Historic Signed Documents from The Raab Collection
Part of William Herndon's letter on the cover of the Raab Collection catalogue.
The Raab Collection has just published their Catalog 67. It offers a selection of signed documents, mostly American, primarily of political or military significance. Many are very important, pertaining to notable historic events, sometimes presenting great insight into the thinking of some of history's major figures. Raab's catalogues are history lessons along with being a source of highly collectible material. Here are some of the items newly available.
Item 45 is a pre-American involvement in the war letter from President Franklin Roosevelt that reveals the deep belief he held that defeating Germany and the Axis powers was the paramount issue for humanity, even over humanitarian concerns. The letter was written to former Canadian envoy and personal friend James Cromwell, with whom Roosevelt had previously spoken about how to get humanitarian aid to residents of countries occupied by Germany. However, by the time of this letter, March 15, 1941, Roosevelt had managed to get lend-lease through Congress, which provided military aid to the British. This had been a challenge as there were both isolationists and German sympathizers active in America in the days before Pearl Harbor. Now that he had maneuvered America squarely to the side of England, Roosevelt did not want to send any mixed signals, and he feared sending aid to countries occupied by Germany might look like America was supporting that nation. Writes Roosevelt, "Through the enactment of the lease-lend bill the country has now definitely adopted the policy of giving aid to those who are defending themselves against the advance of the conquering forces. In spite of the sympathetic attitude of the American people toward the plight of the distressed and suffering peoples in the conquered territories, I question very much whether any action which might even appear to envisage assistance to the Axis powers would receive the support of the great bulk of American public opinion." Roosevelt would later be accused of turning away from those being sent to Germany's concentration camps by not bombing the rail lines, but here we see his single-minded focus on not doing anything that might interfere with the preeminent goal of defeating Germany, even before America was officially a participant in the war. Priced at $15,000.
You may remember one of the verses from the old spiritual Give Me that Old Time Religion went "It was good for old Abe Lincoln." It turns out that maybe it wasn't. Lincoln's religious beliefs were far more complicated than that simple verse implies. Item 26 is a letter from William Herndon, Lincoln's law partner from Illinois and probably his best friend. It was written to the Clerk of the House of Representatives on February 4, 1866, less than a year after Lincoln died. Herndon states, "Mr. Lincoln's religion is too well known to me to allow of even a shadow of a doubt; he is or was a Theist & a rationalist, denying all extraordinary - supernatural inspiration or revelation." Herndon goes on to say that Lincoln was at one time a pantheist, one who considers God and nature the same, but that "he rose to the belief of a God, and this is all the change he ever underwent." While it is unlikely one can ever know his precise thoughts, or how they evolved as he dealt with the horrors of war, it is clear that theology was not something Lincoln accepted based on someone else's say-so. It was an issue he wrestled with in his own mind, and it is likely he always had more questions than answers. $30,000.
Historic Signed Documents from The Raab Collection
President Millard Fillmore writes Daniel Webster an optimistic note.
Ten years before Lincoln was elected, Congress reached a compromise that was supposed to protect the nation from the war that arose just as he took office. The Compromise of 1850 provided benefits for both North and South as they debated over the issue of slavery. For the North, it allowed California to enter the Union as a free state, and prohibited the trading of slaves in the nation's capital. For the South, it allowed the other territories acquired through the Mexican War to determine for themselves whether to enter the Union free or slave. Previously, the Missouri Compromise had prohibited these territories from ever becoming slave states. Additionally, and nothing stuck in the North's craw like this one, it adopted a Fugitive Slave Law that required northerners to help track down and return escaped slaves. President Zachary Taylor opposed this compromise, foreseeing its failure, but when he died in office, his successor, Millard Fillmore, approved and signed the legislation. Item 52 is a letter from President Fillmore, dated December 19, 1850, to Senator Daniel Webster, extolling the virtues of the compromise. Webster was the great orator and beloved Massachusetts Senator who signed on to the compromise, believing it would save the Union, and saving the Union was paramount to all else. In the process, Webster destroyed his reputation in the North where the Fugitive Slave Law was considered an abomination. In his letter, Fillmore writes of attending a meeting of Union (compromise) supporters in Boston and marveling at the size and intelligence of the attendees. "I cannot yet doubt that the law will be maintained in such a community, & that the Union is safe in such hands." Fillmore could not have been more wrong. $12,000.
Item 28 is a letter from another compromiser, indeed the Great Compromiser himself, Henry Clay. Clay was instrumental in the aforementioned Compromise of 1850. However, this letter goes back to 1837, and it deals with Clay's farm. It acknowledges receipt of "hemp seed" from scientist O.A. Hall, which Clay notes, "It has reached me in good time to have it sowed at the best period…" Was Clay growing pot on the side? No, it was nothing so radical. Hemp was grown for making ropes, an important product in the era of sailing ships. $1,100.
The Raab Collection may be reached at 800-977-8333. Their website is www.raabcollection.com.