It’s two hundred and thirty eight years since in the words of the American Ambassdor who visited Manchester in 1924, one of the most humiliating episodes in British History took place.
July 1776 was, said Mr Kellogg who was speaking at the Midland Hotel, due to the arrogance and imbecility of the English King and the folly and weakness of its statesmen.
It was to be a salutary experience for the country and its pride would only be regained with the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo, nearly forty years later.
Manchester was then just a small town, probably unheard of in the new thirteen states that were born that day but it would play a role in the development of that new country over the next century.
Tied by commerce over the cotton trade, it would play a part in America’s struggle between North and South in the 1860’s standing against slavery despite the region’s Cotton mills being starved of their lifeblood raw material.
Abraham Lincoln, supported by the city in his fight against slavery, despite the hardships that his blockade of America’s southern ports were having on the cotton industry, and as the rumblings of past and future battles with Liverpool, a city that was helping to build the confederates warship and whose city was founded on the profits of the slave trade.
John Bright was a great admirer of the American president and when Lincoln was felled by the bullet of John Wilkes Booth, amongst his possessions in his pocket was a letter from Bright, a testimonial for his re election in the forthcoming vote.
Whilst Britain had remained neutral during the civil war, Bright remained firmly on the side of the North supporting the civil rights movement for the freedom of the slaves.
This, despite seeing the Northern economy devastated by the war with dramatic falls in the supply of cotton. Bright’s own mill was forced to close during the cotton famine, only to be alleviated when supplies from India started to arrive, supplies that would eventually lead to the downfall of the industry.
Bright had many invitations to travel to the USA, he was never to take them up but his star shines in the White House to this day, a bust rediscovered from one of the alcoves was placed in the entrance hall by Jackie Kennedy,and as Obama began to dismantle the special relationship by removing all things Churchillian, Bright’s photo by all accounts remains in the Oval Office.
Today Manchester has Abraham’s statue, sculpted from bronze by George Grey Barnard in 1914, which was intended to stand outside the Houses of Parliament, a tribute from the United States marking 100 years of peace between the two countries since the British had set fire to the White House in a war which inspired the writing of the Star Spangled Banner.
However the American sculpters depiction of what was described as a vigorous pose was far too controversial for London’s tastes, a more statesmanlike image would appear after the war, and the statue without a home came to Manchester which appealed to its civil war connections.
Unveiled in 1919, first in Platt Fields, where it stayed until the 1980’s when it became the focal point, mounted on a new pedestal in Lincoln Square, its red granite plaque freshly scrubbed clean back in 2007 to celebrate the two hundredth anniversary of the abolition of slavery.