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Full Version: The Jefferson Lemen Compact - Was it True
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I am looking at the Jefferson-Lemen Compact.

Here what it was claimed to be, its validity is disputed keep in mind.

James Lemen 1760-1823 was a Virginia preacher who was anti slavery.
Supposedly he was a friend of Thomas Jefferson, and supposedly Jefferson asked Lemen to move west into Illinois/Indiana territory and to work with his church and influences to render Illinois eventually a non-slave State. The Rev James Lemen and several families did move out to Illinois, and they were strong anti-slavery lobbyists, and Illinois eventually became nonslave.

Later, supposedly as Lincoln was forming his politics and opinions growing
up in Illinois, Lincoln came to know the Lemen history of antislavery
agitation within their church and Illinois politics. There is a (bogus or real?) letter which Lincoln sent and in which he commends members of the Lemen family for their work. The Lemen family then (and now, I am guessing) are proud of the early historic work of the Lemen family in Illinois. And there are published, family accounts --mentioning Thomas Jefferson and Lincoln.

But, the experts say otherwise. That the Jefferson Lemen Compact never
really existed, Lincoln never really did write such a letter, later either.
The net has several articles on this, an interesting article at Wikipedia.

I wonder what other readers have concluded in their study of Jefferson
and Lincoln. Was the Reverend James Lemen assigned by Thomas
Jefferson and to use his Church functions to become involved in the politics of Illinois? Was the preacher just making this all up? This is another topic seldom or never seen, even in graduate history texts. While it is easy to quickly scan the experts dismissals of the Lemen claims, yet this Christian family went to a tremendous amount of sustained work for many decades to help secure Illinois as a non-slavery state. It doesn't make sense for me to conclude that Lemen was delusional or would need to lie?
(01-22-2016 09:47 AM)maharba Wrote: [ -> ]There is a (bogus or real?) letter which Lincoln sent and in which he commends members of the Lemen family for their work.

In Appendix II of The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln this letter is listed as a forgery.
Quick work Roger!
Does Abraham Lincoln mention Lemen in any of his papers I wonder. The Lemens were definitely philosophical antecedents of Lincoln in Illinois. Lincoln had to know of their existence and anti-slavery actions in the past in the State...I would think? As I look at James Lemen's genealogy, he is about a 4th cousin to Ward Lamon. I wonder if Ward ever mentioned his Lemen cousins to Abe. It may have been so far back from his personal family records, he did know of the common ancestry. The Lemen's were grounded early and very active especially working through the Christian churches to remove slavery. Because they weren't unhinged abolitionist or bizarrely radical in their approach (like John Brown etc), the Lemens avoided the otherwise 'warm reception' that Lovejoy and others received.
I did a search of The Collected Works and drew a blank on any mention of Lemen.

On another site I found the letter which The Collected Works says is a forgery. Here is the text:


Springfield, Illinois. March 2, 1857.
Rev. James Lemen,

[O'Fallon, Illinois,]

Friend Lemen: Thanking you for your warm appreciation of my views in a former letter as to the importance in many features of your collection of old family notes and papers, I will add a few words more as to Elijah P. Lovejoy's case. His letters among your old family notes were of more interest to me than even those of Thomas Jefferson, written to your father. Of course they [the latter] were exceedingly important as a part of the history of the "Jefferson-Lemen Anti-Slavery Pact," under which your father. Rev. James Lemen, Sr., as Jefferson's anti-slavery agent in Illinois, founded his anti-slavery churches, among which was the present Bethel church, which set in motion the forces which finally made Illinois a free state, all of which was splendid; but Lovejoy's tragic death for freedom in every sense marked his sad ending as the most important single event that ever happened in the new world.

Both your father and Lovejoy were pioneer leaders in the cause of freedom, and it has always been difficult for me to see why your father, who was a resolute, uncompromising, and aggressive leader, who boldly proclaimed his purpose to make both the territory and the state free, never aroused nor encountered any of that mob violence which both in St. Louis and Alton confronted or pursued Lovejoy, and which finally doomed him to a felon's death and a martyr's crown. Perhaps the two cases are a little parallel with those of John and Peter. John was bold and fearless at the scene of the Crucifixion, standing near the cross receiving the Savior's request to care for his mother, but was not annoyed; while Peter, whose disposition to shrink from public view, seemed to catch the attention of members of the mob on every hand, until finally to throw public attention off, he denied his master with an oath; though later the grand old apostle redeemed himself grandly, and like Lovejoy, died a martyr to his faith. Of course, there was no similarity between Peter's treachery at the Temple and Lovejoy's splendid courage when the pitiless mob were closing around him. But in the cases of the two apostles at the scene mentioned, John was more prominent or loyal in his presence and attention to the Great Master than Peter was, but the latter seemed to catch the attention of the mob; and as Lovejoy, one of the most inoffensive of men, for merely printing a small paper, devoted to the freedom of the body and mind of man, was pursued to his death; while his older comrade in the cause of freedom. Rev. James Lemen, Sr., who boldly and aggressively proclaimed his purpose to make both the territory and the state free, was never molested a moment by the minions of violence. The madness and pitiless determination with which the mob steadily pursued Lovejoy to his doom, marks it as one of the most unreasoning and unreasonable in all time, except that which doomed the Savior to the cross.

