk


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suspended from office

A week earlier President Andrew Johnson tried to get around the strictures of the Tenure of Office Act by asking the most radical member of his cabinet secretaries to resign. Secretary of War Edwin Stanton refused. On August 12, 1867 President Johnson followed the rules set out in the Tenure Act and suspended Mr. Stanton pending Senate approval when Congress reconvened. General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant was named acting Secretary of War in the interim.

Here’s some background from an 1896 book, The Struggle between President Johnson and Congress over Reconstruction by Charles Ernest Chadsey (pages 127-136):

In the preceding chapters we have traced step by step the development of the theory of reconstruction and the formulation of the reconstruction acts of the 39th and 40th Congresses. We have noticed the wide divergence between the ideas of Johnson and those of the Republican party, and have seen that the whole program was carried over the vetoes of the President by the overwhelming Republican majority. But the contest between the President and Congress, which had been embittered by so many personalities on both sides, did not come to an end with the passage of legislation which fully embodied the congressional theory, but continued until it culminated in a desperate effort of the Republican party to remove Johnson from the presidential chair.

The very conditions under which he assumed the presidential office rendered his position difficult, and made estrangement of the executive and legislative departments an easy matter. On the particular issue of reconstruction Lincoln and Congress were at variance; but the tragic nature of Lincoln’s death caused this matter to be forgotten in the overwhelming sense of the loss of the man who had safely guided the government through the most trying years of its history. But, for a Congress so extremely Northern and Republican, with antagonisms and prejudices which only fratricidal wars can create, to be compelled to work with a man not only a Southerner, but practically a Democrat, must of necessity bring about a crisis.

The Council of War statuette by John Rogers ( Stacy, George, publisher Rogers, John, 1829-1904, sculptor ca. 1870; LOC:

happier days

Moreover, the flourishing condition of the spoils system served to aggravate the antagonism between the two departments. History shows that, while selfish motives are always indignantly repudiated by politicians, they account for many of the more important political movements of the century. With the immense federal patronage at his disposal, Johnson realized that he had a powerful instrument of revenge at hand, and he did not hesitate to use it. At a time when every congressman was under the strongest pressure from his home constituency, inability to gratify the demands of the voracious office-seeker was indeed a cause for bitterness.

We can thus easily distinguish three causes which, working together upon a strongly Republican Congress, resulted in the attempted removal of the President. First, the antagonism arising from different fundamental political ideas, the strained conditions of the times, and the woeful tactlessness of Johnson; second, the almost morbid yet natural fears of the Republican party regarding the sometime seceded States; third, the anger aroused by the use of federal patronage to further the interests of the President. …

[There were repeated attempts to impeach the president from late 1866 throughout 1867]

But the President soon gave the House the very opportunity it desired. While the direct attack upon the President was being carried on by means of the effort to impeach him, an indirect attack was made by the legislative limitation of his powers. One of the cries of alarmists had been that there was danger that the President might in some way take advantage of his constitutional position as commander-in-chief of the army and navy, so as to injure the government and advance his own interests. Some went even farther and declared that he designed with the aid of the army to overthrow the government, and place the United States in the power of the rebels. Such charges, viewed from the standpoint of history, seem too absurd for consideration, but during the reconstruction period the feverish condition of the country made possible the acceptance of almost any startling rumor.

6. But even those who did not apprehend that Johnson would use the army for any improper purpose, were willing to limit his power and prestige by depriving him of his military authority; and this was accordingly done by a section introduced into the army appropriation bill. This section required all orders to the army to be made through the General of the Army, thus practically making his approval of them necessary. It also prevented the President or the Secretary of War from removing, suspending or relieving from command the General of the Army, and even forbade his being assigned for duty away from headquarters, except at his own request. This had the effect of taking away from the President all his constitutional powers as commander-in-chief. As the section was put as a rider on an appropriation bill and a veto must cover the whole bill, Johnson contented himself with a simple protest and returned the act with his signature.

7. The attack upon the civil powers of the President was made through the Tenure-of-Office Act. As the violation of this act was the ground of the most serious charge in the impeachment trial, a somewhat detailed study of its provisions, and of the views expressed by the President in his veto of it, is advisable. The bill provided that “every person holding any civil office to which he has been appointed by and with the advice and consent of the Senate,” and every person so appointed in the future, should be entitled to hold such office until a successor should have been appointed in like manner, that is to say, with the advice and consent of the Senate. The only liberty of action allowed the President was during the recess of the Senate, when he was permitted to suspend an officer until the next meeting of the Senate, and appoint a pro tempore official. Within twenty days after the meeting of the Senate, however, he was required to give his reasons for the suspension. If the Senate approved of the removal, a permanent appointment was to be made; if they refused to concur, the suspended officer was immediately to resume his duties. Any violation of this act by the President was made an impeachable offense, by the declaration that “every removal, appointment, or employment made, had, or exercised, contrary to the provisions of this act * * * are hereby declared to be high misdemeanors.” The other provisions were of minor importance, and do not require notice here.

