Lincoln in Manchester

by Eric on August 21, 2014

The statue of Abraham Lincoln in Westminster arrived in 1920. The former US Secretary of State Elihu Root presented it in July, noting its place of honor on Parliament Square among “memorials of British statesmen” and in a place “where the living tides of London will ebb and flow about it.”1 The somber and elegant piece is a product of the great sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens – son of a French father, Root noted, born in Ireland – artist of the memorial to the 54th Massachusetts and the Double Eagle as well as the Adams memorial. Saint-Gauden’s Lincoln is a fine sculpture.

It is also a bit of a cuckoo: it took the place meant for George Barnard’s Lincoln, which now stands in Manchester, because Barnard’s Lincoln was alleged to look like a “tramp with the colic.”

The Lincoln who stands in Manchester is a copy of the Lincoln who stands in Cincinnati. An American Peace Commission originally meant to send this Lincoln to London. But Robert Todd Lincoln, the president’s son, hated it – “grotesquely absurd,” he said; he thought it a “general deformity.” Others who remembered Lincoln described the Barnard as “uncouth and slouchy,” and “ungainly,” as well as “too lugubrious.”

Speaking for himself, Barnard had said he wanted a Lincoln who looked like a laborer, and took for his model a man who had cut wood for a living until the age of 40.2

Ultimately the Barnard-haters won, and secured the Saint-Gaudens statue for London. The Barnard would go to another suitable British city. Manchester stepped forward. The Guardian welcomed it, saying it

is anything but conventional, and to those accustomed to the sentimentalism which marks most of the statues in our squares and buildings it comes as something of a shock.… the sculptor almost fiercely thrusts forward the clumsiness and disproportion of Lincoln’s figure, as though to say, ‘Here is a man who needs no sentimental treatment.’…

[N]othing could better recall that great, self-sacrificing complement to the civil war which Americans will never forget, when the Lancashire [mill] operatives were content to go hungry that America might be united and free.3

The dearth of southern cotton during the US Civil War deprived Lancashire’s mills of their raw material. Workers did indeed suffer. But at the end of 1862, the mill workers met at Free Trade Hall in Manchester and passed a motion in support of Lincoln, the blockade, and the end of slavery.

Lincoln replied, saying he had “reckoned on the forbearance of nations” on the supposition that “[a] fair examination of history has served to authorize a belief that the past actions and influences of the United States were generally regarded as having been beneficial toward mankind.” But the gesture of the Manchester workers, in the depth of their own suffering, he thought “an instance of sublime Christian heroism” and “an energetic and inspiring assurance of the inherent power of truth and of the ultimate and universal triumph of justice, humanity, and freedom.4

Manchester’s Lincoln arrived earlier than London’s, in September 1919.5 But it was not until 1986 that Manchester’s local council (with a Labour majority) moved the statue to a new location, near Bright and Cobden.6

At the moment, if you wander by the Lincoln statue, you can touch your mobile phone to it and get a telephone call from the man, voiced by Tom Conti, as part of the Talking Statues project. Or you can hear it here.



1“Elihu Root’s London Address on Abraham Lincoln,” NYT 8/22/1920, p. X6.
2James T. Hickey, “Some Robert Todd Lincoln Letters on the ‘Dreadful Statue’ by George Grey Barnard,” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 73:2 (Summer, 1980): 132-139.
3“Wants Barnard’s Lincoln,” NYT 1/3/19, p. 4.
4“To the Working-Men of Manchester, England,” January 1863, Papers and Writings of Abraham Lincoln vol 6, accessed via Project Gutenberg.
5“Barnard’s Lincoln Set Up,” NYT 9/4/19, p. 10.
6Anthony Hutchison, “’All The Men of Great Affairs’: The Barnard Statue, Manchester Liberalism, and Lincoln Intellectual History,” American Literary History 21:4 (Winter 2009): 793-809.

{ 32 comments }

1

Warren Terra 08.21.14 at 10:09 pm

Very interesting. Thanks for telling this story.

(Interesting they got Tom Conti to play Lincoln; my impression from listening to BBC Radio 4 was that some law in the UK mandated that all voice-overs of American characters must be performed by (the Canadian) Kerry Shale, unless otherwise dictated by gender or ethnicity.)

2

bob 08.21.14 at 11:49 pm

A fine statue of the young Lincoln, who often did manual labor himself.
http://www.speel.me.uk/sculptplaces/scplacepicm/manchlincoln2.jpg
Robert Todd Lincoln was an arrogant snob who detested his father’s “uncouth” appearance and language – one suspects he detested his father. He certainly helped transform the Party of Lincoln to what it is today (the Party of Robert Todd Lincoln?)