If ever you should come to Springfield again, do not fail to call. The memory of our many "evening sittings" here and elsewhere, as we called them, suggests many a pleasant hour, both pleasant and helpful.

Truly yours,

A. Lincoln.
Maharba, you can ckeck yourself. When you enter "Lemen" here: result will be found in the entire collection which is exactly what Roger posted (i.e. that the letter is "forged").
I see this info at an online site "If These Walls Could Talk",

No history of Salem would be complete without the history of the Lemen-Frakes House and the lives of the people who entered therein.

Benjamin F. Lemen was born in St. Clair County, Illinois in the year 1814, four years before Illinois became a state. He was the grandson of James Lemen, Revolutionary War officer and good friend of President Thomas Jefferson. James was also the founder of the first First Baptist Church in the State of Illinois..Rev. Lemen moved to Salem in 1842, the year of his marriage of..Rev. Lemen had his house built the year he moved to Salem in 1842..It is the oldest house in Salem today. The Lemens..were good friends of the Lincoln's and were frequently visited by Abraham Lincoln when he was in Salem. He spent the night with them on more than on occasion, one time being in June of 1849. He slept on the couch in the parlor, which he prefered. The couch is now located in the Lincoln Room of the Governor's Mansion in Springfield, Illinois..."

I can't believe this man never existed, or was not a stalwart against slavery, that James never really founded the church mentioned, that this house never existed, that Rev Lemen never came to Salem, IL. What about being friends with Lincoln, the dated visit, the couch now in the Gov Mansion. Is that true, I wonder.

Let me make a guesstimate at what may have taken place. I will change this (idle speculation) as more information. The Lemen family were indeed Christians who came from VA to ILL. They were in fact strong factors in having Illinois become a
non-slavery state. Either Jefferson and Lincoln never heard of them, or someone is lying --maybe better said 'embellishing' history. I wonder: could someone(s) who was formulating a Lemen family history FAKED the claims of 'an agreement with Thomas Jefferson' and later decided to gild it further by FORGING a letter from Abraham Lincoln? Now, I'll backdown from that speculation. Could it be that Lemen did know Thomas Jefferson but there was no overt/spoken or written statement from Thomas Jefferson directing or asking Rev Lemen to go to Illinois (area) and stop the spread of slavery. What about Lincoln knowing and visiting the Lemens in Salem IL. Is it possible that Lincoln did indeed write to them, but perhaps a short letter of thanks saying very little, and that 'some Lemen family member' took that and greatly embellished it and added much more than Lincoln had written?

(PS: Like you copy and paste the text, copying and pasting the link works. Just saying as you said you don't know how to do.)
Who was Rev James Lemen 1760-1823? He served 2 years in the Rev War under George Washington. He came to Illinois in 1786 with his family. He was the first Justice of the Peace in Illinois, he founded the first Baptist church in Illinois. He was the Judge of the Court of Common Pleas, for several years.
He was a founding member of the Illinois Constitutional convention. The list goes on and on. To my point of view, the life story of this man commands attention, and the claims attributed to him but which are summarily rejected cause me to wonder the fuller truth of the affair. If the young Lincoln had not come to hear about the Lemen's, then I am a bit surprised.
Since Lincoln was only 14 and still living in Indiana when James Lemon died,
I don't see much of a connection.
Lincoln was in Salem, Illinois, several times between 1840 and 1855. He gave a speech there on September 21, 1840. But I have not found (so far) that he was friends with the Lemen family.
(01-24-2016 09:15 AM)Gene C Wrote: [ -> ]Since Lincoln was only 14 and still living in Indiana when James Lemon died,
I don't see much of a connection.

Bravo, Gene.
Good point Gene. How so a connection, if the old man Rev James Lemen died 1823, how could Lincoln know him.