General U.S. Grant (between 1861 and 1865; LOC:

a man of an extra hat (for now)

The veto message of the President was a calm, dignified and judicial discussion of the constitutionality of the bill, and was in every way a creditable document, sustaining fully the high character of his previous vetoes. He called attention to the fact that the whole question of the authority of the President in cases of removal from office had been discussed thoroughly in Congress as early as 1789, and decided in favor of the President. He quoted Madison’s argument to prove that all executive power, except what is specifically excepted, is vested in the President, and that as no exception was made as to the power of removal, it must be vested in him. He also cited many possible cases, in which it would be absolutely necessary for the President to possess the power of removal. A decision of the Supreme Court was referred to, in which it was observed that both the legislative and the executive department had assumed in practice that the power of removal was vested in the President alone. When, for instance, the Departments of State, War and the Treasury were created in 1789, provision was made for a subordinate who should take charge of the office “when the head of the Department should be removed by the President of the United States.” Story, Kent and Webster were all quoted as affirming the same legislative construction of the Constitution. The great practical value of the power during the Civil War was noticed, and its present and future necessity strongly urged; and the message closed with an earnest appeal to Congress not to violate the original spirit of the Constitution.

8. The passage of the bill over the veto placed Johnson in a situation in which a collision was almost sure to come. As the chief executive of the country he was charged with the duty of carrying out the provisions of the reconstruction acts, notwithstanding his strong personal repugnance to them. Under the advice of Attorney-General Stanbery he had construed the acts literally, and he had thus frustrated in part the object of the legislation. But the co-operation of the army was necessary, and unfortunately for President Johnson, the Secretary of War, Mr. Stanton, strongly opposed his views, and conducted himself as far as possible in accordance with the wishes of the congressional majority. The continued friction between the President and the Secretary of War seemed to President Johnson to necessitate Stanton’s retirement, but repeated hints to that effect were not recognized by the latter. Finally, on August 5, 1867, the President informed him that “public considerations of a high character constrained” him to say that his resignation would be accepted. The Secretary’s prompt reply was that “public considerations of a high character” constrained him not to resign until the next session of Congress. A week later, August 12, the President formally suspended him and appointed General Grant Secretary ad interim. Stanton then submitted “under protest to superior force.” …

andy's trip

“pro-rebel policy of the President”

An editorial in the August 13, 1867 The New-York Times criticized President Johnson’s actions:

Matters at Washington.

Mr. JOHNSON is vindicating his reputation for obstinacy. He has resolved to rid the Government of all who refuse to support his policy, and has begun with Mr. STANTON. Warnings and remonstrances have been disregarded. The danger of doing that which exhibits the Executive in an attitude of implacable hostility to Congress is unheeded. He insists upon his right to throw down the gauntlet, and must take the consequences. …

[Will other Cabinet members continue to be willing to support the president? “Are they willing to be suspected of participation in a course which aims at the decapitation of tried servants and champions of the Union to gratify the malignity of Mr. JOHNSON … People shouldn’t assume that General Grant supports the president’s policies. “His acceptance of the duties of Secretary is temporary and formal, and will neither blind him to the mischief-breeding tendencies of the President’s action nor impair the efficacy of the backing he gives to SHERIDAN, POPE and other objects of Executive hostility.” The president won’t be able to fool the people. “Mr. STANTON is removed, not from maladministration, or corruption, or any wrong-doing of any sort, but solely and simply as a punishment of his sturdy Unionism and his unyielding antagonism to the pro-rebel policy of the President.” Questions about the integrity of the ongoing impeachment proceedings won’t divert public attention from the renewed strife caused by the president’s action. “The question which agitates the country … [is] whether Mr. JOHNSON is or is not abusing the trust reposed in him, and perverting the power he wields to purposes inimical to peace and a restored Union. It is in relation to this question that the suspension of Mr. STANTON possesses significance and peril.”

You can read the correspondence at Hathi Trust (pages 261-262). Grant’s message to Stanton thanked the suspended secretary for the “zeal, patriotism, firmness, and ability with which you have ever discharged the duties of Secretary of War.”
From the Library of Congress: statuette (ca. 1870 by John Rogers; Grant and horse; a panel from a Thomas Nast political cartoon originally published in the October 27, 1866 issue of Harper’s Weekly; sphynx from the September 7, 1867 issue of Harper’s Weekly
The sphynx at the War Office ( Illus. in: Harper's weekly, v. 11, no. 558 (1867 Sept. 7), p. 576.; LOC:

ad interim mystery

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tethered in office?

Back in March 1867 the United States Congress passed the Tenure of Office Act over President Andrew Johnson’s veto. The act required that any federal officeholder whose appointment required the advice and consent of the Senate could only be removed from office after a successor had been approved by the Senate. When Congress was not in session the president could suspend an officeholder until Congress reconvened, at which time the Senate could force the president to reinstate the officer. Cabinet members were protected during the term of the president and for one month afterwards. The Johnson cabinet created a confusing situation: were those cabinet officers appointed by Abraham Lincoln still protected until his would-be second term was up in March 1869?

150 years ago today President Johnson asked for Secretary of War Edwin Stanton’s resignation. Mr. Stanton refused, at least until the adjourned Congress was back in session.

