Phillip W. Magness

U.S. Economic & Political History

The day Lincoln joined the American Colonization Society

| August 20, 2013

Abraham Lincoln’s interest in the policy of colonization likely dates at least to the mid 1840s when he picked it up from his political hero Henry Clay. He also delivered at least two speeches to the state colonization society in Illinois and was elected one of its managers in 1857. It might therefore come as […]

The mystery of John Scoble’s disappearance

| August 18, 2013

Though little noticed today, John ScobleĀ (1799-??) played an early leading role in the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society as its secretary from 1842 to 1852 and as an important British link to the American abolitionist community in its formative years. An eccentric and somewhat irascible fellow, he had a habit of inserting himself into factional […]

Clearing the air on secession

| August 15, 2013

The libertarian Cato Institute recently released a admirable video project addressing some of the philosophical implications of the Civil War and critiquing libertarian support for the Confederacy. I was pleasantly surprised by the direction it went, having previously criticized its narrator Jason Kuznicki for a counterproductive and somewhat philosophically troubling foray into this same issue […]

If not Frederick Douglass, who was the first black visitor to the White House?

| August 11, 2013

This weekend marks the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s first meeting with Frederick Douglass, an encounter summarized here and detailed in multiple published accounts by Douglass himself. While Douglass was probably the most famous African American visitor to the Lincoln White House, he was not the first to be received in an official capacity despite […]

An abolitionist’s take on the NSA email surveillance program

| August 8, 2013

In light of the recent revelations about the NSA’s massive email spying programs, I’m reminded of this passage from my favorite abolitionist Lysander Spooner in his own response to the postal monopoly of his day. Keep in mind that at the time he wrote this, the privacy of the mails was a contentious political issue. […]