The National Archives issued a press release yesterday outlining a case of fraud perpetuated by a well-known Lincoln scholar, Thomas Lowry. Civil War historians-bloggers Kevin Levin, Brooks D. Simpson, and Eric Wittenberg are covering the topic extensively.
According to the press release,
Lowry admitted to changing the date of Murphy’s pardon, written in Lincoln’s hand, from April 14, 1864, to April 14, 1865, the day John Wilkes Booth assassinated Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC. Having changed the year from 1864 to 1865, Lowry was then able to claim that this pardon was of significant historical relevance because it could be considered one of, if not the final official act by President Lincoln before his assassination.
This alteration of a Lincoln document, outlined in more detail in the press release linked above, is egregious for many reasons, not the least of which is the number of scholars who may have relied on the document to make claims of their own. If the National Archives had not investigated, then this fraud may have continued to mislead scholars for decades.
Unaltered primary sources are sacrosanct for historians because they are the evidence that we use to build our arguments. Having one of us tamper with a source simply to build a more successful career is sickening.