AJ-ES_8-5-1867 (McPherson Reconstructon (;view=1up;seq=7)

public considerations

In addition to agreeing that they were acting in the public interest, both President and Secretary of War agreed that the Tenure of Office Act was unconstitutional, at least when the cabinet discussed the measure in February 1867.[1]

Edwin M. Stanton (New York : Johnson, Fry & Co., publishers, c1865.; LOC:

only staying on for the public good

You can read the correspondence at Hathi Trust. The portrait of Edwin M. Stanton comes from the Library of Congress
  1. [1] Stahr, Walter Seward: Lincoln’s Indispensable Man. 2012. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2013. Print. pages 479-480.
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150 years ago today black men voted for the first time in Tennessee. Ex-Confederates were still prohibited from voting. Republican Governor William G. Brownlow (Parson Brownlow) was re-elected by a large majority.

From The New-York Times August 2, 1867:

Whites and Negroes Voting Together.
No Disturbance at the Polls Reported.
Gov. Brownlow Undoubtedly Elected by a Large Majority.

Parson Brownlow / Magee. (Phil'a : J. Magee, c1861.; LOC:

he’s number 1

Special Dispatch to the New-York Times.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn., Thursday, Aug. 1.

The election to-day was one of the most orderly ever known. The liquor-shops were all closed, and the special police force and the militia prevented all trouble. Black policemen were detailed by the Leagues and accepted by the authorities. A disturbance to-night between a black and white man brought out eighty armed blacks in an instant. … [Brownlow the big winner]

To the Associated Press.

MEMPHIS, Thursday, Aug. 1.

The election passed off quietly in this city, and not a single disturbance occurred. The saloons were all closed, and the best of order prevailed. The Twenty-Fifth Infantry were stationed at Court-square during the day, but they were not called out.

By the first arrangement the whites and negroes were to have separate voting places; but later in the day, finding that they could not all vote there, they sought other polls in crowds, and then were unable to all vote owing to the short time allowed. …

NASHVILLE, Tenn., Thursday, Aug. 1.

The election to-day was the quietest ever known here. The whites and blacks voted without interruption, and not a hurrah for either party was given. At the polls a few parties were arrested for attempting to vote twice, and others for carrying concealed weapons. … [Brownlow rolls]

Maj. General George H. Thomas (photographed between 1861 and 1865, printed between 1880 and 1889; LOC:

” peace-maker”

The next day the Times published an editorial about the election. It was good that the vote was peaceful, but the result was underwhelming since the odds were stacked so much in the parson’s favor. The editorial was concerned that an “extreme proscriptive policy” could cause trouble throughout the South:

The Tennessee Election.

The triumph of the Brownlow faction proves only the success with which it has manipulated the registration of voters. As an indication of State feeling or policy it amounts to nothing. When a man in office possesses the power of disfranchising his opponents, his election or reëlection can be considered only a sign of thorough, unscrupulous work – not of moral strength or personal or political popularity. And when he outrages propriety by appointing candidates as registrars, and so enabling them to adapt the lists to their own convenience, the fact of their election follows as regularly as night follows day. In deed the Tennessee election was, on the whole a meaningless formality. With four-fifths of the whites disfranchised, and with the registration altogether in the hands of BROWNLOW and his men, what signifies the vote of Thursday last?

For similar reasons, what importance attaches to the absence of the riot and bloodshed which were widely feared? That the election passed off quietly, is a good ground of rejoicing. But the cause of the quiet ought not be overlooked. It was not BROWNLOW of his volunteers who preserved order, nor the superior strength of the victors, nor the peaceful disposition of the people. To United States troops belongs the praise. Gen. THOMAS, acting under instructions from Gen. GRANT, was the great peace-maker of the day. His arrangements restrained the ill-blood which exists on both sides, and rendered orderly what would otherwise have been scenes of violence and strife. The circumstance is not particularly gratifying. It is not pleasant to reflect that Federal bayonets are indispensable auxiliaries of an election in a State supposed to be reconstructed. But so it is, and we may as well recognize it frankly.

Tennessee. ([S.l.], 1826.; LOC:


The condition of Tennessee is, then, to-day, as it was a week ago – volcanic; so evidently explosive that it must continue a source of most painful anxiety. On one side, BROWNLOW, with all the insolence of power, and with the State organization in his hands; on the other, the rebel Democratic element, angry, aggressive, kept down only by soldiers. Between these parties the greater number of white Unionists of the State are crushed, as between the upper and nether millstone. The sole hope of deliverance for this class – the sole hope of peace and prosperity for the State – lies in the adoption of more moderate counsel than can be anticipated while BROWNLOW fills the Executive chair. It is the remoteness of this prospect that renders the aspect of Tennessee deplorable, and that suggests the danger of an extreme proscriptive policy in reorganizing other portions of the South.

