• Lincoln Emissary To Jefferson Davis, Author Of Nancy Hawkins, Underground Railroad Operator, Seeks Return of Manuscript

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    JAMES ROBERTS GILMORE (pseud. Edmund Kirke) (1822 – 1903) was an American writer and an unofficial emissary of President Lincoln. He was also a businessman who conducted a shipping and cotton business in New York City. His first venture was with the Continental Monthly, a periodical devoted to anti-slavery propaganda. It was suspended after Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. Meanwhile, he wrote a flood of books.  Gilmore also contributed articles to the New York Tribune, Horace Greeley’s newspaper. Gilmore became intertwined in a mission to convince Jefferson Davis to accept a peace agreement in 1863.  Although the first attempt failed, Gilmore convinced Lincoln to allow a second attempt.  Lincoln drew up a statement of peace terms to guide the conversation. These included the perpetual abolition of slavery and immediate recognition of the supremacy of the Union. In return for this surrender, Lincoln proposed a compensation to the slaveholders of $500,000, the restoration of the states to the Union with all their rights and an amnesty to those engaged in the rebellion. Gilmore and James F. Jaquess, a Methodist parson-colonel passed through the lines and got to Richmond. On July 17th, the conference took place in the old Customhouse. Davis denied that slavery was the obstacle to peace, insisting rather that at issue was the right of self-government.  When the interview was over, Gilmore was fearful that they would not be allowed to return, but on July 21, he made a report to Lincoln in safety. The war would not end for two more years.

    Two ALSs, 5 1/4 x 8, Gilmore writes to the editor of the Sunday ‘Sun’ and his fiend, a Mr. Coster, on October 26, 1894, in part, “I have your polite note of today. The Ms [manuscript] of the ‘Nancy Hawkins’ article was entirely typewritten and it is my impression that the Sun does not preserve Ms that they have used. Moreover, I am so pressed with work that it will be impossible for me to go down to see them for several days to come, and that would be too late to fish it out of the Sun’s waste basket. However, I enclose you a letter to the Sunday editor and if you think it worthwhile to call on him...he will no doubt give it to you if he can find it...”


    Second ALS: “This will be handed you by my friend, Robert Coster, who desires to secure the Ms of my article on Nancy Hawkins that was in last Sunday’s edition for his collection of Rebellion Mss. If you will kindly look it up, and let him have it, you will do a favor to Yours sincerely, James R. Gilmore.”


    NANCY HAWKINS was an important participant in the Underground Railroad. Her husband, Joseph, was a slaveholder who legally freed his slaves for $1. He was the patriarch of a group of Underground Railroad activists along the Ohio River for more than 30 years. The Ohio River acted as a boundary between slavery and freedom. [Research included] When Hawkins died, he left all his belongings Nancy, who freed dozens of slaves. She knew the dangers for ex-slaves to be kidnapped and sold back into slavery and took every precaution to make sure they were legally freed. Nancy’s involvement was not discovered during her lifetime but was later revealed in a remembrance printed in the local newspaper. As a well-heeled widow and former slave holder herself, it was likely she wasn’t suspected by slave hunters.  The author of the newspaper piece, written in the 1880s, describes in great detail an episode in which five freedom seekers were kept hidden in Nancy’s home for days on end, unbeknownst to their Boone County slaveholders just across the river. When Nancy died, she left her estate to four ex-slaves.


    The letters are in excellent condition and reflect the public’s interest at the time in the Underground Railroad and its operators.

    Provenance Christies.

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