I see that the grandson of Rev James, who was Benjamin F. Lemen is on record April 1 1860 writing a lengthy (rambling, somewhat sermonizing) letter to Abraham Lincoln. From Stone House, Rocky Mountains and apparently to soon pres candidate Lincoln in Springfield IL. Congratulating Lincoln on his Cooper Union speech. Mentions in passing Thomas Jefferson in this letter to Abraham Lincoln. I believe B.F.Lemen was later appointed an Indian agent in the West by Lincoln. I am more convinced yet from other research that Lincoln was on intimate friendly terms with members of this Lemen family
(who came from Rev James Lemen, died 1823). It would seem to me almost a certainty that: in long personal conversations Lincoln heard the whole Lemen Christian, anti-slavery etc history and general politics and philosophy. Did they tell Lincoln of the supposed Jefferson-Lemen Compact and all that that meant? That I can't guess, at this point. The Lemens were a very old, established religious and political family in Illinois, from the very beginning --while Lincoln was an up and comer, but not at all yet in the same league as the Lemens. I would guess that everything said in that 'forgery' Lincoln letter --and much more-- had already been said several times between Lincoln and the Lemen's. Much history and political intrigue in the formation of Illinois' constitution, the winning fight (of the Lemen's) to keep Chicago in Illinois and not a part of Wisconsin, etc. All this would surely have been fascinating to the young lawyer Lincoln, in long conversations.
There was published in the Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society Vol. 97, No. 3 (Autumn, 2004), pp. 192-215 an article by James A. Edstrom entitled "A Mighty Contest'': The Jefferson-Lemen Compact Reevaluated" in which he chronicles the history of the alleged compact and, in my mind, proves once and for all that the letter from Lincoln was undoubtedly a fraud (as were the other letters found in the family papers) and that there was no need for the family of the Rev. James Lemen Sr. to promote these documents because it had clearly been established that Lemen Sr., and his descendents were decidedly antislavery and had worked hard to keep Illinois a free state, adding that the myth of the compact did nothing to enhance Lemen's Sr.'s antislavery bona fides.

Edstrom shows that historians approached the documents on a continuum, with some pointing out the discrepancies evident but reserving final judgement while many believed them to be full-blown frauds. Even Ida Tarbell hesitated. In her 1924 In the Footsteps of the Lincolns she writes of Lemen Jr.'s reminisces (which are found in her papers) "In reading these reminiscences, one must remember that they were written long after the event by an aged and fervently pious man who probably exaggerated his intimacy with Lincoln." Tarbell wrote that she believed Lemen's writing was genuine, meaning he believed them to be true, but noted that the supposed letter to Lincoln was only a copy and that no original could be found, adding "several serious historical students have challenged its genuineness as that of the reminiscences." She had been contacted when she was with the American Magazine by Joseph Lemen, who urged her to publish the material, pointedly asking her how much she thought they were worth (they were never published).

Tarbell wrote to Clarence Alvord, a professor at the University of Illinois, who along with Solon J. Buck studied the Lemen material for Buck's Illinois in 1818 and both came to the conclusion that the documents were spurious.

One last point....if James Lemen Jr., had been such a close friend to Abraham Lincoln and was such a trusted spiritual adviser, where was he when Lincoln's body was buried in Springfield? There were six Protestant ministers involved in the services at the receiving vault, including Matthew Simpson and Phineas Gurley, yet Lemen had not even been invited to participate. Seems strange for someone who was said to have been so close to Lincoln, which, undoubtedly Lincoln's friends and family would have known.

Anyone who wants to read Edstrom's article can find it here on the JSTOR website. You can look at the first page for free, but to read the article you either need to register with JSTOR, which allows you to read three free articles for 14 days, or pay $10 and download it. If you have access to JSTOR nearby through a library, you can also download it there using the library's subscription.

(01-24-2016 11:40 PM)Rob Wick Wrote: [ -> ]One last point....if James Lemen Jr., had been such a close friend to Abraham Lincoln and was such a trusted spiritual adviser, where was he when Lincoln's body was buried in Springfield? There were six Protestant ministers involved in the services at the receiving vault, including Matthew Simpson and Phineas Gurley, yet Lemen had not even been invited to participate. Seems strange for someone who was said to have been so close to Lincoln, which, undoubtedly Lincoln's friends and family would have known.

I agree with Rob, and I think another important fact is that Lemen, Jr. was not interviewed by Herndon. After the assassination Herndon contacted Lincoln's friends and those who knew him. Certainly Herndon would have known if Lincoln and Lemen were friends. But Lemen was not interviewed by Herndon. None of the other folks who knew/befriended Lincoln mentioned Lemen either.

Additionally, there are no letters to Lemen in The Collected Works, and no mention of him in Lincoln Day by Day.
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