According to Google Books “Governor Brownlow was well aware that his dual policies of white proscription [disfranchising ex-Confederates] and black empowerment [enfranchising black men] had ushered in a political-racial revolution. Such drastic measures required vigilant law enforcement.” This included appointing all the voting registrars and giving them “complete control over the electoral process.” In February 1867 the Tennessee State Guard was mobilized. This force included blacks and during the gubernatorial election “protected the registration of black voters, ensured a relatively safe political canvass, and policed the precincts both to thwart Rebel interference and to prevent the disfranchised from voting.”[1]

The following summary is taken from Wikipedia’s entry for William Gannaway “Parson” Brownlow:

The Radicals nominated Brownlow for a second term for governor in February 1867. His opponent was Emerson Etheridge, a frequent critic of the Brownlow administration. That same month, the legislature passed a bill giving the state’s black residents the right to vote, and Union Leagues were organized to help freed slaves in this process. Members of these leagues frequently clashed with disfranchised ex-Confederates, including members of the burgeoning Ku Klux Klan, and Brownlow organized a state guard, led by General Joseph Alexander Cooper, to protect voters (and harass the opposition). With the state’s ex-Confederates disfranchised, Brownlow easily defeated Etheridge, 74,848 to 22,548.

The Shiloh National Military Park also has a good summary of the election at something called Facebook

[August 3, 2017:] According to the Freedmen’s Bureau several “colored laborers [were] discharged from employment in Davidson County, Tenn on account of voting for certain candidates in the election of August 1st 1867”. In all cases the cause of the termination was “Voting the radical ticket.” Apparently ballots weren’t that secret; apparently the Bureau worked to compensate the laborers by charging the employers.

Parson Brownlow … Knoxville, April 22, 1861. Gen. Gideon J. Pillow, I have just received your message …Published by Jas. Gates, Cincinnati. (Cincinnati, 1861. ; LOC:

parson references afterlife

Thomas war flag (LOC:

“a man holding a display of the battle flag used by Gen. George H. Thomas’s unit.”

From the Library of Congress: Parson Brownlow; General Thomas; 1826 map (Chattanooga still labeled Ross’s); message to Pillow; remains of a war flag.
Parson Brownlow’s response to General Pillow’s request was apparently reported in the parson’s own newspaper.
  1. [1] Dollar Kent, Larry Whiteaker, W. Calvin Dickinson, editors Sister States, Enemy States: The Civil War in Kentucky and Tennessee. Lexington, Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky, 2011. Print. page :?.
Posted in 150 Years Ago This Week, Aftermath, Postbellum Politics, Postbellum Society, Reconstruction, Southern Society | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on odds-making

that’s entertainment

Wartime entertainment seemed to be a theme in a couple New York City weekly picture publications 100 years ago. In Verdun:

undergroundverdun (NY Times July 22, 1917; LOC: image 4)

underground theater

verdunmusichall (NY Times July 22, 1917; LOC: image6)

street level Verdun – recycling project


Newport: fancy dress for the Red Cross:

Red Cross Fete (NY Times July 22, 1917; LOC: image 5)

standing up for Belgian victims


(NY Times July 22, 1917; LOC: image 5)

fight site

tribmovie (New-York tribune, July 22, 1917; LOC: image 9)

making (silent) movie


Back to that blue-gray thing. I actually saw a photo that reminded me a bit of the Civil War. During the Sesquicentennial commemoration there were several stories of women who disguised themselves so they could serve as soldiers. One hundred years ago a woman dressed up like a soldier so she could accompany her husband over there. It didn’t work; when found out she was sent back to the States and presumably one of the newest states. On the other hand, at least one locality hired a female as police officer. Women also modeled new uniforms for war-related organizations. And the Red Cross was also raising funds on the West Coast.

soldier (NY Times July 22, 1917; LOC: image 1)

not a doughboy

policewoman (NY Times July 22, 1917; LOC: image 1)

K-9 Unit?

tribhoover uniform (New-York tribune, July 22, 1917 ; LOC: image 4)

uniform for food conservationists per the United States Food Administration


In his book about the American Civil War, Seneca County (NY) Historian Walt Gable wrote about one woman who didn’t have to disguise herself to accompany her husband during his war service.[1] Jeremiah Gahan (listed as Gahn in the roster) served in the 148th New York Infantry from August 1862 to the unit’s mustering out in June 1865. And so did his wife Mary, whose

job was to launder and mend soldier’s clothing. She received a fee for doing this work. She traveled with the Regiment. One person described her efforts this way: “In all the marches of that regiment Mary bore her part as bravely as the strongest soldier of them all….She shared the perils and fatigues of its Virginia Campaigns and was with it at its triumphant return.”

Walt references George Shadman, They Marched on Richmond: The Story of the Gallant 148th New York Volunteers, (Watkins Glen, NY: G. Shadman, 1996, p. 206. I wonder if Mary lived in the trenches at Cold Harbor. I wonder if the women had to pony up the 98 cents for that kitchen uniform or was it on the taxpayers. Maciste seems to be something like James Bond in Italian cinema – many movies over a long time period with different actors in the lead role. “The Warrior” was released in Italy in 1916. All the images in this post were first published on July 22, 1917 and can be found at the Library of Congress: NY Times and NY Tribune
SF Red Cross (New-York tribune, July 22, 1917; LOC: image 4)

coin collector

  1. [1] Gable, Walter Seneca County And The Civil War. Charleston, S.C.: The History Press, 2014. Print. pages 70-72.
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summer schooled

