"We expected to find about 60 documents there, and we found nearly
twice that number, including many we did not know were at Meisei
University, and more than a dozen we did not know about at all,"
said Daniel W. Stowell, director and editor of The Papers of Abraham
Meisei University officials acquired a portion of the collection
in 1980 from businessman Masaharu Mochizuki, who created the Tokyo
Lincoln Center in 1961. The university continued to add to the
collection throughout the 1980s. Recently, Stowell was able to
examine the collection to verify the documents' authenticity and
their value to Lincoln scholarship. What he found were original
Lincoln documents the Papers of Abraham Lincoln did not know
One early document, dated Jan. 12, 1833, Lincoln wrote for New
Salem tavern owner James Rutledge, Ann Rutledge's father, regarding
an overdue account. The document was signed by Rutledge and attested
by Bowling Green, a local justice of the peace, who not only
encouraged Lincoln's law studies, but, as several villagers
recalled, also helped him endure a period of deep depression
following the death of Ann Rutledge. The document illustrates both
Lincoln's legal aspirations and the support he received from his
friends in New Salem during this critical period in his early life.
Other original Lincoln documents previously unknown to
researchers in the United States included an 1834 certification;
1835 promissory note; 1838 mortgage; 1840 legal notice; 1844
personal check; and an 1853 deed from William and Judith Allen to
William Florville, Lincoln's black Springfield barber, for four lots
in Bloomington. The Meisei University collection also includes an
important exchange of letters with New York Gov. Horatio Seymour
from Lincoln's time as president.
Among the most interesting documents is Lincoln's
characteristically brief 1858 autobiography in response to Charles
Lanman, who was compiling a Dictionary of Congress: "Born Feb. 12,
1809, in Hardin county Kentucky. Education, defective. Profession, a
lawyer. Have been a Captain of Volunteers in the Black Hawk War;
Post-Master at a very small office, four times a member of the
Illinois Legislature; and once a member of the lower House of
Congress. Yours &c A. Lincoln."
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The discoveries did not stop with Abraham Lincoln. Researchers
identified three letters from Mary Lincoln and three documents
written by Ulysses S. Grant, including a three-page letter to his
wife, Julia, written in May 1864 in the midst of his Overland
Campaign against Richmond.
The Meisei University collection contains several previously
identified Lincoln treasures, including a signed copy of the
Emancipation Proclamation and the 10-page "Discoveries and
Inventions" lecture that Lincoln presented at several locations in
the late 1850s.
"This world-class Lincoln collection is largely unknown and
unused by scholars," said Stowell. "We expect that situation will
soon change as a result of our visit to Meisei University."
The Papers of
Abraham Lincoln is a long-term documentary editing project
dedicated to identifying, imaging, transcribing, annotating and
publishing all documents written by or to Abraham Lincoln during his
lifetime (1809-1865). The project is administered through the
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, and is co-sponsored
by the Center for State Policy and Leadership at the University of
Illinois Springfield and by the Abraham Lincoln Association.
Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum
file received from the