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The Birmingham MP who persuaded President Lincoln to abolish slavery

The Birmingham MP who persuaded President Lincoln to abolish slavery

🕔27.Jan 2013
Curated from martin mullaney, written by martin mullaney

The Birmingham MP who persuaded President Lincoln to abolish slavery

Many of us will visit our local cinemas in the coming weeks and watch Steven Spielberg’s film ‘Lincoln’. I haven’t yet seen the film, but I am confident that they will not show how a Birmingham MP (and that’s Birmingham, England, not Birmingham, USA) persuaded him to make the ending of slavery completely, a central issue of the American Civil War.

When the Civil War began, Lincoln’s stance was that slavery could continue in the Confederate states, but any new states would be slavery free. Indeed, Lincoln prohibited his Generals from freeing slaves in captured states. In 1861, Lincoln sacked Major General John C. Frémont, the commander of the Union Army in St. Louis, for freeing slaves in captured terriorities.

It was John Bright who persuaded President Lincoln to harden his stance on abolishing slavery. On 22nd September 1862, eighteen months into the War, Lincoln announced his Emancipation Proclamation, where every slave in the USA would be freed as of 1st January 1863.

Indeed, John Bright’s friendship with President Abraham Lincoln was so important, that when President Lincoln was assassinated, on his body was found a newspaper article about his presidency by John Bright. In Lincoln’s study were two paintings, one of which was a portrait of John Bright. And today, just inside the main entrance of the White House is a bust of John Bright, which was found by Jackie Kennedy in the 1960s in the basement and put back on display.

John Bright never corresponded direct with Abraham Lincoln. Instead John’s letters to US Senator Charles Sumner were widely read across the US Senate, including by Lincoln. It was through this correspondence that John Bright persuaded Lincoln to make the abolition of slavery across the entire USA a central platform of the Civil War.

On 23rd October 2009, a statue to John Bright MP was unveiled inside Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. The statue was jointly unveiled by Councillor Ernie Hendricks who campaigned for this statue to be put back on display; Bill Cash MP whose great grandfather was a first cousin of John Bright and Stephanie Hightower, President of the USA athletics and field team.

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