During the mid-nineteenth century the United States Congress was not in session as much as it is today. In general, Congress did not meet from March until the following December. 1867 was a different kind of year. In March legislation was enacted despite a veto which took over Reconstruction from President Andrew Johnson, whose policies were relatively lenient to the established white South. Congress also passed a law over the president’s veto which limited his power to fire federal officeholders. Because Congress was concerned that President Johnson might ignore the new laws, it did not wait until December to convene the new 40th Congress. Not only did the new Congress convene in March, it also gave itself leeway to reconvene in July instead of December if that was deemed necessary because of the administration’s conduct. It was going to prove necessary:

Johnson’s opportunity to undermine congressional Reconstruction arose after the lawmakers had gone home. In May and June, in two separate opinions, Attorney General Stanbery so interpreted the Reconstruction Acts that voting registrars retained considerable leeway in deciding whom to register. At the same time, Stanbery upheld the authority of the existing governments in the South as well as the supremacy of the civilian courts. In view of the fact that General Sickles and Sheridan had issued orders to the contrary, this opinion created grave problems. Sheridan particularly had sought to enforce the congressional mandate by removing various state and local officers in Louisiana, including in the end, the governor himself. In addition, he had set brief periods of registration because he knew restricting his powers and those of the registrars was forthcoming; in fact, Grant had warned him and informed him that he and Stanton would try to protect him to the best of their ability. … [1]

The following is an 1896 summary of the July 1867 act. It begins with the mindset of Congress when it adjourned in March. While Congress was away, Attorney General Henry Stanbery’s opinion instigated enough Congressmen to return to Washington in July to make a quorum. From The Struggle between President Johnson and Congress over Reconstruction by Charles Ernest Chadsey (pages 122-124):

The passage of the supplementary reconstruction act, and of a joint resolution providing for the expenses involved in carrying out the provisions of the act, completed the work of this session of the 40th Congress. It was hoped that no further congressional action would be needed until the constitutions of the States should be submitted for examination and approval, preparatory to granting representation. But the importance of the measures and the avowed hostility of the President caused hesitation on the part of Congress as to adjourning till the regular December session. It was realized that if any loop-hole could be found by which the intention of the act could be evaded, Johnson would have no hesitation in taking advantage of it. To provide for such a contingency Congress passed a concurrent resolution which provided for a recess until July 3, and authorized the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House to adjourn Congress until the first Monday in December if a quorum did not appear on July 3. In case everything appeared to be progressing with little friction, the members would not assemble; but if there should be any unfavorable developments, Congress could assemble independently of the President and enact legislation to remedy the difficulty.

507px-Hon._Henry_Stanberry,_Ohio_-_NARA_-_526547 (

opined a loop-hole

4. July 3 found a quorum in both houses. The Attorney-General had rendered an opinion upon the act of March 2 which greatly hampered the work of the commanders of the districts. He advised the President that the act should be construed strictly, that the commanders should be allowed no powers beyond those specifically bestowed upon them. This prevented them from removing state officers, from making new laws for the government of the people, or from suspending the action of the state courts; and with state officers hostile to the federal authorities, and using every means to impede their work, the commanders found it impossible properly to discharge the duties assigned to them by the act. The intent of the reconstruction acts obviously was to make the commanders of the districts commanders de facto as well as de jure. Consequently remedial legislation was deemed necessary, and Congress convened for the purpose of framing additional acts defining more precisely the intention of the preceding acts and the powers of the commanders.

A few days’ debate sufficed to bring Congress to an agreement as to the form of a second supplementary act. The bill passed both Houses on July 13, was vetoed on the 19th, and was immediately passed over the veto. It declared the true intent and meaning of the previous reconstruction acts to be that the governments then existing in the ten States specified in the acts were illegal, and that such governments, “if continued, were to be continued subject in all respects to the military commanders of the respective districts, and to the paramount authority of Congress.” It therefore provided that the district commanders should have the power to suspend or remove all incumbents of offices of “any so-called State or the government thereof,” and to fill all vacancies in such offices, however caused. The same powers were granted to the General of the Army, who was also empowered to disapprove the appointments or removals made by the district commanders. The previous appointments by the district commanders were confirmed and made subject to the provisions of the act, and it was declared to be the duty of these commanders to remove from office all who were disloyal to the United States, or who opposed in any way the administration of the reconstruction acts. The registration boards were empowered and required “before allowing the registration of any person to ascertain, upon such facts or information as they can obtain, whether such person is entitled to be registered.” No person was to be disqualified as a member of any board of registration by reason of race or color. The true intent and meaning of the oath prescribed in the supplementary act was fully explained, the most important portion of the explanation being that the words “executive or judicial office in any State” should be construed to “include all civil offices created by law for the administration of any general law of a State, or for the administration of justice.” The time of registration under the supplementary act was extended to October 1, 1867, in the discretion of the commander and it was provided that “the boards of registration shall have power, and it shall be their duty, commencing fourteen days prior to any election under said act, and upon reasonable notice of the time and place thereof, to revise, for a period of five days, the registration lists,” by striking out the names of those found to be disqualified, and adding the names of those qualified for registration. Executive pardon or amnesty should not qualify any one for registration who without it would be disqualified. District commanders were empowered “to remove any member of a board of registration, and to appoint another in his stead, and to fill any vacancy in such board.” The iron-clad oath was to be required of all registration boards, and of all persons elected or appointed to office in the military districts. Further possibility of unfavorable construction by the Attorney-General was prevented by the provision that “no district commander or member of the board of registration, or any of the officers or appointees acting under them, shall be bound in his action by any opinion of any civil officer of the United States.” The closing section, taken in connection with this, was fully as significant: “All the provisions of this act and of the acts to which this is supplementary shall be construed liberally, to the end that all the intents thereof may be fully and perfectly carried out.”

