ON SUSAN HIGGINBOTHAM’S HISTORY REFRESHED
Knowing Susan Higginbotham from her impressive novels about
English Medieval History, Queen of Last Hopes [about the
life of Queen Margaretof Anjou, one of the major players in the Wars of
the Roses] and The Traitor’s wife [about Eleanor de Clare, wife to
Hugh Despenser the Younger, favourite of King Edward II], I was somewhat
surprised about her book about the American Civil War, Hanging Mary,
which describes the life of Mary Surrat, a Confederate sympathiser,
who had a boarding house.
John Wilkes Booth, assassinator of president Lincoln, was
a regular visitor.
In Mary Surat’s boarding house Booth and fellow conspirators
planned the assasination plan.
Susan Higginbotham attended a vigil in remembrance of the
assasination of president Lincoln, now 150 years ago.
She wrote about that in her interesting Blog ”History Refreshed”
Her post was:
”LINCOLN REMEMBERED IN WASHINGTON, D.C.”
I wrote some comments about this post.
LINCOLN REMEMBERED IN WASHINGTON DC/
GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT/ABOLITION OF SLAVERY
””That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.”
THE EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION
JANUARY 1, 1863
Mrs Higginbotham, thanks very much for sharing your extraordinary experience
with your readers, for attending a vigil in remembrence of that tragic
day in American history, the assissination of president Abraham Lincoln,
the man who finally, after 200 years suffering, made the freedom from
And although there must have been cheering in the south by many people
about the murder of Lincoln [how barbaric, cheering over one’s death, whoever
the person may be, but that aside], the ex slaves, now finally acknowledged
in their right to humanity, must have felt real different.
In many an ex slaves household, bitter tears were spread about the death of a man,
who died for their right to be treated as a human being.
A right, so bitterly fought for by all those brave real christian Quaker
and other abolitionists,who also led the Underground
Railroad [escaping routes of slave fugitives]
a man like John Brown, and of course
the slaves themselves, who raised many times against their bondage
in many uprisings.
Of course I am not naive and although I valuate Lincoln for his stand
against slavery, he was not the kind of abolitionist I can totally
Yes, Lincoln condemned slavery as immoral, based on the Constitution
Proclamation that ”all men are created equal”, he
applied to black and white people, this did not mean
he thought they would have the same political and
He was for example no friend of the rights of black peeople
His conception of equality was that black people had the right to
enjoy the fruits of their labor and thus improve their social
However, he did it.
He abolished slavery.
Also it is a misunderstanding to think that the Civil War was started
because of the North opposing slavery morally and the South wanted
to maintain it.
Of course slavery WAS the issue, but it was an economic, not a moral
fight [although morality against slavery was for many Northerns an important
issue] between the industrialized North and the plantation economical South
[with a mix of feodalism, slavery and of course racism, which was
the justification for
the abduction, owning, imprisoning, torturing and raping human beings]
Slavery was an economic hindrance for the pre capitalist
industrial North, so it had to go.
So simple was that, although there were, as always,
also other causes, like political and power plays.
Because wars are never fought for ”morality”, but out
of economic and political power reasons.
But coming to Lincoln again:
Whether for Lincoln economical factors played a rule or even
that he didn’t want to grant black people
all the rights, for the ex slaves one thing counted:
By emancipating the slaves legally, now they had a
chance to take their lives in their own hands, start a family
[without interfering of the white plantation ownner] and getting
paid for their labor, however poorly.
Mrs Higginbotham, because I think it is a pity you didn’t mention
this great emancipation contribution of Lincoln, I have written this.
Now some remarks about your book.
You will understand, reading my post about the abolition of
slavery, that I could hardly have much sympathy for people
like Marry Surat, who held a boarding house with many
Confederacy sympathizers and holding slaves herself.
John Wilkes Booth, who shot Lincoln,
was a most extremist defender of slavery, which I find
repulsing and since Mary Surrat knew him well,
and was in a good terms with him, so she
must have sympathised with his ideas.
At least she didn’t fiercely oppose them.
But that doesn’t mean I agree with the way she and the other suspects
of the assissination were treated.
At first a military Court for civilians is not fair, since they are,
simply, no soldiers and thus had deserved the protection of
Thereby, Mary was a very sick woman and in my book you
don’t hang a sick woman [or man], but adapt the punishment
and when she would have been so ill that she could not recover,
simply convict her without further punishment.
Therefore I oppose death penalty as an inhuman punishment, which
was no concept in those times,
But what must have been an argument was the possibility
to execute the wrong person
And in the case of Mary Surrat, it might have happened.
A horrible idea.
But although not very sympathetic, writing the history of
a woman like Mary Surrat gives an insight in a historical
period, which marks the end of one of the greatest crimes
in history, slavery.
And therefore it is very interesting.
Thanks again, Mrs Higginbotham