Phillip W. Magness

U.S. Economic & Political History

A Phony ‘Phocion’: Alexander Hamilton and the election of 1796

| August 20, 2016

On October 14, 1796 the Philadelphia-based Gazette of the United States newspaper ran the first of 25 “letters” that would forever change the nature of presidential campaigns. Bearing the pseudonym of the ancient Athenian orator ‘Phocion,’ the letters presented a systematic and, at times, bitterly personal argument against Thomas Jefferson’s candidacy for President of the United States. Over […]

Guelzo/Lincoln/Colonization challenge: can you spot the problem?

| June 20, 2015

Historian Allen C. Guelzo, with whom I have tangled repeatedly on the subject of Abraham Lincoln and colonization, inserted another jab at my 2011 book Colonization after Emancipation (co-authored with Sebastian Page) in the latest issue of the American Historical Review. This one appears as a comment in his review of Robert E. May’s book Slavery, Race, and Conquest in the American […]

The American System and the Political Economy of Colonization

| June 4, 2015

My new article in the Journal of the History of Economic Thought explores the intersection between 19th century economic theory and the colonization movement, including its substantial effect on the antislavery views of Abraham Lincoln. Abstract: “From 1816 through to the end of the Civil War, the colonization of emancipated slaves in Africa and the […]

Lincoln and the case for Ben Butler’s Colonization Story

| April 16, 2015

150 years ago this week an unusual discussion took place at the White House. On a mid-April morning Maj. Gen. Benjamin F. Butler met with Abraham Lincoln to discuss what Butler later recounted as a proposal to resettle several thousand freed slaves on the Isthmus of Panama. It would prove to be their final encounter, as Lincoln […]

Thaddeus Stevens, Colonization, and the 13th Amendment

| February 4, 2015

Last Saturday marked the 150th anniversary of the day the 13th Amendment passed the House of Representatives, securing its submission to the states for ratification. This momentous event – marking the abolition of slavery in the United States – has received increased attention in light of the Civil War sesquicentennial, as well as its 2012 dramatization […]

More on Colonization, Lincoln, and Butler

| March 2, 2014

The Civil War Memory blog has weighed in to the ongoing discussion about Lincoln and colonization with an interesting inquiry, asking “to what extent does Lincoln’s continued advocacy of colonization overshadow the rest of his public statements and policy decisions?” I’ve offered my thoughts in the comments section over there, echoing several points of my […]

Why I consider Ben Butler (mostly) credible

| February 25, 2014

My dispute with Allen Guelzo has stirred up a bit of debate about the issue of colonization during the Lincoln presidency and my own interpretations of the evidence. I don’t plan to use this blog to weigh in on every point of the discussion, some of which are addressed in my latest article on the subject. I […]

Lincoln & Colonization: understanding the documents issue

| February 23, 2014

Contrary to the recent insinuations otherwise, the colonization efforts Abraham Lincoln are reasonably well documented. We know the approximate dates of most of his active colonization experiments during the Civil War years. We have a rough time frame for several dozen recollected conversations on the topic that were recorded by Lincoln’s contemporaries. And we have […]

A brief guide to colonization documents omitted from the Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln

| January 7, 2014

For more than half a century the Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, edited by Roy P. Basler, has been the standard go-to volume for a compendium of known documents authored by Abraham Lincoln. As might be expected with any collection that attempts to aggregate the writings of a prolific political figure, many documents were overlooked […]

Thaddeus Stevens, Colonizationist?

| December 18, 2013

  Thaddeus Stevens has enjoyed something of an academic as well as popular revival in recent years, becoming known as something of an archetype of that all-too-rare character in mid 19th century American politics: a racial egalitarian. He was also an abolitionist of some note and, most famously, the de facto leader of the radicals […]