LINCOLN'S ASSASSINATION, "WHICH WAS MEANT TO SEVER" THE UNION, "BINDS IT MORE CLOSELY AND MORE FIRMLY THAN EVER": VERY SCARCE MAY 1, 1865 ISSUE OF THE NATIONAL FREEDMAN, PUBLISHED WITHIN WEEKS OF LINCOLN'S DEATH
(LINCOLN, Abraham) (BANCROFT, George). The National Freedman, A Monthly Journal of the New York National Freeman's Relief Association. Vol. I. New York, May 1, 1865. No. 4. New York: National Freedman, 1865. Slim octavo, original printed self-wrappers; original string stitching, entirely unopened; pp (113), 114-144. $2500.
First issue of the May 1, 1865 issue of National Freedman, published shortly after Lincoln's assassination, featuring one of the earliest records of the nation's grief, along with George Bancroft's April 25 Oration delivered in New York's Union Square, and numerous documented accounts from the South on the dire needs of formerly enslaved families, as well as a report on a White House meeting between President Johnson and Bureau officials, especially scarce in original wrappers.
This memorable May 1 issue of the monthly National Freedman, which appeared shortly after Lincoln's April 15th assassination, opens with coverage of thousands of grieving Americans lined up on New York streets to honor Lincoln as the coffin with his body lay in state in City Hall on April 24-25. That report is followed by the text of George Bancroft's April 25, 1865 Union Square Oration. Confronted with the nation's immense sorrow at Lincoln's murder, "fallen by the hands of an assassin… a martyr" to the Union," the famed historian declares Lincoln's "death, which was meant to sever" the Union, instead "binds it more closely and more firmly than ever." This very scarce publication also contains reports from various Freedmen's Bureaus across the South, such as one from New Orleans that addresses the dire need for aid to formerly enslaved families struggling to begin farming their own land, but lacking even "seeds to plant, instruments to break up the soil, animals for plowing." Another report notes a visit by Bureau representatives to now-President Johnson, asking for his firm "indorsement" of its work. The report notes that Johnson, "on being asked if he would be pleased to have an interview with… Sojourner Truth, he replied… 'please invite her to call at any time.'" She did meet Johnson, as well as President Grant, but her "only documented White House visit" was in October 1864, where she met with Lincoln (Burlingame, African Americans at White House Receptions). Also notable herein is the report by a southern Bureau representative, commenting on whites who "consider themselves the worst-used people in the world," enraged that they now "have to do their own work." The author of that report notes: "It is impossible for you at the North to believe the acts and horrors that are practiced upon this unoffending people.. I am in hopes of leaving this slavery-accursed country."
The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, commonly known as the Freedmen's Bureau, was established on March 3, 1865 and placed in the War Department, with the initial Act limiting operation to one year. After long debate, a bill to extend it was repealed by President Johnson. When Congress was able to override the veto, the Freedmen's Bureau Act of 1866 finally became law, extending the agency for two more years. As is seen in this May 1865 publication of New York's National Freedman, the Bureau was tasked with "'all subjects' relating to" the condition of freedmen (Foner, Reconstruction, 69). This primarily became education and housing, especially when projected school sites and houses were destroyed as a signal to Black families of the "deadly price of hope." As teachers, many white Northerners, were also increasingly targeted, President Johnson, who did not finally part with his slaves until midway through the war, remained silent. Yet, "on the ground, Black activists and white educators redoubled their efforts" to protect and teach: privately seeking funds from Northerners for books, clothing and supplies, and visiting workhouses or jails to teach freedmen, often boys imprisoned for vagrancy. By 1687, however, despite a successful record, white violence directed at Bureau teachers "escalated into a vigorous campaign of arson and murder" (Egerton, Wars of Reconstruction, 20, 156-59). Front and rear wrappers with black mourning borders. Bancroft's Oration stated as "taken from the Tribune" (i.e. the New York Tribune). See Sabin 3139 (Bancroft's Oration: first separate printing).
Generally fresh with light edge-wear, faint marginal dampstaining to front and rear leaves. A near-fine copy in original wrappers, largely unopened in original stitching.