President Johnson’s veto “deplored the imposition of absolute military government over ten states” and objected to Congress curtailing his own Constitutional powers. [2]. You can read Andrew Johnson’s entire veto message at The American Presidency Project. His concluding paragraph:

This interference with the constitutional authority of the executive department is an evil that will inevitably sap the foundations of our federal system; but it is not the worst evil of this legislation. It is a great public wrong to take from the President powers conferred on him alone by the Constitution, but the wrong is more flagrant and more dangerous when the powers so taken from the President are conferred upon subordinate executive officers, and especially upon military officers. Over nearly one-third of the States of the Union military power, regulated by no fixed law, rules supreme. Each one of the five district commanders, though not chosen by the people or responsible to them, exercises at this hour more executive power, military and civil, than the people have ever been willing to confer upon the head of the executive department, though chosen by and responsible to themselves. The remedy must come from the people themselves. They know what it is and how it is to be applied. At the present time they can not, according to the forms of the Constitution, repeal these laws; they can not remove or control this military despotism. The remedy is, nevertheless, in their hands; it is to be found in the ballot, and is a sure one if not controlled by fraud, overawed by arbitrary power, or, from apathy on their part, too long delayed. With abiding confidence in their patriotism, wisdom, and integrity, I am still hopeful of the future, and that in the end the rod of despotism will be broken, the armed heel of power lifted from the necks of the people, and the principles of a violated Constitution preserved.


combativeness not cute

Just like in March his veto was immediately overridden.

In an editorial published on July 20, 1867 The New-York Times castigated the president. His combativeness might be amusing if the matter was not so important. “Though Mr. JOHNSON wages battle in his own name, the people of ten States are the victims of his rashness.” Originally his arguments looked strong, but three overridden vetoes showed that his arguments didn’t deal with actual circumstances – and the country wasn’t buying his position. “Of what use is it to appeal to a Constitution which has no binding force or efficacy in the exigency which Congress is required to meet?” The editorial thought that the veto message and especially its final paragraph (above) was “gratuitously offensive” and “insulting”. The president’s position was repudiated “by the people, who are the proper umpires in the controversy.” The editorial’s final paragraph seems to be saying that if President Johnson agreed with the aims of Congressional Reconstruction his logical arguments might be better received. His opposition and the vile way he expressed it show the wisdom of the supplementary act he just vetoed.

You can read a summary of the law enacted 150 years ago today at the University of Richmond and the entire act at History Central.
The image of Henry Stanbery is from the National Archives
The other two images are from a Thomas Nast cartoon lampooning President Johnson and his Swing Around the Circle of August and September 1866. The Library of Congress has the cartoon, which was originally published in the October 27, 1866 issue of Harper’s Weekly. The NY Times editorial seems to refer to the president’s speech at St. Louis during the Swing.
kicking (LOC:

who’s kicking who

  1. [1] Trefousse, Hans L. Andrew Johnson: A Biography. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1997. Print. pages 290-291.
  2. [2] ibid. pages 289-290
Posted in 150 Years Ago This Week, Aftermath, Postbellum Politics, Postbellum Society, Reconstruction | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on summer schooled

shovels ready

Old Erie Canal lock, Fort Hunter, New York (1941 Oct.: LOC:

defunct Erie Canal lock

I’ve lived near canals and/or old defunct canals almost all my life, so I’m a little disappointed that I forgot to mention the 200th anniversary of work beginning on the Erie Canal back on July 4th. On the bright side I’ve had more time to look through old stuff. Unfortunately we don’t have any exciting photographs of the commencement ceremony in Rome, New York back in 1817, so here’s a brief word picture. From Historic Highways of America (Vol. 14), by Archer Butler Hulbert (1904; pages 118-119) (at Project Gutenberg:

The authorities of Rome arranged with the canal commissioners to unite the celebrations of the opening of the canal with the annual Fourth of July holiday. “At the appointed time and place, Judge Hathaway, President of the village, made a short address, adapted to the occasion, and then delivered the spade into the hands of the Commissioners. After a short but graphic speech by the Commissioner Young, he handed the spade to Judge Richardson, the first contractor, who then thrust it into the ground and made the first excavation for the construction of the canal. The example was immediately followed by his own laborers, and by the assembled citizens, all ambitious of the honor of participating in the labors of that memorable occasion. Thus amid the roar of artillery, and the acclamations of the people, was begun that great work which has spread civilization, wealth and refinement….”

erie-canal-7 (

Rome got first digs

I guess I shouldn’t feel too bad about missing the big anniversary. There were a lot of good seaports on the American Atlantic coast two hundred years ago, but the Erie Canal gave New York City a big commercial advantage as it joined the seaboard to the land west of the Appalachians. However, back in 1917 a New York City newspaper only mentioned the centenary of the initial, ceremonial spadework as it related to war preparedness. Work on the latest canal improvement was given more of a sense of urgency because the United States had entered the Great War.

