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Letters from Readers - August 2009 American History

Originally published by American History magazine. Published Online: June 02, 2009 
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The Emancipator
My history professor of 50-plus years ago at Portland State College told us that a major factor in Lincoln issuing the Emancipation Proclamation was to help dissuade the British from entering the war on the side of the South. H.W. Brands' take on the proclamation ("Hesitant Emancipator," June 2009) does not mention that facet of the issue. Who is correct?
Bob Rawson
Portland, Ore.

We say…
Both are. Historians often focus on the domestic impact of Lincoln's decision, but the proclamation finally ended speculation that Britain would recognize the Confederate cause. British textile mills needed Southern cotton, but Britons had strong moral objections to slavery. Lincoln's promise of freedom was in keeping with British law, which had finally abolished slavery in its empire in 1833.


Church and State

Your story "George Washington Pays Homage to Yahweh" (June 2009) about the separation of church and state was very good except it credits Thomas Jefferson for the concept.

John Locke and Anthony Ashley Cooper—a proprietor of the Carolina colony in 1663—wrote a constitution advocating that government not interfere with religion. The concept worked as shown by the influx of Huguenots, Jews, Presbyterians, Baptists, Catholics and other religious groups during the colonial period. So Jefferson's 1786 legislative proposal for the separation of church and state in Virginia came 120 years after the origin of the idea in Carolina.
J. Thomas Mikell
Beaufort, S.C.

We say…
Jefferson was certainly influenced by Locke, but Locke may have been influenced by Roger Williams, the Protestant dissenter who founded Rhode Island. Williams wrote in 1644 of a "wall of separation between the Garden of the church and the wilderness of the world," and many scholars have noted that Locke's writings on religious freedom echo Williams' arguments.

Identity Theft
The United States Government, through forced removal and unenforced laws, has taken not only the land of the Cherokee peoples of Georgia, but their identity as well. The sudden separation from their native lands scattered their peoples, who ran away in every direction. The worst part of all was for those who did not run; those who stayed till the removal suffered the greatest: They had to watch as they lost their young and their elderly, one by one, on the Trail of Tears. Those elders held all the knowledge of their past inside them, leaving the Cherokee people without their identity or their history. That took the direction of their future too.

Today, identity theft is a crime, but the federal government still is destroying native peoples' identity through destruction of Indian mounds, etc., all in the name of progress and new construction. I will end with a quote from a founding member of the Trail of Tears Association:

'If man cares not for his roots, then
how can he care for his branches?'
–Doyle M Davis

Serving only my history, my heritage and my heart,
David M. Fowler Jr.
Head of Coosa, Ga.

 



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