Abraham Lincoln in Manchester?

While exploring Manchester, I walked into a square in which I was surprised by a tall statue of Abraham Lincoln. Sure, he’s an American icon, but in England? I walked closer to read the inscription at the foot of the statue, and a bit of history unfolded before me. Apparently, Manchester stood by the North during the Civil War, which meant supporting the embargo against the Southern states. This was devastating for Manchester, which produced a phenomenal 98% of the world’s finished cotton (I saw several references throughout the city to Manchester as “Cottonopolis”), and depended heavily on the South for raw cotton imports. As a result, 1861–1865 in Manchester became known as the Lancashire Cotton Famine due to rampant unemployment. Apparently, Britain had abolished slavery in the British Caribbean in 1838. Somewhat depressingly, conditions for those living in Manchester (“Mancunians“) were often no better than those of American slaves (51% mortality for children under 14?!). This may have been part of their motivation in supporting abolition—a chance to make a point about such conditions being insufferable. Lincoln also sent 13,000 barrels of flour to Manchester in 1863 to help feed those who were suffering. The statue’s base records excerpts of a letter from Manchester to Lincoln, and of his reply (see here).

A question lingered in my mind after reading all this, though. Who erected the statue? The Mancunians themselves, to commemorate their own suffering? Or was it a gift from the U.S.? It turns out that the statue was originally destined for London to mark 100 years of peace between the U.S. and England, 1814-1914. A different statue was chosen for London, and Manchester requested that this one go to it instead, citing the Civil War connection. At that time, the statue’s base with the letter excerpts was added.

How unexpected, to go to Manchester and learn something new about the American Civil War. Thank you, Manchester!

1 of 3 people learned something from this entry.

  1. HeuristicsInc said,

    March 30, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    (Learned something new!)

    Very interesting!

  2. Mary Pendleton said,

    March 31, 2010 at 9:29 am

    Very interesting! Wish I could pass this along to my dad, whose ancestors lived in Manchester.


  3. Arwel Parry said,

    May 3, 2013 at 7:54 am

    (Knew it already.)

    Actually, the statue’s only been in its current location since 1986 (the square was built in 1981). Previously the statue had been located in Platt Fields in the southern suburbs of the city where it was planned to build an art gallery, which never came about.

  4. Brian Beesley said,

    September 4, 2020 at 1:17 pm

    (Knew it already.)

    My great grandfather William Leyland Hunter, arrived in Foochow from Manchester, April 16, 1865, aged 21. He had gone there as a tea inspector for WR Adamson.
    I just discovered that it was the day after Abraham Lincoln died. He was assassinated the evening of the 14th and died the following morning.
    I wonder if the news had reached China?

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