Friday, 9 August 2013

Death to Slavery.

Below I have reproduced the letter Marx and Engels wrote to President Lincoln upon his re-election in late 1864. The letter was signed by every member of the International Workingmen's Association (the First International) and was originally printed in The Bee Hive in January 7th 1865 just months before Lincoln was assassinated. Beneath the next photograph, I have reproduced Marx's letter to Lincoln's successor President Andrew Johnson.

    To Abraham Lincoln,
    President of the United States of America.
    Sir: - We congratulate the American people upon your re-election by a large majority. If resistance to the Slave Power was the reserved watchword of your first election, the triumphant war-cry of your re-election is, Death to Slavery.
    From the commencement of the titanic American strife the workingmen of Europe felt instinctively that the star-spangled banner carried the destiny of their class. The contest for the territories which opened the dire epopee, was it not to decide whether the virgin soil of immense tracts should be wedded to the labor of the emigrant or prostituted by the tramp of the slave driver?
    When an oligarchy of 300,000 slaveholders dared to inscribe, for the first time in the annals of the world, 'slavery' on the banner of armed revolt; when on the very spots where hardly a century ago the idea of one great democratic republic had first sprung up, whence the first declaration of the Rights of Man was issued, and the first impulse given to the European revolution of the eighteenth century; when on those very spots counter-revolution, with systematic thoroughness, gloried in rescinding "the ideas entertained at the time of the formation of the old Constitution," and maintained "slavery to be a beneficent institution, indeed the only solution of the great problem of the relation of labor to capital," and cynically proclaimed property in man "the cornerstone of the new edifice"; then the working-classes of Europe understood at once, even before the fanatic partisanship of the upper-classes for the Confederate gentry had given its dismal warning, that the slaveholders' rebellion was to sound the tocsin for a general holy crusade of property against labor, and that for the men of labor, with their hopes for the future, even their past conquests were at stake in that tremendous conflict on the other side of the Atlantic. Everywhere they bore therefore patiently the hardships imposed upon them by the cotton crisis, opposed enthusiastically the pro-slavery intervention, importunities of their "betters," and form most parts of Europe contributed their quota of blood to the good cause.

    While the workingmen, the true political power of the North, allowed slavery to defile their own republic; while before the Negro, mastered and sold without his concurrence, they boasted it the highest prerogative of the white-skinned labourer to sell himself and choose his own master; they were unable to attain the true freedom of labor or to support their European brethren in their struggle for emancipation, but this barrier to progress has been swept off by the red sea of civil war.
    The workingmen of Europe feel sure that as the American War of Independence initiated a new era of ascendancy for the middle-class, so the American anti-slavery War will do for the working-classes. They consider if an earnest of the epoch to come, that it fell to the lot of Abraham Lincoln, the single-minded son of the working-class, to lead his country through the matchless struggle for the rescue of an enchained race and the reconstruction of a social world.


    To Andrew Johnson,
    President of the United States.
    The demon of the "peculiar institution," for the supremacy of which the South rose in arms, would not allow his worshippers to honourably succumb on the open field. What he had begun in treason he must needs end in infamy. As Philip II.'s war for the Inquisition bred a Gerard, thus Jefferson Davis' pro-slavery war a Booth.
    It is not our part to call words of sorrow and horror, while the year after year, and day by day, stuck to their Sisyphus work of morally assassinating Abraham Lincoln and the great republic he headed stand now aghast at this universal outburst of popular feeling, and rival with each other to strew rhetorical flowers on his open grave. They have now at last found out that he was a man neither to be browbeaten by adversity nor intoxicated by success, inflexibly pressing on to his great goal, never compromising it by blind haste, slowly maturing his steps, never retracing them, carried away by no surge of popular favour, disheartened by no slackening of the popular pulse, tempering stern acts by the gleams of a kind heart, illuminating scenes dark with passion by the smile of humour, doing his titanic work as humbly and homely as heaven-born rulers do little things with the grandiloquence of pomp and state; in one word, one of the rare men who succeed in becoming great without ceasing to be good. Such, indeed, was the modesty of this great and good man that the world only discovered him a hero after he had fallen a martyr.
    To be singled out by the side of such a chief, the second victim to the infernal gods of slavery, was an honour due to Mr Seward. Had he not, at a time of general hesitation, the sagacity to foresee and the manliness to foretell "the irrepressible conflict"? Did he not, in the darkest hours of that conflict, prove true to the Roman duty to never despair of the republic and its star? We earnestly hope that he and his son will be restored to health, public activity, and well-deserved honours within much less than "90 days."
    After a tremendous war, but which, if we consider its vast dimensions, and its broad scope, and compare it to the Old World's Hundred Years' War, and Thirty Years' Wars, and Twenty-Three Years' Wars, can hardly be said to have lasted 90 days, yours, Sir, has become the task to uproot by the law what has been felled by the sword, to preside over the arduous work of political reconstruction and social regeneration. A profound sense of your great mission will save you from any compromise with stern duties. You will never forget that to initiate the new era of the emancipation of labour, the American people devolved the responsibilities of leadership upon two men of labour - the one Abraham Lincoln, the other Andrew Johnson.

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