The Right Honourable The Lord Mayor Alderman Alan Yarrow
The Mansion House, London EC4N 8BH Telephone 020 7626 2500
Dr Daniel W. Stowell Director, Center for Digital Initiatives Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum 112 North Sixth Street Springfield Illinois 62701 USA
10 March 2015 003400
Dear Dr Stowell
I am honoured to offer this brief reflection on the legacy of Abraham Lincoln, 150 years on from his death.
From humble beginnings, Lincoln rose to lead a great nation. His example strikes a deep chord in the City of London where the spirit of meritocracy has been and remains a proud part of our tradition.
However, Lincoln is not only a respected hero but deeply honoured as a champion of liberty and equality. In this, the 800th anniversary year of Magna Carta, to which the Lord Mayor of the time was a signatory, it is fitting that the City honours Lincoln's campaign for freedom for all and the end of the scourge of slavery in the United States.
It is fitting too, as Lincoln's British counterpart in ending slavery worldwide worked and worshipped in the City of London. Leading abolitionist William Wilberforce frequented St Mary Woolnoth Church on the very doorstep of the Mansion House, home of the Lord Mayors of London for over 250 years. Although these giants of global justice never met, Lincoln once acknowledged Wilberforce as a name that "every schoolchild" knew - and now of course, the very same can be said of Lincoln himself.
I should also mention the Mayoralty's own encounter with the issues Lincoln confronted. A court case involving Mr Joseph Strong, a slave from the West Indies who had suffered continual abuse by the person claiming to own him came before the Lord Mayor in the old court rooms of the Mansion House. Grievously wounded, in 1765 he stole away on a ship bound for England. His owner also returned to England and seeing him by chance on the street wished to seize him back. This had never happened in England before and a court case ensued.
Strong was befriended by Granville Sharp, a government clerk who, with his brother, had befriended Strong after he first landed. The then Lord Mayor acquitted Strong of any wrong doing and told him he was free. Upon hearing this, Strong's erstwhile 'owner' leapt up and tried to take him there and then. He was only prevented in doing this by the Lord Mayor. The judgement was a seminal ruling which helped bring the injustice of slavery to a wider audience. Granville Sharp went on to become one of the most famous of the anti-slavery campaigners and a deep influence on the Abolition Movement which ultimately culminated in the abolition of the slave trade.
Lincoln's legacy of liberty resonates with all of us here in the City of London, the United Kingdom, and around the world. It is my hope that his example will inspire all those who continue to fight for the abolition of slavery in its modern forms today.
The Rt Hon The Lord Mayor Alderman Alan Yarrow