During the 1860s, white Australians and Americans living in Australia viewed the administration of Abraham Lincoln and the American Civil War with “surpassing interest” as a series of events that directly affected the commerce and politics of the world. This paper, presented by Director and Editor of The Papers of Abraham Lincoln, Daniel Stowell, explores attitudes in Australia toward the election of Abraham Lincoln, his issuing of the Emancipation Proclamation, the general progress of the American Civil War, and Lincoln’s assassination. This sesquicentennial anniversary of the American Civil War marks an appropriate time to evaluate the connections between Australia and the American Civil War.
Like their American and British counterparts, Australian editors copied profligately from other newspapers, most often British ones. However, they produced their own editorials and news items on American events as well. From the first mention of Abraham Lincoln by the Sydney Morning Herald in early August 1860, throughout his presidential administration, Australians learned more and more about the curious attorney who had become the leader of the largest republic in the world. They observed in horror and fascination as this model republic tore itself apart, cheered as Lincoln declared Confederate slaves to be free, and mourned with the rest of the world over Lincoln’s assassination. This paper will draw on hundreds of issues of Australian newspapers digitized in the Trove online archive published by the National Library of Australia to gauge Australian interest in and response to Abraham Lincoln’s administration and the American Civil War. It will also utilize documents from the ongoing work of the Papers of Abraham Lincoln that deal with Australia, such as a June 1862 petition signed by more than 150 American residents working in the Lachlan Gold Fields, expressing their support of the Union. From this documentary base, this paper will assess Australian perceptions of and attitudes toward the prairie lawyer who led the United States of America through its greatest crisis.