DALLAS, Feb. 18, 2022 /PRNewswire-PRWeb/ -- Americans remember Abraham Lincoln as the Savior of the Union, a man of great sympathy, humor, and humanity. Most of all, we remember him as the Great Emancipator.
What we don't remember is that Abraham Lincoln owned slaves and sold them, says Kevin Orlin Johnson, author of The Lincolns in the White House: Slanders, Scandals, and Lincoln's Slave Trading Revealed, published this month by Dallas-based Pangaeus Press.
Johnson's book presents an 1850 hand-written affidavit, never before published, from the law firm of Kinkead & Breckinridge ― John C. Breckinridge, a cousin of Mary Todd Lincoln's who, a decade later, would run for President against Lincoln and serve as a brigadier general for the Confederacy. In the affidavit, Lincoln orders the sale of the slaves whom he'd inherited.
The document confirms Lincoln's ownership beyond question, but that fact was never in dispute. "We all know that Lincoln married Mary Todd, the daughter of Robert Todd, Kentucky's largest slaveholder," Johnson says. The law at that time assigned a woman's property to her husband; so when his father-in-law died Lincoln inherited the slaves who were part of her share of the estate.
"He could have emancipated the slaves whom he inherited, as many of his Todd in-laws did," Johnson says, "but he didn't. As you see, he ordered them sold." Lincoln's own cousins refused to accept slaves who came to them in the same way. Mordecai Lincoln's son James Lincoln received a slave from his father-in-law, too, but left Kentucky because the slave "was mortal flish and he never would not sell mortal flish and took him and give him Back to his farther in Law and moved to the Illinois," as a friend of the family wrote to Lincoln's law partner William H. Herndon.
But marrying into the Todds brought Lincoln into daily contact with slaves in Illinois, where slavery was universal, often frankly but often under cover of indenture. Ninian Edwards, Mary Todd's brother-in-law, joined Lincoln in writing up the order to sell. Edwards had also held a cook named Maria, nominally indentured to the family for 45 years ― effectively, for life. He promised to release her when the indenture of her husband, the slave Charles Adams, expired in 1834, but common practice was to sell bondservants just before the indenture expired.
So Edwards sold Maria and Charles to a salt manufacturer in Gallatin County, Illinois. That man sold them to the notorious John Crenshaw, master of the "Old Slave House" outside of Equality, Illinois, where Lincoln stayed during his political campaigns in the area.
Crenshaw was another of Lincoln's friends and political backers whose houses and businesses were staffed exclusively by slaves, one of the few who made their fortunes by selling slaves and breeding children for sale. "Lincoln himself said explicitly that people who don't own slaves are nobody," Johnson says. "As a lawyer, he consistently helped slaveowners reclaim runaway slaves, but he never helped a runaway establish freedom."
All of this has long been known and published by Lincoln Studies. But Johnson's book is the first to present direct documentation of Lincoln's personal ownership of slaves.
It wasn't easily found. "Major figures in Lincoln Studies like Rev. William Barton have stolen carloads of original documents from archives, courthouses and private collections over the years," Johnson says. He found that the files of the Todd estate in Kentucky courthouses had disappeared before 1930, which narrowed the field of suspects: "That was the year Barton died."
Barton, like other prominent Lincolnolators, bequeathed his hoard to various institutions across the country. Finally, in a dusty box of uncatalogued miscellaneous documents at the Regenstein Library at the University of Chicago, Johnson found Abraham Lincoln's order to sell the slaves whom he owned.
His new book, The Lincolns in the White House, presents the affidavit in its context and includes a hefty chapter on the research methodology used by Lincoln Studies. "Their method explains the thefts and the destruction of documents. And why everything that we think we know about Lincoln is wrong."
CONTACT Kevin Orlin Johnson at pangaeus.com, [email protected], 224 356 3238.
Kevin Johnson, Pangaeus Press, +1 2243563238, [email protected]
SOURCE Pangaeus Press