From The New-York Times July 8, 1917:

          AS A WAR MEASURE

July 4, 1918, Date Set for Completion,
    but Military Value of Waterway
        Results in Intensive Operations
            Along Last 15-Mile Section.

A Canal Lock at Rome, New York, Touching the Site of Fort Stanwix (

“A Canal Lock at Rome, New York, Touching the Site of Fort Stanwix”

Last Wednesday, July 4, was the one hundredth anniversary of the building of the Erie Canal, which first opened for development the canal system in this country. It was not built for war use, but July 4, 1918, the date at present set for the opening of the New York State Barge Canal, which embraces the Erie and other waterways, will provide the United states with an additional route for shipments of military supplies from the Great Lakes to the Port of New York. Hope has been expressed that the Barge Canal can be opened sooner, and reinforcements of workers have been assisting the State Engineer’s office in the excavation of the final fifteen miles, or the last section of the waterway.

Congestion on the railroads will be materially decreased by the opening of the canal, and State officials have been expecting that, with the perfecting of the towboat, the round trip from the Great Lakes to New York will be made in less time than ever before, thus making the canal a war asset of no mean importance. For the public benefit, it will lower freight rates as the larger boats will make possible greater speed in delivery. …

Eugene M. Travis (between ca. 1915 and ca. 1920; LOC:

canal’s history points the way forward

[State Controller Eugene M. Travis extolled the new Barge Canal and explained some of the Erie’s history]: “George Washington first saw the future of canal communication, and it was at his suggestion that a survey of the route was made in 1808, although as early as 1785 he advocated the building of a waterway. Consequently, when the Canal Fund was first set aside for that purpose a century ago the venture was not considered a new nor untried one. It was not until after the War of 1812, however, when De Witt Clinton became Governor, that the digging of the famous ditch was actually begun. On April 17, 1817, the first law was enacted which provided for the connecting of the Hudson River and Lake Erie. Under its provisions five Canal Commissioners, consisting of all State officers save the Governor, were authorized to borrow money to carry on the project.

“The law also provided for the creation of a Canal Fund which was to be raised from a tax of 12½ cents per bushel on salt manufactured within the State, duties on goods sold at auction, a tax on steamboat passengers, toll from the canal, grants and donations, and a tax on real estate located within twenty-five miles of the proposed route of the canal. The work of construction, according to a marble tablet erected in honor of the event and preserved in the State Controller’s office, was begun on July 4, 1817, and as soon as each section was completed it was opened for traffic.

erie-canal-3 (

lots of freight traffic, too

“On October 26, 1825, the entire 362 miles were finished at an aggregate cost of nearly $8,000,000, but within ten years after, the canal was found to be insufficient in size to accommodate the increasing volume of traffic. An act providing for its enlargement and the construction of a double set of lift locks was adopted, but twenty-seven years elapsed before this improvement, costing $31.000,000, was completed. …

“The third and greatest epoch in the canal’s history occurred within the last 30 years, when the question of a cheaper transportation was provoked by the immense traffic between the Western States and the Atlantic coast, making the Erie Canal a waterway of national importance. Then it became apparent that a barge canal was essential. The National Government had already deepened the channels of the Great lakes and the Hudson River from 12 to 20 feet, leaving the canal at its 7 foot depth. Following years of investigation the barge canal act was passed … [the work has been expensive, but throughout its history the canal always delivered a profit to the state] …

During the coming months, when the military emergencies command the complete use of every facility for the transportation of war munitions, this enlarged canal will demonstrate itself to be a commercial waterway the equal of any in the world.”

I checked. Since George Washington died in 1799, I’m not sure exactly what Controller Travis meant when he said, “and it was at his suggestion that a survey of the route was made in 1808,” but George Washington was interested in canals to as a way to connect seaboard with the continent’s interior. He was the first president of the Patowmack Company, founded in 1785, that improved the navigability of the Potomac River but was unable to build a canal through the Appalachians to link up eventually with the Ohio River valley. The Appalachian Mountains were a big obstacle in the way of east-west commerce – except in New York State where the Mohawk River flowed through a gap in the mountain range and then conveniently joined the Hudson River and its water path straight south to New York City and the ocean. George Washington realized this:

But in late 1783, awaiting the formal British surrender, he toured New York’s upstate waterways and recognized – with prescience and resignation – that they, and not Virginia’s, might prove better suited to opening the west: “Prompted by these actual observations, I could not help taking a more contemplative and extensive view of the vast inland navigation of these United States, from maps and the information of others.” The father of the nation was “struck with the immense difficulty and importance of it; and with the goodness of that Providence which has dealt her favors to us with so profuse a hand.”[1]


Looking at more news from 100 years ago, the Congressional Baseball Game does indeed have a long history:

Dem-RepubCongBaseballNYT7-8-1917 (LOC:,%201917&st=gallery image 6)

from The New York Times July 8, 1917

The Red Cross seems like a pretty good choice for a charity:

