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Lincoln wanted to buy South's slaves to end war

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/23434604/ University shares its Lincoln letters online Transcriptions, lesson plans and graduate essays accompany archive updated
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 5, 2008
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      http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/23434604/

      University shares its Lincoln letters online
      Transcriptions, lesson plans and graduate essays
      accompany archive

      updated 12:19 p.m. MT, Sun., March. 2, 2008

      ROCHESTER, N.Y. - Barely a year into the Civil War,
      President Abraham Lincoln suggested buying slaves for
      $400 apiece under a "gradual emancipation" plan that
      would bring peace at less cost than several months of
      hostilities.

      The proposal was outlined in one of 72 letters penned
      by Lincoln that ended up in the University of
      Rochester's archives. The correspondence was digitally
      scanned and posted online along with easier-to-read
      transcriptions.

      Accompanying them are 215 letters sent to Lincoln by
      dozens of fellow political and military leaders. They
      include letters from Vice President Andrew Johnson and
      Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, who both succeeded Lincoln in
      the presidency in the 12 years after his assassination
      in 1865.

      In a letter to Illinois Sen. James A. McDougall dated
      March 14, 1862, Lincoln laid out the estimated cost to
      the nation's coffers of his "emancipation with
      compensation" proposal.

      Calculating costs
      Paying slave-holders $400 for each of the 1,798 slaves
      in Delaware listed in the 1860 Census, he wrote, would
      come to $719,200 at a time when the war was soaking up
      $2 million a day.

      Buying the freedom of an estimated 432,622 slaves in
      Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, Missouri and Washington,
      D.C., would cost $173,048,800 — nearly equal to the
      estimated $174 million needed to wage war for 87 days,
      he added.

      Lincoln suggested that each of the states, in return
      for payment, might set something like a 20-year
      deadline for abolishing slavery.

      The payout "would not be half as onerous as would be
      an equal sum, raised now, for the indefinite
      prosecution of the war," he told McDougall.

      The idea never took root. Six months later, Lincoln
      issued the first of two executive orders known as the
      Emancipation Proclamation that declared an end to
      slavery. The 13th Amendment to the Constitution was
      ratified after the collapse of the confederacy, ending
      two centuries of bondage in North America.

      "To be given a document that plunks you right into a
      situation that Lincoln was facing, it's very
      compelling," said Brian Fleming, a University of
      Rochester librarian who is heading the online project,
      which debuted Feb. 18 — Presidents Day.

      Lincon official had letters
      The Lincoln letters addressing the war, slavery and
      other affairs of state, are part of a collection of
      papers once belonging to his Secretary of State,
      William H. Seward Sr.

      They were bequeathed by Seward's grandson, William
      Henry Seward III, who lived in Auburn, 70 miles east
      of Rochester, and arrived at the University of
      Rochester between 1949 and 1987.

      The digitally scanned letters appear on the school
      library's Web site along with transcriptions,
      contextual essays written by graduate students and
      lesson plans designed to help teachers.

      The archives are at www.library.rochester.edu/rbk/lincoln
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