Amasa Converse to Abraham Lincoln, August 28, 1861

    Source citation
    Amasa Converse to Abraham Lincoln, August 28, 1861, Philadelphia, PA, Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress,
    Author (from)
    Converse, Amasa
    Date Certainty
    Transcribed by the Lincoln Studies Center, Knox College, Galesburg, IL
    Adapted by Don Sailer, Dickinson College
    Transcription date
    The following transcript has been adapted from the Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress.

    Philadelphia August 28th 1861.


    On Thursday the 22d. inst. William Millward Esq., United States Marshal for this District took possession of the publication and printing-offices of the Christian Observer and their contents and thus suppressed the publication of that paper. This action of the Marshal surprised me very much as I was not aware that I had done any act which could justify such a proceeding. Upon demanding by what right or under whose orders this was done, I was informed by the Marshal that he was acting under orders received from you through an official channel.

    I therefore address you upon the subject and desire to lay before you a vindication of the position of the paper and a statement of the wrong which has been thus inflicted upon its proprietor, trusting that your sense of right and justice will induce you to make an effort to repair the injury sustained.

    I am a clergyman of the Presbyterian Church, a native of New Hampshire and now sixty-six years of age. My father and his brothers bore arms during the Revolutionary War and contributed their services toward securing for themselves and their posterity the blessings of freedom and Republican government.

    For more than thirty years I was the Editor and Proprietor of the Christian Observer and for twenty-two years I published it in this city. During all that period I have used my best efforts through the columns of the paper to promote harmony and goodwill between the different parts of our common country. I have always been devoted to the preservation of the Union. I yield to none in the truth, sincerity and fervor of that devotion, and I refer with confidence to the columns of the paper in proof of my assertion. I have constantly opposed secession and disunion in Church and State, and never for one moment or by any one act, have I promoted, encouraged, or approved them. I have deprecated violence, combatted extreme opinions, and endeavored to diffuse sentiments of kindness and christian forbearance to the extent of my humble abilities.

    During the last few months, I endeavored, as far as was consistent with the general design of the paper, to lay such facts before its readers, as would give them proper information as to the state of things existing throughout the country, but I have done this under a full sense of my duty as a Citizen of the United States, and as a Christian. If, in publishing statements of facts made by others I have given circulation to that which reflected upon the conduct of persons in official positions, it has been with a sincere desire that errors which might prove injurious to the best interests of my country, should be corrected. I have written nothing and published nothing with the intent or purpose of stimulating the disloyal to take up arms against the government, to disaffect the loyal or to encourage those who were in arms.

    The circulation of the paper in those states which are in arms against the Government was entirely stopped so soon as the government withdrew the mails and no attempt of any kind has been made to violate the wishes of the government in respect to intercourse with them.

    I affirm without any fear of contradiction by any impartial just and right-thinking man who will take the trouble to examine the files of the paper, that its whole course has been in the highest degree, loyal and patriotic.

    I have believed and taught that under the protection of the Government of which you are now the chief officer, every American citizen wherever he might be, and however humble, was more secure than in any other part of the Globe, in his rights of speech person and property; that above all things no one need ever fear any wrong or oppression from the Government itself; -- that if a man was charged with crime or offence he could look with unwavering confidence to its strong arm to insure his fair, just and speedy trial by his peers and according to the law of the land. The freedom of the press I have always believed was one of the great bulwarks of our national safety and would be sedulously guarded and protected by those upon whom the duty devolved.

    But I submit to you whether the rights I have referred to, have been respected or observed. Without notice or warning and without an intimation that the course of the paper was in any respect regarded as inimical to the Government, -- without the commission of any offence whatever against the laws of the land, without process of law or authority of any kind whatever, an officer seizes upon and retains property worth several thousand Dollars alleging that he is so acting under your orders.

    As far as I am aware in all other countries where the most rigid surveillance over the press is maintained the Governments are in the habit of giving some warning to the publishers of papers that their course is not agreeable, in order that they may be more careful in the future. It has been left for our free and Republican Government to introduce the practise of seizure without warning, suppression without monition.

    I desire to avoid any expression that may be in the slightest degree disrespectful to you. If I use strong language, it is to impress you with the deep sense of wrong under which I am laboring, in the hope that the injury done may be repaired.

    I cannot believe that you would justify the proceeding if you knew the facts. This action must have been induced by misrepresentation. I have some reason to believe that I know the persons who have poisoned the mind of the Government upon this subject, and to understand their motives. I can forgive them and I sincerely trust that they may repent and obtain forgiveness for it where it will avail them in a future world.

    All I ask is to have that justice meted out to the proprietor of the Observer to which every other individual in this land is entitled, and that protection which is guaranteed by the law.

    If I have been guilty of an offense against the law, I shall submit with resignation to its decrees; but if not, then I claim to be exempt from and protected against that most cruel of all forms of oppression, -- wrongs inflicted by officers of government without even the semblance of right or justification.

    I am now getting to be an old man. I have a family to support. I have tried to serve my God and my country-- The troubles of the day had already most seriously injured the business of the paper.-- This act was the final blow. What am I to do? Where can I look for redress?-- To you, Sir, I appeal as the chief officer of the Government to see that the step so unwisely and wrongfully taken is retraced and that the property and rights of the proprietor of the Christian Observer are restored to him.--

    Very Respectfully
    Amasa Converse

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