And thanks for the Conti link; reads it in a voice very much like what we are told Lincoln sounded like.

3

Ken_L 08.22.14 at 12:57 am

Lincoln would be widely condemned today for using military force against the people of the Southern states, exceeding his constitutional authority in the process, to prevent their right to self-determination. Absent the complicating issue of slavery, that’s probably the way he would have been remembered. For all his virtues, he inadvertently created the myth of president-as-Superman which continues to cause such dysfunction in the US political system.

4

Nine 08.22.14 at 3:44 am

“Absent the complicating issue of slavery, that’s probably the way he would have been remembered.”

Absent the complicating issue of slavery … yes, that minor issue …

5

Ken_L 08.22.14 at 4:38 am

I did not imply it was a minor issue. However Lincoln himself made it clear it was not the most important issue. His priority was to keep the Union intact, which as I noted would be regarded today as an unacceptable refusal to allow the people of the South to determine their own destiny. The UN would be sending humanitarian aid to Richmond, and the British equivalents of Dick Cheney and John McCain would be demanding that arms be sent to Robert E Lee, because Liberty.

6

bad Jim 08.22.14 at 6:15 am

Talking statues? I’m getting a Strange/Norrell flashback.

Certainly the Confederacy seceded because Lincoln exceeded his constitutional authority. Except that happened before his inauguration. The South declared war because they weren’t in control anymore.

7

ajay 08.22.14 at 9:40 am

Haven’t seen the Manchester one but the London on is great.

What always puzzled me is what a statue of George Washington is doing in Trafalgar Square! Apparently a gift from the state of Virginia in 1921. Not a very tactful one is all I can say. It’s flanked by one of famous syphilitic bonehead James VII and II. We should really overhaul the square at some point.

8

ajay 08.22.14 at 9:42 am

Absent the complicating issue of slavery, that’s probably the way he would have been remembered.

This could become the new “with notably rare exceptions”.

“Like many serial killers, Christian Barnard spent his career removing vital organs from the living bodies of helpless people, and, absent the complicating fact that he was in fact a surgeon, that’s probably the way he would have been remembered.”

9

Toby 08.22.14 at 11:38 am

Re: bob

Robert Todd Lincoln was not an evil man, just a product of his upbringing. Abraham and Mary wanted something better for their eldest son, hence he got the elite Phillips Exeter Academy and Harvard. The Republican Party remained a Progressive force into the early 20th century, and to identify the younger Lincoln with Nixonism and Reaganism is grossly ahistorical.

In his young years, when father and son might have bonded, the elder Lincoln spent most of his time on the Court circuit, and was absent for long periods, leaving Robert to the highly-strung Mary, whose hatred of being left alone provoked outbursts of hysteria. As Robert grew up, Abraham focussed on the younger Eddie, Willie and Tad.

When he desired to join the Army, his connections got him a plum post on Grant’s staff – Mary’s fears, and Abraham’s, would allow no less, given the sad loss of Eddie and Willie. Spielberg’s film captures the estrangement between father and son – that they might have finally reconciled after 1865 is one of the terrible sadnesses of Lincoln’s death, and Robert’s loss was as great as Mary’s or Tad’s.

I have heard good about Robert – when he took over as Chairman of the Pullman Palace Car Company, he struck a fair deal with the black porters who had been striking. And a story I read tells of how he went missing from a Republican Party convention in Cincinnati. After a desperate search, he was found to be visiting the home of the black woman who had been Mary Lincoln’s servant in Springfield, and whose son had been his boyhood friend.

Robert struggled to distinguish himself independently, like other sons of famous fathers, and in fairness, it seems he succeeded:

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1663862.Robert_Todd_Lincoln

10

Toby 08.22.14 at 11:49 am

Some pretty history here.

The Confederate States seceded because Lincoln got elected, and not because of anything else. Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina and Arkansas seceded after Fort Sumter had been taken, and Lincoln called out the militia to suppress rebellion.

The legality of secession has been debated elsewhere, but it not mentioned anywhere in the US Constitution. It was in the preceding Articles of Confederation, so what’s that about the Constitution bringing about a “more perfect union”? It was pronounced on by no less than a certaib Scalia JSC :
http://www.newyorkpersonalinjuryattorneyblog.com/2010/02/scalia-there-is-no-right-to-secede.htm

South Carolina has no more right to secede unilaterally from the USA, then Donbas from Ukraine.

