AE Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - April - 2006 Issue

Important Signed Documents and Autographs from The Raab Collection

Johnson

Thomas Johnson receives notice of appointment as sixth Supreme Court Justice from Thomas Jefferson.


Millard Fillmore is not one of America's most notable presidents, but this document touches on one of the nation's most notable miscalculations. After the Mexican War brought America large areas of new territory, it also created a major dilemma. Most in the North did not want to see slavery extended to the new territories, but the South, fearful that its influence in the government would diminish if new non-slave states were accepted, fought for the extension of slavery. However, this was effectively banned by the Missouri Compromise of 1820. The South wanted a new compromise that would allow for new slave states to be formed. At the time, President Zachary Taylor, a Louisianan and slaveholder himself, adamantly opposed the extension of slavery to new lands, and let the South know he would personally lead troops against it if the South attempted to secede. However, Taylor died in office in 1849, and was replaced by Vice-President Millard Fillmore, a northerner more accommodating to southern wishes than was southerner Taylor. The result was a series of compromises known as the Compromise of 1850, which Taylor vowed not to sign, but Fillmore supported. Among the accommodations made to the South was allowing for residents of the new territories to choose for themselves between slavery and freedom, and the passing of the Fugitive Slave Act, which enabled slave owners to pursue runaways into the free states. On May 9, 1851, Fillmore wrote to the city fathers of Lowell, Massachusetts, noting he could not accept an invitation to visit their city at the moment. He notes that duties require his presence in Washington at the time. He then goes on to say, in reference to the recent compromise, "I trust that the storm which threatened to overwhelm the government and array section against section and brother against brother in treasonable & fratricidal strife, has passed away." How wrong he was. The Compromise of 1850 may have provided temporary relief, but ultimately only exacerbated the problem, making the great conflict of a decade later almost inevitable. However, Fillmore did recognize that, despite the compromise, all was not secure. He then notes, "But the waters are still agitated and it will yet take some time for the elements to subside." We know now they never did. Fillmore's letter is item 12. $15,000.

For those looking for an autograph collection, here is an outstanding one. It belonged to Charles P. Davis, the publisher of those ubiquitous primary school publications generations were required to read, Current Events and My Weekly Reader. Among the signatures he collected were Presidents U.S. Grant, Grover Cleveland, Chester Arthur, and James Garfield, along with his assassin Charles Guiteau, poet Henry Longfellow, Generals Winfield Scott Hancock and Benjamin Butler, Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Vice-President Alexander Stephens, Admiral Peary, authors Charles Dickens, Julia Ward Howe, and Oliver Wendell Holmes, educator Booker T. Washington, Britain's Queen Victoria, industrialist John D. Rockefeller, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, abolitionist Senator Charles Sumner, showman P.T. Barnum, Mormon leader Brigham Young, cartoonist Thomas Nast, lead speaker at Gettysburg Edward Everett (Lincoln's was a secondary speech), and many others. Item 27. $6,000.

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