In 1899, the publisher's daughter recalled the genesis of this pocket-sized edition: "With the view of placing the Proclamation of Emancipation in the hands of the negroes themselves, my father had printed 1,000,000 copies on small slips, one and half inches square, put into packages of fifty each, and distributed among the Northern soldiers at the front, who scattered them about among the blacks, while on the march. [Massachusetts Senator Charles] Sumner approved the idea …" (Sara Forbes Hughes, Letters and Recollections of John Murray Forbes, pp. 348-49). Indeed, in a letter to Forbes of Christmas Day, 1862, Sumner asked, "Why not send to all the hospitals, camps, posts? The more the better?"
John Murray Forbes was a Boston industrialist and an ardent abolitionist, who contributed to raising the celebrated 54th Massachusetts Volunteers, an African American regiment led by Colonel Robert Gould Shaw. In order to underline the key role of slavery in necessitating Civil War, Forbes had printed on the rear wrapper a quotation he attributed to "Alex. Stephens, Vice President of the so-called Confederate States": "This stone (slavery), which was rejected by the first builders, is become the chief stone of the corner in our new edifice."
Given the rarity of this edition, it is likely that Forbes's daughter exaggerated the print run, as well as the diminutiveness, of her father's imprint—but the significance of his distribution scheme can scarcely be exaggerated.
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