11

PhilA 08.22.14 at 12:26 pm

I heard Gore Vidal suggest that Lincoln should have let the the South secede, claiming that he could impose a total embargo that would result in them eventually, “begging to rejoin the Union.”

Yea, right.

12

BruceK 08.22.14 at 12:58 pm

Thanks for the article – As I type this in my office I can see the statue , and have often wondered about its history.

Incidentally, the Manchester Lincoln is now in Lincoln Square, a couple of minutes away from Cobden and Bright in front of the Town Hall.

13

Ed 08.22.14 at 1:00 pm

The Supreme Court has asserted that seccession by a state is unconstitutional without ever actually giving a reason, and Scalia’s argument is no exception.

The doctrine that no southern state seceded, because secession is obviously illegal, in fact really complicated both the Union war effort and reconstruction at several points, but the pols managed to deal with that. The cultural attitude that secession is unthinkable, and anyway tied to slavery and racism, probably on balance has been a good thing in promoting national unity, but when the United States government finally dies (all governments are mortal), it will probably lead to a faster and messier death than would have occurred otherwise.

14

Eric 08.22.14 at 4:22 pm

“Absent the complicating issue of slavery, that’s probably the way he would have been remembered” – there’s already a Lincoln trope for this; it goes, “Apart from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?”

15

Eric 08.22.14 at 4:23 pm

“Incidentally, the Manchester Lincoln is now in Lincoln Square, a couple of minutes away from Cobden and Bright in front of the Town Hall.”

So was it moved again after 1986, or was I just confused about where it was put in 1986?

16

Eric 08.22.14 at 4:30 pm

“The Confederate States seceded because Lincoln got elected, and not because of anything else”

This is comedy gold. Keep it coming!

17

Collin Street 08.22.14 at 4:34 pm

I think “an unacceptable refusal to allow the people of the South to determine their own destiny” takes some topping.

18

LFC 08.22.14 at 6:07 pm

“The Confederate States seceded because Lincoln got elected, and not because of anything else”

This is unfortunately worded and I don’t know exactly what Toby, above, meant by it, but I read this statement as meaning “Lincoln’s election was the proximate or immediate cause of the South’s secession,” which is a defensible statement and in no way denies the underlying, deeper or more long-term causes of the conflict. (In fact Lincoln’s election upset the South so much precisely b.c of those underlying causes.)

19

LFC 08.22.14 at 6:09 pm

p.s. or “one of the proximate causes” might be better

20

LFC 08.22.14 at 6:15 pm

Ken_L @5 is one of the most absurd, ridiculous things I have read in a long time. Of course the UN strongly supported Biafra’s “right to determine its own destiny” and E. Pakistan’s (Bangladesh’s) too. Ban-Ki Moon is about to give a big speech supporting the right of Xinjiang to secede from China, b.c the Uighur inhabitants must determine their own destiny. Then he will give a speech endorsing the right of the Rohingyas in Myanmar to secede. Then the Assamese in n.e. India. Etc etc. (Not.)

21

Eric 08.22.14 at 6:19 pm

LFC, you’re a bit of a specialist at charitably reading unfortunately worded statements, which is a morally commendable habit. I don’t agree with your charitable reading of Lebergott, but maybe you’re right about Toby!

22

LFC 08.22.14 at 9:26 pm

Eric,
Good memory; I would have to check back for the precise statements at issue there.

Anyway, would that the propensity/ability to give charitable readings was something I could, um, parlay into remuneration. Not to be mercenary or anything, of course, esp. not at a high-minded site such as this. ;)

23

LFC 08.22.14 at 9:34 pm

p.s. I do generally recall the Lebergott discussion, just not the exact wording(s)… so I may follow the link and refresh memory. (Depending on mood, I suppose.)

24

Ken_L 08.22.14 at 11:38 pm

I can only surmise that many commenters here would have supported Gorbachev if he had used military force to prevent the breakup of the USSR. You know, since the constituent states had agreed to form a union and all.

There can be no doubt that if the inhabitants of the Southern states had been polled in 1860, they would overwhelmingly have voted to secede and form a separate nation. I’m merely pointing out that the acts for which Lincoln has been beatified would in other circumstances have been widely condemned as an oppression of the rights of a substantial portion of the American population. The Scots will know what I mean.

The breaches of the constitution I referred to lay in such things as the suspension of habeas corpus, not in the decision to prosecute the war itself. And LFC @20 you need to lighten up a little.

