Archive from September, 2018

Lincoln’s War Department

Lincoln’s initial choice to lead his War Department was Senator Simon Cameron, described as “the Pennsylvania opportunist, and successively Democrat and Know Nothing before affiliating with the Republicans.” Lincoln was under intense pressure from Pennsylvania Republicans to appoint Cameron to the cabinet, though the latter’s troubled past warned against it. In 1838, Cameron was appointed to settle claims of the Winnebago tribe in Wisconsin and “besides other irregularities Cameron had given to the red men depreciated notes on his own bank – all of which brought against him the first of many charges of dishonorable dealing and earned for him the derisive sobriquet of the “Great Winnebago Chief.” Indeed, “Cameron” and “corruption” became synonymous terms.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Lincoln’s War Department

“The most flagrant malfeasance was in the War rather than Navy Department, for the War office had at its disposal many fat army contracts. Conditions in this department were made even worse by the fact that the code of political ethics of Secretary of War Simon Cameron made it impossible for him to play the role of crusader in eliminating sharp practices.

Indeed, his handling of the financial affairs of the department were scandalous in the extreme. The most glaring favoritism was shown. Some manufacturers could get contracts while others could not. Middlemen abounded and easily obtained lavish contracts, which they sold to manufacturers at high profit.

One gun manufacturer endeavored in vain to secure business from the War Department, but got orders for 200,000 guns from middlemen who, though unable to manufacture the guns, knew how to get contracts. Many contracts went to subcontractors.

Either through criminal negligence or criminal collusion on its part, the War Department under Cameron permitted and even encouraged fraud of the grossest character. Moreover, contractors frequently besieged Republican leaders with appeals to intercede for them with Cameron in the award of contracts.

Cameron conducted the War Department as if it were a political club house; he used contracts freely to pay off old political debts and to shower additional favors upon his henchmen.

Representative Henry L. Dawes, of Massachusetts . . . declared that Cameron used fat contracts to win political support at meetings “where the hatchet of political animosity was buried in the grave of public confidence and the national credit was crucified between malefactors.”

(Lincoln and the Patronage, Harry J. Carman and Reinhard H. Luthin, Peter Smith, 1964, excerpts pp. 147-148; 150)

The Republican’s Avenue to Power

The following passage refers to Lincoln’s “lost speech” at the 1856 Bloomington, Illinois Republican party convention, where he reportedly fixated on keeping slaves in States where they lived while keeping the Kansas-Nebraska violence inflamed – the issues which his new party fed upon. The politically-ambitious Lincoln narrowly lost the vice-presidential nomination to William Dayton of New Jersey shortly after the Illinois convention, but then became what the author below refers to as a “Messiah-in-waiting” and coveting the presidency.  His plurality election in 1860 was the death knell of the United States Constitution.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

The Republican’s Avenue to Power

“The 1856 presidential election was pivotal in Lincoln’s formation as a foe of the South. It now appeared that the Republicans, not the “Know-Nothings,” would inherit the Northern Whig voters. Illinois Republicans [organized in Bloomington with] . . . all sorts of political leaders gathered there. Their common attribute was non-membership in the Democratic Party. They were Whigs, abolitionists, Free-Soilers, anti-Douglas Democrats, bolting Democrats, Know-Nothings – a collection of politicians of any stripe outside the Democratic Party. It was a political gathering . . . a group of people clubbed together to seek power.

They had only one common issue – the need, as they saw it, to attack slavery. The people they represented did not want slaves (or free Negroes) admitted to their State or territory of interest. The Northern and foreign immigrants did not want Negroes where they lived. They wanted to keep them out, to make them stay in the South. The politicians were going to use that popular attitude as an avenue to power.

In 1856, [Lincoln] accepted election as a delegate to the convention in Bloomington . . . meant to organize a State Republican party. He stood up with a show of reluctance . . . [and] spoke from scribbled notes. When he finished, and hour and a half after beginning, “a mob of frenzied men churned around him, congratulating him, praising him, pumping his hand.”

(Lincoln As He Really Was, Charles T. Pace, Shotwell Publishing, 2018, excerpts pp. 139-140)

Political Devices Keeping the War Spirit Alive

Early is his career, Sherman displayed a careless attitude toward his own casualties, either learned from Grant or his own habits rubbing off on the latter and explaining Grant’s later massed assaults in Virginia and tremendous losses of men. Even bounty-enriched foreign “volunteers” balked at Grant’s orders to advance, believing it futile stepping over the maimed and dead of previous assaults and only to be killed themselves – and lose the balance of their enlistment bounty money.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Political Devices Keeping the War Spirit Alive

“It was the twenty-fifth of May, three days after the assault on Vicksburg. Federal dead between the lines were “swelling to the stature of giants” and were making the air so unbearable that Confederates had sent out the request that they be buried.

