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Stephen Duncan to Mary Duncan, August 25, 1863, Natchez, Mississippi.

Stephen Duncan to Mary Duncan, August 25, 1863 (Page 1)

Stephen Duncan, Dickinson College class of 1805, was in 1860 the second largest slaveowner in the country, holding more than a thousand men, women, and children on more than a dozen Mississippi plantations.  He wrote this letter to a relative in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and asked her to pass on his opinions on emancipation in Mississippi and elsewhere following the Emancipation Proclamation to those in positions of influence.   Duncan had been active in settling free blacks from his state in Canada and Liberia but was always the businessman.  He suggested in the letter that Lincoln sort "friend" from "foe" among the slaveholding planters in the occupied areas of the South and allow those recognized as "friends" to resume ownership of their "property" on the promise of gradual emancipation and a slower transition towards abolition.  This, he suggested, would calm fears and enable Lincoln to offer immediately to offer to accept rebellious states back into the federal system as penitent "Prodigal Sons." The letter reached President Lincoln through Reverdy Johnson by the time that Mrs. Catherine Duncan, Stephen Duncan's wife, visited the White House on September 18, 1863 and had an interview with Mr. Lincoln concerning the release of a thousand bales of Duncan cotton in Natchez.  Lincoln used the letter as a note to authorize the cotton's release to Secretary of the Treasury Salmon Chase and the original remains in the Lincoln Collection.  (By John Osborne) 


How to Cite This Page: "Stephen Duncan to Mary Duncan, August 25, 1863, Natchez, Mississippi.," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College,