Lincoln and the Russians

Lincoln and the Russians

Lincoln and the Russians

Lincoln and the Russians

Excerpt

The story of Lincoln and Russia is virtually an unknown chapter in the Lincoln saga. It needs retelling today not only because of the light it may shed upon current problems, but especially because Russia's real motives in befriending the United States during the Civil War, concealed even from Lincoln, have only recently been revealed as a result of diligent research among the dusty archives of the Russian government. Much of my source material is from the voluminous diplomatic correspondence between Edouard de Stoeckl, Russia's Minister to Washington during the Civil War, and Prince Gortchakov, the Czar's Minister for Foreign Affairs in St. Petersburg. This correspondence was written in French. Another source is the Krasnyi Arkhiv, the Red Archives, written in Russian. I have had these materials translated and many excerpts thereof appear in this text. Still another source -- especially for new material on Cassius M. Clay -- is the Lincoln Papers which became available in 1947.

Is a Russian-American war inevitable? Must the conflicting political systems of the democratic United States and communistic Russia lead them to the battlefield? Or can they -- despite their clashing ideologies -- co-exist in peace and work together for the salvation of the world?

The little-known story of American-Russian relations during the Civil War may help to furnish answers to these all-important questions. Abraham Lincoln, "the supreme American," who knew Russia as a "country where they make no pretense of loving liberty," and regarded her government as the exemplar of despotism, led our government into an informal yet firm alliance and working partnership with the realm of the Czars -- despite the fact that our "government of the people, by the people, for the people" and Czar Alexander II's absolute autocracy were the very antithesis of each other.

This Russian-American entente cordiale was a political paradox without equal. To the ruling classes of Europe, the United States was then the world's most dangerous and extremist revolutionary government. We were the "Reds" of those days. On the other hand, Americans regarded Russia as the classic example of absolute power and despotism, and the foremost exponent of suppression of popular movements . . .

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