Under a white flag soldiers threw dirt on their late comrades, while in their midst Sherman and a Confederate officer, Captain S.H. Lockett, had come out to gather information . . . [and the latter noted that to] all appearance, Sherman was callous toward death. In reality, [Sherman’s] days and nights were full of resentment against the [Lincoln] Administration for what he believed was its indifference towards boys’ lives.

When reinforcements had been sent to the front during the last winter, the regiments had averaged 900 men, now they had been reduced by disease and bullets – principally the former – to around 300 per regiment, and were thinner than veteran organizations that had seen eighteen months more of service.

Sherman knew that if the War Department had used most of these recruits as replacements in older regiments, many youths now dead would be alive. Politics, however, demanded that volunteers be gathered in new regiments so that officers could be appointed by State governors, or elected by the men. Jobs must be made for deserving patriots. Sherman refused to admit that Lincoln was forced to employ many political devices to keep the war spirit alive in faint-hearted sections of the North.

When newspapers announced the passage of a new Conscription Law . . . [which sent the majority to new regiments, Sherman thought this] proved Lincoln unintelligent, and he sent Grant a plea to start work against so reckless a scheme . . . [to wife Ellen he] railed against the scheme:

“If the worst enemy of the United States were to devise a plan to break down our army, a better one cannot be attempted . . . It may be that the whole war will be turned over to the Negroes, and I begin to believe that they will do as well as Lincoln and his advisors.”

(Sherman: Fighting Prophet, Lloyd Lewis, Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1932, excerpts pp. 284-286)

“It Was Lincoln Who Made War”

The author quoted below, US Navy Captain and Virginia-native Russell Quynn, was a veteran of both World Wars and a member of the Virginia bar since 1941. He writes that against the North, “the armies of the South at peak strength never exceeded 700,000 men,” and that “imported “Hessians” were used “by Lincoln to crush Americans of the South whose fathers had served in the armies of Washington, Jackson, Taylor, to make the nation, to found its renown.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

“It Was Lincoln Who Made War”

“Jefferson Davis, with his family, was captured in the Georgia pines on May 10, 1865, while en route to the Trans Mississippi, where he had hoped forces were still intact to continue the struggle Johnston and Beauregard had given up to Sherman at Durham, North Carolina . . . The odds now were ten to one; the North was being armed with Spencer-magazine repeating rifles, against the Confederates muzzle-loaders, to turn the war into mass murder.

During the four years of war the Northern armies had been replenished with large-scale inductions of more than 720,000 immigrant males from Europe; who were promised bounties and pensions that the South afterwards largely had to pay (see the Union Department of War records).

Charged with detestable crimes that, it was only too well known, he could not be guilty of, Davis was unable to obtain a hearing, and finally was released. A bail bond of $100,000 had been posted for him, oddly enough, by some of the men who had been his bitterest enemies – Horace Greeley, Gerrit Smith, Vanderbilt, and others among the twenty men who pledged $5,000 each in federal court.

Davis himself thought that “. . . by reiteration of such inappropriate terms as “rebellion” and treason,” and the asseveration that the South was levying war against the United States, those ignorant of the nature of the Union, and of the reserved powers of the States, have been led to believe that the Confederate States were in the condition of revolted provinces, and that the United States were forced to resort to arms for the preservation of their existence . . . The Union was formed for specific enumerated purposes, and the States had never surrendered their sovereignty . . . It was a palpable absurdity to apply to them, or to their citizens when obeying their mandates, the terms “rebellion” and “treason”; and, further, the Confederacy, so far from making war or seeking to destroy the United States, as soon as they had an official organ, strove earnestly by peaceful recognition, to equitably adjust all questions growing out of the separation from their late associates.”

It was Lincoln who “made war.” Still another perversion, Davis thought, “was the attempted arraignment of the men who formed the Confederacy, and who bore arms in its defense, as “instigators of a controversy leading to disunion.” Of course, it was a palpable absurdity, and but part of the unholy vengeance, which did not cease at the grave.”

