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A. Lincoln, Cashier?
By Fred Reed, Coins Magazine
June 03, 2013

This article was originally printed in Coins Magazine.
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Shown is a recent addition to my collection, a $2 note on the Merchants’ Bank dated Nov. 15, 1864, purported to have been issued by A[ndy] Jackson as bank president and A[braham] Lincoln as bank cashier.

This lithographed note was circulated at Howe’s Business College in Worcester, Mass. It was a nifty eBay purchase.

Although the catalog for this type of note, Herb and Martha Schingoethe’s College Currency, Money for Business Training published in 1993, lists some notes of this type in denominations of $3, $100, and $500 (MA-550-3 and MA-560-100 and MA-560-500), the note shown here is not listed. It would be MA-530-2.

Also unlisted was a $1 note that I showed in my first Lincoln book out of a Heritage Auctions sale that would be MA-530-1, and a $10 also found on eBay that would be MA-530-10.

The Schingoethes and editor Neil Shafer characterize the figure at left as Lafayette, but that individual sure looks like a French damsel to me.

Unfortunately, however, that source could supply no information about the school that had issued this practice currency for use in mercantile exercises at the school late in the U.S. Civil War.

We can now supply this deficiency in some measure. The school was founded prior to the Civil War by B.G. Howe, author of Systematic Science Teaching.

The year the note was issued, 1864, was a time of great turmoil in this country. The war had dragged on for three disastrous years, and there was great hostility growing toward the Lincoln Administration, not only among Democrats, but even among the more radical branch of his own party.

At the end of May, disaffected Republicans gathered in Cleveland for a rump Republican convention, and nominated their 1856 standard bearer John C. Fremont for president.

In an attempt at political coercion, Fremont said he would withdraw if the subsequent mainstream Republican convention at Baltimore nominated anybody but Lincoln.

Of course, the Baltimore convention went ahead and nominated the incumbent Lincoln, who then chose War Democrat Andrew Johnson to broaden the ticket’s appeal.

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A Republican and ardent abolitionist, Howe and fellow liberal abolitionist Elizar Wright Jr. spearheaded a counter-movement in summer 1864 to force National Union candidate Lincoln and Radical Republican splinter candidate Fremont to come together so as not to split the Republican vote and permit the Peace Democrat candidate George McClellan to win the White House.

Howe and Wright wrote a letter to Gen. Fremont, regarding “the dissatisfaction in the Union ranks,” and advised both Lincoln and Fremont to withdraw their names as presidential candidates so that a new convention could be called to select a unified party candidate.

Fremont “replied at length, remarking that he did not feel at liberty to withdraw his name without first consulting the party who nominated him. He suggests that a direct effort be made to obtain an immediate understanding between the supporters of both nominees, in order that they may coalesce and unite upon such a Convention.”

In his reply to Howe, Fremont wrote: “Much has been said about peace. For me, peace signifies the integral establishment of the Union without slavery, because slavery is the source of all our political dissensions, and because the institution itself is condemned by the enlightened and liberal spirit of the age. These are to me the essential conditions of peace.”

In the end under pressure from voices such as Howe’s, Fremont did indeed withdraw, clearing the way for Lincoln’s reelection, adoption of the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery, and ultimately drawing the war to a close.

It was evidently with all this in mind that Howe joyfully selected “A. Lincoln” to appear on his school’s notes dated only a week after Lincoln’s reelection.

When new notes were issued for Howe’s school dated June 1, 1865, after Lincoln’s assassination, “A. Jackson” appears in both signature blocks.

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