Lois Leveen


April 16, 2012

Abraham Lincoln Pays Off Slaveholders

150 years ago today, Abraham Lincoln paid slaveowners $1million. Yes, that Abraham Lincoln.

The slaves in Washington D.C. were freed through "compensated emancipation." That means slaveowners were paid $300 for each of their slaves, who then became permanently free. The U.S. government picked up the tab, allocating a million dollars to buy the freedom of three thousand slaves living in D.C.

This was not the first time Lincoln advocated for compensated emancipation. Earlier in 1862, he proposed paying $400 per slave to emancipate all the slaves in "the border states"--states that had not seceded but still allowed slavery. Why? Here's how I explain it in The Secrets of Mary Bowser, by putting words into the mouth of Confederate cabinet member Judah Benjamin:

Four hundred dollars for every slave in Delaware is but half the cost of one day of war for the Union. Four hundred dollars for every slave in Maryland, Missouri, the District of Columbia, and Mrs. Lincoln’s own Kentucky would be the cost of eighty-seven days of war. Lincoln gambles that compensated emancipation will shorten the war by that many days or more, by ensuring the loyalty of the border states.”

The larger compensated emancipation was never passed--and the slaves in the border states were the last to be emancipated, legally. They were not freed until *after* the Civil War, because the Emancipation Proclamation applied only to slaves in states that had seceded.

Tomorrow, I'll write about the other $100 Lincoln was willing to pay per slave in Washington, D.C.
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April 15, 2012

Death and Taxes: Only One of Them Gets a Civil War-Themed Extension This Year

"The chambermaid had left the room sobbing for joy...Were I a drinker I would get on a Jolly spree today"

I know that sounds like a scene out of a naughty film. But it's not.

The weeping chambermaid and would-be Jolly drinker (he prayed instead) were among the first slaves emancipated during the Civil War. In April 1862, eight months before the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect, President Lincoln and Congress worked together (imagine that!) to pass special legislation freeing the 3,000 slaves in the nation's capital.

Emancipation Day is still celebrated each year in Washington, D.C.
It's important not just for changing the lives of those 3,000 people, and their families and friends, but also for providing a significant precursor to the Emancipation Proclamation, and beyond that to the ending of slavery throughout the United States.

For those of you who aren't Civil War-obsessed, it means one more day before you have to file your income taxes, because April 16 is a holiday in D.C.

But really, who isn't Civil War obsessed????
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April 13, 2012

Building the Lincoln Brand

There's an article in The New York Times today about Ford's efforts to revive Lincoln as car brand.

May I suggest possible new models:
The Emancipator
The Rail Splitter
The Great Orator
The Honest Abe
and for the sports car, The Abey Baby

Any others to add to the list?
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April 12, 2012

Spittin’ Bullets

The legacy of the Civil War lives on, from spittin' bullets 60 years after the war ended, to burying a Union soldier TOMORROW, here in Portland.

Today's Oregonian recounts the strange tale of the Civil War veteran whose remains will be interred (actually re-interred) here this week.

It seems a little weird to show up at the burial of someone who died decades before I was born. But how many more opportunities will there be to lay to rest the remains of a survivor of Vicksburg, Shiloh, Iuka, Memphis, and Andersonville?
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April 11, 2012

If Lincoln Was a Vampire Hunter, Who Was He Hunting?

In honor of Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, here's my own Civil War vampire update.

1. Nicholas Cage was possibly a Confederate vampire. But probably not.

2. Lincoln did enjoy an evening stroll about Washington and might have taken down a vampire or two some night. But probably not.

3. Henry Ward Beecher decried avarice for visiting young men "in dreams, and vampire-like" feasting on its victim. This was in one of his "Seven Lectures to Young Men," delivered early in his career, before he became the subject of the sex scandal of the century . . . for preying vampire-like on one of the women in his congregation.

Actually the most UnDead thing about Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter may be that Johnny Cash seems to be doing the voiceover from beyond the grave.
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