(The Constitutions of Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis: A Historical and Biographical Study in Contrasts, Russell H. Quynn, Exposition Press, 1959, excerpts pp. 126-128)

Another Northern General’s View of the Negro

Like many if not most Northern general officers who had not gone over to the Radicals, who saw future Republican votes and political hegemony in the freedmen, Sherman held black field hands in low esteem and predicted their demise if freed. Connecticut native Frederick Law Olmstead, who travelled through much of the South in the early 1850s found the slaves “a very poor and a very bad creature, much worse than I had supposed before. The people thus burthened [with black servants] would have need to provide systematically for the physical wants of these poor creatures, else that the latter would be liable to prey with great waste upon their substance.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Another Northern General’s View of the Negro

“General William T. Sherman, who conducted one of the most disgraceful dragonnades of modern history through the Carolinas and Georgia (January 1864-April 1865) “freeing” every Negro in sight, nevertheless had written his brother, Senator John Sherman, in July 1860: “All the Congresses on Earth cannot make the Negro anything else than what he is; he must be subject to the white man, or he must amalgamate or be destroyed . . . Two such races cannot live in harmony save as master and slave.”

Six months earlier, in December 1859, when the Abolitionists were roaring in high fettle, stamping on the floors and pounding on the desks in both houses of Congress, he had said: “I would not if I could abolish or modify slavery.”

Having stated opposite views on the matter in previous weeks, Lincoln in a different milieu, looking South with apparent sympathy, could say: “I cannot blame the Southerners for not doing what I should not know how to do myself . . . Were all earthly powers given me I would not know what to do as to the existing institution.”

Yet some years later, as if indeed all earthly powers had been given him, he took it upon himself – and wholly outside the Constitution – to declare forever “free” nearly four million uneducated, childlike blacks, not one in a thousand of whom had the least notion of what it was all about. They were suddenly propelled into a highly organized white civilization that moved and existed by the means of money, hired labor, production, consumption, and where sentiment was incongruous if not grotesque.

This was all done by a juvenile moral stature, accomplished by an outrageous ukase that no Czar of . . . [Russia] would have dared to utter.”

(The Constitutions of Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis: A Historical and Biographical Study in Contrasts, Russell H. Quynn, Exposition Press, 1959, excerpts pp. 85-86)

Intolerant Mountaineers

While the North Carolina mountains are normally described as antislavery and Unionist during the war, it was also strongly resistant to foreigners and a hotbed of Know-Nothingism imported from the North in the mid-1850s. Originally a secret, anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic and anti-party fraternal order, the “Know-Nothings” was a response to “the vast influx of immigrants” who would drive native-born Americans from northeastern cities toward the West. This immigrant invasion affected the North and was changing the electorate there from those who understood the Framers’ vision of America, to those born in European kingdoms ruled by royalty. The American South remained mostly free of such threats to the republic, and enjoyed many immigrant groups who assimilated; the new, sectional Republican party absorbed the intolerant Know-Nothings.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Intolerant Mountaineers

“At first glance, the North Carolina mountain region might have seemed infertile soil for a party dedicated to curbing the political influence of Catholics and foreigners, both of who were practically nonexistent in [the mountain] district. Nevertheless, many westerners proved susceptible to dire warnings that their democratic system of government was being threatened by hordes of immigrant criminals and paupers who owed primary allegiance to the Pope.

With their rallying cry of “Americans should rule America,” the Know-Nothings made impressive gains not only among the Whigs and boasted that their party had “arisen upon the ruins, and in spite of the opposition, of the Whigs and Democratic parties.”

But as the congressional elections of 1857 approached, the Know-Nothings – seemingly so formidable just two years earlier – now found themselves “weak, broken down, and scattered.” The party had been thoroughly demoralized by its abysmal showing in 1856 . . .”

(Thomas Lanier Clingman: Fire Eater From the Carolina Mountains, Thomas E. Jeffrey, excerpt pp. 105-107; 115)

“Could Such Men be Defeated?”

Lieutenant-Colonel Garnet J. Wolseley was sent to Canada to reinforce the existing military force after the US Navy seizure of the British mail packet Trent in November, 1861. War was expected to commence and Wolseley, who distinguished himself later in his career in the Second Ashanti War and in an effort to rescue General Charles Gordon, led 10,000 seasoned British troops in Canada. Wolseley was well-aware of the immigrant source of Lincoln’s army.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

“Could Such Men be Defeated?”

Wolseley was aware of the source of many of Lincoln’s soldiers, combed from Ireland and Germany to fight against Americans. As he called for British intervention, he also knew that his country was responsible for populating the US with Africans, over whom the war was allegedly fought by the North.

