Historical Autographs From Catherine Barnes
Online catalogue from Catherine Barnes
By Michael Stillman
Catherine Barnes has issued a new catalogue of "Historical Autographs and Documents." The times they are a-changin' and so are catalogues as we know them. Rather than a printed catalogue, Catherine Barnes has sent her subscribers a letter and a link. The link takes you to Catalogue 28, or "Recent Additions." Here are a few of these new documents.
One of the more interesting, and perhaps surprising letters comes from future President James Buchanan, while Millard Fillmore was still in the White House. What's surprising is the extraordinary religious tolerance shown by this Pennsylvanian who would be elected president as a Northern man with Southern principles due to his great tolerance of slavery. In 1851, he wrote to James Campbell, a Catholic and Democratic candidate for the state supreme court, in an era of growing nativist and anti-Catholic sentiment. Buchanan predicts that Campbell's candidacy will not be seriously harmed by his faith, and speaking of those prejudiced against him, Buchanan says "if on earth there is any thing I do despise it is to witness a poor frail ignorant worm of the dust setting himself up in the place of God to condemn his fellow man because professing a different faith from himself." Buchanan then concludes, "....I rejoice that a Catholic is to be settled upon the ticket. It is destined to do much good in correcting the opinions of honest but prejudiced men. It will be a contest between Democracy & Bigotry in which the former is sure to prevail." If only it were so easy. Campbell lost, while his four Democratic running mates won. Over the next few years, anti-Catholic nativism would rapidly spread with the birth and sudden growth of the Know Nothing party, culminating with their nomination of the former President Millard Fillmore for president. The Know Nothings would be defeated by this same James Buchanan, but those progressive sentiments expressed in the letter would not carry over to his dealings on the issue of slavery, and ultimately Buchanan's presidency would be, in most historians' eyes, a failed one. Priced at $15,000.
While Catholics were shut out of many public roles in this era, Charles Carroll, a wealthy landowner and businessman from Maryland, was not. He is the lone Catholic to sign the Declaration of Independence, and was the last surviving signer of that document. That's surprising as he was already 39 when he signed it. Carroll lived another 56 years, dying in 1832 at the age of 95. This is a letter he wrote when he was merely 89. It involves some business and legal matters the evidently still sharp Carroll was managing. $950.
If you collect letters written by presidents between their terms of office, you will not find many pieces to collect. Here's one. Of course it must come from Grover Cleveland, as he was the only president to serve nonconsecutive terms. Only a little over a week after attending the inauguration of his successor, Benjamin Harrison, Cleveland wrote his former Postmaster General. Cleveland states that he was amazed by the cheers he received as he rode through the streets of Washington. "To tell you the truth I could see no difference between the demonstrations now and those I used to encounter when I was actually President," says the surprised Cleveland. Speaking of his future, Cleveland writes, "I am not at all concerned and am enjoying my release from official care more than I can tell you." Evidently he didn't enjoy it all that much, as four years later he was back in office. $1,000.
Historical Autographs From Catherine Barnes
Protection of animals is a strongly supported concept today, but was a relatively new idea in the 19th century. This letter comes from Henry Bergh, the founder of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Writes Bergh, "A fellow who beat a horse, until at each blow, the blood ran out of the poor creature's flesh, was fined $20!! when he should have gone to the Penitentiary for six months." He then goes on to write about an upcoming case which, surprisingly, involved cruelty to turtles. Bergh was a great humanitarian, or is it animalitarian, and this letter will be a wonderful addition to the collection of anyone who shares his concern for the welfare of animals. $1,000.
In 1941, prior to America's entry into the Second World War, President Franklin Roosevelt sent off this letter to Margaret Woodrow Wilson, daughter of the president with two of those three names. FDR was Wilson's Assistant Secretary of the Navy during the First World War, and knew Margaret from those days. Ms. Wilson was in India at the time and having trouble drawing her funds from a bank, most likely because of the war. Roosevelt intervened on her behalf and wrote Wilson to let her know of the results. $1,500.
An interesting presidential letter comes from William Howard Taft, about five months before his election. Taft had given a Memorial Day (then better known as "Decoration Day") speech at Grant's Tomb to an audience including many Civil War veterans. In it, Taft had said that Grant left the army in 1854 to avoid being court-martialed for his drinking problem. Taft had made the reference to show Grant's great strength in overcoming this weakness at his country's time of need, but many of the veterans had taken it as an affront to their leader. Taft uses this letter to Editor William Church of the Army & Navy Journal to explain his meaning and apologize for any hurt feelings, while still saying, "I can't change my view of the accuracy of the statement." Taft adds of Grant. "I have the tenderest respect for his memory, and am grateful to him because of what he did for father." Grant had appointed Taft's father, Alphonso Taft, as Secretary of War and Attorney General late in his administration. The controversy proved to be harmless as Taft would sweep to an easy victory over perennial loser William Jennings Bryan. $1,000.
John Brown letters are important to any abolitionist collection. Here is one written by Brown in 1848 while still a wool merchant in Springfield, Massachusetts. Brown, the quintessential Massachusetts liberal of his day, wrote to Ohio Congressman Joshua Giddings, a fellow abolitionist, concerning a wool exhibition that was to be used to promote the abolitionist cause. This plan fell through, but Brown's cause did not, though Brown would give his life for it. $7,000.
To view Catherine Barnes' latest online catalogue, go to www.barnesautographs.com/pages/recent_additions.htm