Abraham Lincoln

Brazennoze Street runs between Albert Square and Deansgate and for much of its length it is a pedestrianized walkway. Along the way the street opens out into a square called Lincoln Square after the monument that was placed there in 1986. Why is Abraham Lincoln standing on a plinth in the middle of Manchester?

The statue was one of two presented to the people of England by Charles Phelps Taft, the son of William Howard Taft who was President of the United States. Charles Taft was himself an official in the US government and mayor of the city of Cincinnati, Ohio. The gift was meant to be a symbol of Anglo-American unity. How this statue ended up in Manchester was a little convoluted. One of the statues was given to London; the other was originally destined for Liverpool. In 1918 the members of the Manchester Art Gallery committee provided the money to bring it to the city. This statue was created by George Barnard and is replica of one in Cincinnati, Ohio. Originally it was to be erected in London but when the president's son Robert heard this he intervened. He didn't like the statue and it became known as the "stomach ache statue" because of the placement of the hands. As a result this statue went to Manchester and London got a statue that is a replica of a larger one by Augustus Saint-Gaudens in Chicago's Lincoln Park. Manchester's statue was erected in 1919 in Platt Field's park and it stayed there until 1986.

The postcard image above shows the statue in Platt Fields although I'm a bit disturbed by the relative sizes of the statue and the man standing next to it.  The statue is 4 meters high which suggests that the man is no taller than 1.5 metres or just under 5 feet tall.  He certainly makes the statue look impressive.

So that explains how it came to placed in Lincoln Square but not why. The why is explained by the inscription on the plinth. It is dedicated to: "the support that the working people of Manchester gave in their fight for the abolition of slavery during the American Civil War.......By supporting the union under President Lincoln at a time when there was an economic blockade of the southern states the Lancashire cotton workers were denied access to raw cotton which caused considerable unemployment throughout the cotton industry."

To what degree the people of Lancashire gave this support willingly is questionable. Lincoln's Union Army blockaded the southern ports preventing the Confederate supporters from trading their cotton and causing what was known as the Cotton Famine in the UK. By November 1862, three fifths of the labour force, 331,000 men and women, were idle. The British Government was encouraged to take action to overturn the blockade and riots broke out because of the hardship suffered by the workers. The Confederate Flag flew on some Lancashire mills.

A recent article in the Manchester Evening News about the statue was prompted by the activities around the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slavery. It read: "The statue of Abraham Lincoln in Brazenose Street has suffered from the ravages of pollution and the weather, leaving it almost impossible to read the words on its plaque. Local government minister Phil Woolas, MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, was recently at Manchester Museum to mark the bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act 1807, when he was told about the state of the plaque. After a plea from museum boss Nick Merriden, Mr Woolas has agreed to pay 'whatever it takes' to keep alive the message on the red granite plaque. Mr Woolas said: "It's shameful, especially as we mark the 200 anniversary, that people cannot read this plaque."