25

The Temporary Name 08.22.14 at 11:49 pm

I can only surmise that many commenters here would have supported Gorbachev if he had used military force to prevent the breakup of the USSR. You know, since the constituent states had agreed to form a union and all.

As I recall none of them invaded Russia to get the job done.

There can be no doubt that if the inhabitants of the Southern states had been polled in 1860, they would overwhelmingly have voted to secede and form a separate nation.

It might have been closer than you think.

26

Ken_L 08.23.14 at 1:24 am

“It might have been closer than you think.”

I doubt it … neither women nor blacks (free or otherwise) had the vote anywhere in the USA at the time.

27

Murc 08.23.14 at 5:08 am

I can only surmise that many commenters here would have supported Gorbachev if he had used military force to prevent the breakup of the USSR. You know, since the constituent states had agreed to form a union and all.

Legally speaking, Gorbachev would have had that right. Morally speaking, it would have been an abominable thing to do.

I don’t heap scorn upon the south because I’m opposed to treasonous secession. Indeed, this entire nation was founded in an en masse act of treasonous secession; every single one of our Founding Father was a traitor to his country. It would be rather hypocritical for me to take issue with either treason or secession.

I heap scorn upon the Confederacy because they seceded for the express and stated purpose of maintaining and expanding the institution of slavery, which made it a vile and immoral action to take. There’s also the fact that things like treason and secession are supposed to be extreme measures of last resort, not a bunch of jackwagons taking their ball and going home because they lost an election to a moderate reformer who had been nothing but conciliatory towards them and their vile regime of rape, murder, and theft.

Context matters. If I shoot my neighbor in the head because he smashed down my door in the middle of night and came at me with a knife, that action has different moral weight than if I shoot him in the head because I want his wallet. Same exact action. Two different moral weights.

Also, that is some powerfully fine goalpost moving there, Ken. I like how you go from

There can be no doubt that if the inhabitants of the Southern states had been polled in 1860, they would overwhelmingly have voted to secede and form a separate nation.

to

I doubt it … neither women nor blacks (free or otherwise) had the vote anywhere in the USA at the time.

Which did you mean, all inhabitants or all those granted the franchise? Those are two disjoint sets. You cannot claim that the Confederacy was exercising a right of self-determination if not everyone in it was being allowed to self-determine.

28

Ken_L 08.23.14 at 5:45 am

“Which did you mean, all inhabitants or all those granted the franchise?”

The beliefs and customs of the time determined that any poll would have been limited to white males, and most people would have seen nothing wrong with that (not only in the USA but in the rest of the developed world of the 1860s). I’m simply stating a fact in response to another commenter, not trying to justify it.

29

Kenny Easwaran 08.23.14 at 7:29 pm

“For all his virtues, he inadvertently created the myth of president-as-Superman which continues to cause such dysfunction in the US political system.”

Really? I thought that was Andrew Jackson, with his “John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it”, and the Trail of Tears, and all that. (So maybe he never actually said those words – he did those actions.)

30

bad Jim 08.24.14 at 8:54 am

Lincoln was the tallest American president. He wasn’t a laborer, he was a lawyer. Wikipedia usefully has a list of presidents sorted by size. LBJ is number 2, and FDR is number 5. I’ve never thought of Roosevelt as being especially tall, nor Jefferson, who takes fourth place.

31

Matt McKeon 08.24.14 at 11:51 am

The Civil War has several names, like “War Between the States” or the “Late Unpleasantness.” The most accurate name is IMO “Treason In Defense of Slavery.”

The reason for the secession of the Southern states, and of Jefferson Davis deliberately provoking war(which he desired to push border states into the Confederacy) is so appalling, so wrong, that latter day secessionists have to perform incredible feats of verbal tap dancing to avoid mentioning it.

The secessionists of 1860 utterly believed in the rightness of slavery, the whip and the auction block. They longed to spread the blessings of slavery. Such views have fallen into disfavor, at least openly.

32

DaveL 08.26.14 at 1:39 pm

Ken_L @24: “I’m merely pointing out that the acts for which Lincoln has been beatified would in other circumstances have been widely condemned as an oppression of the rights of a substantial portion of the American population.”

A classic example of why the idea that there is an absolute right to “self-determination” regardless of circumstances is absurd. In 1860 slaves made up a majority of the population in South Carolina and Mississippi, and over 40% in four other southern states.

Ken_L @26: “I doubt it … neither women nor blacks (free or otherwise) had the vote anywhere in the USA at the time.”

Black people lost the right to vote after 1800 in many northern states, or had their right to vote restricted. However, they never lost that right in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine.

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