[Emblem of Dorchester's Mayor's Office?] DORCESTRIENOIS SIG : MAIORIS
MAYOR'S PARLOUR 19 NORTH SQUARE DORCHESTER DORSET DT1 1JF
Wednesday, 14 January 2015
Dr Daniel W. Stowell Director, Centre for Digital Initiatives Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum 112 North Sixth Street Springfield Illinois 62701 U.S.A
Dear Dr Stowell
's influence over the past 150 years has benn particularly felt here in the evolution of our democracy. His brilliant and much quoted definition of democracy "government of the people, by the people, for the people," was a challenge for an English Parliament elected at that time by a narrow band of male property owners. The extension of the franchise has remained a key issue ever since, with all men over 21 eventually granted the right to vote in 1918 and all women over 21 in 1928. The qualifying age has since been reduced to 18 and there is now discussion about a possible reduction to 16.
Lincoln's democratic principles have similarly transformed our Dorchester Town Council. From being a closed corporation elected only by male property owning electors, today's Council operates as openly as possible. Agendas and Minutes are published on the website. Members of the public may attend and speak at all Council and Committee meetings. There is an almost equal representation of femle and male Councillors.
Lincoln's influence can also be traced in the evolution of our multicultural society. During the American Civil War, the churches of this town strongly supported the Lancashire Cotton workers in boycotting cotton from the Southern Slave owning plantations. When the boycott caused widespread unemployment and distress in Lancashire, Dorchester sent generous financial aid.
A generation later, Dorchester continued to support the former slaves. In June 1884, the Dorchester Congregational Church hosted a concert performed by the American Fisk Jubilee Singers. According to the Dorset County Chronicle, all the members had "either themselves passed under the dread auctioneer's hammer or were children of parents who had endured the suppressing misery of slavery." Their object was to raise funds for the purpose of educating the emancipated slaves and they clearly received a most sympathetic reception. The Chronicle described their programme as "Melodies sung with exquisite charm and simplicity."
In 1943/44, Dorchester welcomed its first big influx of black people, when this area became a major training ground for the American army, in preparation for D Day.
Although the appearance of black faces in our streets was a new experience, many women volunteered to staff canteens for these servicemen. There were also a number of hastily arranged weddings before D Day and still more when the war ended.
has received many more ethnic minorites and has become a generally tolerant and peaceful multicultural Society, supported by explicit equal rights, enshrined in legislation. In this town, we have the Dorset Race Equality Council which protects the interests of minorities. We celebrate diversity in our multicultural network, our black history month, and our annual One World Festival.
My Predecessor, writing in 1865, clearly reflected the high regard of Dorchester people for Abraham Lincoln. One hundred and fifty years later, I am pleased to have this further opportunity to pay tribute to a very great leader and important influence in shaping the future of this town and nation.
[Signature of Peter Mann] Councillor Peter Mann Mayor of Dorchester