NY Times July 8, 1917

New York Times July 8, 1917

new army horse (NY Times July 8, 1917; LOC: image 5)

taking the reins

In his description of the commencement ceremony at Rome Mr. Hulbert references M. S. Hawley, Origin of the Erie Canal. Jesse Hawley was one of the first proponents of a canal from the Hudson to Lake Erie. The image of the lock at Rome is from Archer Hulbert’s book.
From the Library of Congress: Old Erie canal lock at Fort Hunter; Mr. Travis; baseball image 6; army horse image 5. The map and canal boat can be found at U.S. History Images
  1. [1] Koeppel, Gerard. Bond of Union: Building the Erie Canal and the American Empire. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2009. Print. page 23.
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battle in Franklin

Another riot in the South. This one occurred 150 years ago this week in Franklin, Tennessee at something like a political rally ahead of state-wide elections on August 1st. This would be the first Tennessee election in which black men could vote; on the other hand, ex-Confederate soldiers had been disenfranchised back in 1865.

From The New-York Times July 8, 1867:



Radical Meeting at Franklin – Attack on Colored Loyal Leaguers – One White man Killed, Four Wounded and Eighteen Colored men Wounded.

NASHVILLE, Tenn., Sunday, July 7.

JOHN TRIMBLE, candidate for Congress, and two candidates for the State Legislature, all Radicals, had an appointment to speak yesterday at Franklin, Williamson County. A large number of persons, white and black, assembled, among the latter members of a loyal league, about eighty in number, who paraded the streets in regalia, with a band of music, and armed, in some instances firing a salute. The candidates were heard without interruption, the speaking lasting until about 4:30 o’clock. Subsequently, however, TRIMBLE, when not present, was denounced on the public square, and one of the legislative candidates badgered for something he had said. Much excitement arose, and symptoms of ill feeling between some of the whites and colored Leaguers were developed. The Leaguers retired in bad humor to a grove, where they were followed by a son of Dr. CLIFFE, who, in a conciliatory address, advised them to disperse. They agreed to do this and marched back to their hall. By this time night came on, and after stowing away their regalia, &c., they left the hall and returned to the public square, where a collision immediately occurred. It is alleged that they were fired on by a party of white and colored Conservatives, a man named CADY, a livery stable keeper, firing the first shot. The fire was instantly returned. The affair lasted but a few moments – half a minute, perhaps. There appeared to be a volley in attack, and a scattering reply, resulting in the death of CADY, who was shot through the heart, and the wounding of eight whites and eighteen blacks. Three of the latter are mortally wounded. Some of the wounded blacks are Conservatives. The Radical blacks were much exasperated, and threatened to return and return the fight, but Dr. CLIFFE interposed and prevailed upon them to desist. An official investigation will be necessary to fix the responsibility for this murderous affair. On one hand it is charged that the colored Leaguers were armed, were menacing in deportment, and desired a fight; on the other that they had been previously and repeatedly assaulted, and they were armed in self-defence, and the attack evinced a preparation and design to do so. It was apprehended that the difficulty would be renewed to-day, but all is quiet. A company of the Forty-fifth Regulars left this place this morning for Franklin to maintain quiet. The affair is deplored by all parties.

On Saturday one of a company of militia, stationed at Tullahoma, was shot and killed by DEWITT BENNETT, a captain in the late rebel army. Inspector-General HUNT to preserve the peace there and to have the murder investigated.

You can read a report on the riot addressed to General O.O. Howard at The Freedmen’s Bureau Online

Here’s some context for the upcoming election from an article on Reconstruction by Robert Tracy McKenzie at The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture:

Although the state was the first rebellious one to be accepted back in the Union:

Tennessee politics had not returned to normal, however, for the state continued to be dominated by a Republican minority that commanded the allegiance of, at most, one-third of the total population. Nonexistent in the state prior to 1865, the party had emerged as a political vehicle for Unionists and, consequently, always was strongest in staunchly Unionist East Tennessee. Aided by a wartime edict of Military Governor Andrew Johnson that disfranchised Confederate sympathizers, Tennessee Republicans swept into power in March 1865, controlling the general assembly as well as the governorship, which was claimed by the mercurial parson and newspaper publisher William G. Brownlow. For four years the Brownlow government worked assiduously to maintain Republican supremacy. In 1865 the legislature formally disfranchised ex-Confederates. Two years later it took the drastic step of awarding the franchise to former slaves to expand the ranks of potential Republican voters …

According to the BlackPast, “The Union League of America (or Loyal League) was the first African American Radical Republican organization in the southern United States. The League was created in the North during the American Civil War as a patriotic club to support the Union.”

There’s a good chance that Dr. Cliffe is Dr Daniel Bonaparte Cliffe, Sr, a physician from Franklin who served as a Confederate surgeon during the war. During his army time he disputed allegations of his disloyalty (to the Confederacy), but in April 1863 he was reportedly “Dropped” [“for prolonged absence from duty without leave”].

The NY Times article is one of four on the riot that is included in a teacher’s guide on Franklin During Reconstruction


I thought of the 1864 Battle of Franklin when I read about the riot. In other war-related news from 150 years ago this week, Thomas Francis Meagher, a leader of the Union’s Irish Brigade during the Civil War, drowned in the Missouri River near Fort Benton on the night of July 1st. He was serving as Acting-Governor of Montana territory.

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