“The first British officer to visit the Confederacy had at one time expected to be fighting against the North. Lieutenant-Colonel Garnet J. Wolseley, a veteran of several of Queen Victoria’s wars, was part of a British force ordered to Canada in 1861 as a show of strength after the US Navy stopped the British mail packet Trent and seized two Confederate agents who were on board.

The threat of war receded . . . [and taking] two months leave, he travelled . . . to New York City in September 1862 . . . and crossed the Potomac [as] General Robert E. Lee’s army was withdrawing from Maryland at the conclusion of the [Sharpsburg] campaign.

Even as he entered Virginia, Wolseley was favorably disposed toward the Confederacy, ostensibly out of concern for civil liberties in the wartime North. He described residents of Maryland as “stricken . . . with terror” by arrests ordered from Washington [and declined] to describe his route through Maryland, lest he endanger those with whom he had stayed.

Travelling by train from Fredericksburg to Richmond, [the] wounded from Lee’s Maryland invasion . . . impressed even Wolseley, the professional soldier:

“Men with legs and arms amputated, and whose pale, haggard faces assumed an expression of anguish even at the slightest jolting of the railway carriages, lay stretched across the seats – some accompanied . . . by wives or sisters, whose careworn features told a tale of sleepless nights passed in painful uncertainty regarding the fate of those they loved.”

In early October, Wolseley set out for Lee’s headquarters . . . his driver was a convalescent soldier who was still in considerable discomfort. “He said his furlough was up, and he would rather die than overstay it . . . when spoken to about the war, every man in the South, were prepared to die, he said, but never to reunite with the d—d Yankees.”

The British officer was impressed [with Lee]: “He is slightly reserved; but he is a person that, whenever seen, whether in a castle or a hovel, alone or in a crowd, must at once attract attention as being a splendid specimen of an English gentleman.”

Everywhere he was impressed with the tough, dedicate Confederate soldiers. Could such men be defeated, he would ask, “by mobs of Irish and German mercenaries, hired at $15 a month to fight in a cause they know little and care less about?”

[Returning] to Britain, he wrote an article for Blackwood’s Magazine [in which] he urged the British Parliament to intervene on behalf of the South, saying that the time had come “for putting an end to the most inhuman struggle that ever disgraced a great nation.”

(British Observers in Wartime Dixie, John M. Taylor; Military History Quarterly, Winter 2002, excerpts pp. 68-69)

 

A Calming Effect at Sumter

North Carolina’s Jonathan Worth sensed that despite the sectional troubles of the latter 1850s and Lincoln’s election, “Unionist sentiment was ascendant and gaining strength until Lincoln prostrated us.” He added “the President could abandon Sumter and Pickens without any sacrifice of his principles . . .” Worth also felt that Seward’s duplicity did more that all the secessionists to drive North Carolina out the Union, as Lincoln behind the scenes pursued his aggressive policy of war.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

A Calming Effect at Sumter

“The [Confederate] commissioners were impatient to gain a hearing and get on with their negotiations. At first Seward promised to let them know how best to bring the subject of their mission before the President and the cabinet. Then he began to stall them off by saying the administration did not yet have time to deal properly with a matter so important.

The President, he explained, was “besieged” by applicants for office and was “surrounded by all the difficulties and confusion incident to the first days of a new administration.” Seward gave the commissioners to understand, however, that Sumter very soon would be evacuated anyhow.

When they demanded an informal conference with him (at no time had they and he met face to face) he said he would have to consult the President. The answer he later relayed back to them was “No, it would not be in his power to receive the gentlemen.”

The rumors Seward had started, about the early abandonment of Sumter, eventually appeared in the press. They made “great news” in the metropolitan dailies on Monday, March 11, the very day on which Lincoln, in his orders to [Gen. Winfield] Scott, reaffirmed the opposite policy – a fact which the newspapers did not report and did not know.

As the news spread, it had, on the whole, a calming effect in Richmond and elsewhere in the non-Confederate South. “The removal from Sumter,” said George W. Summers, writing on behalf of the Virginia Unionists, and writing as if the removal already were a fact, “acted like a charm – it gave us [Southern Unionists] great strength. A reaction is now going on in the State.”

In Washington, the Confederate commissioners agreed to postpone their demand for an immediate reception. They would wait, but only for a couple of weeks, until about March 28, and only on condition that the existing military status of the Union forts remain absolutely unchanged.

In Charleston, the publishers and the readers of the Charleston Mercury and the Courier rejoiced that Sumter would soon fall without a fight. “The news . . . seems to have caused an almost entire cessation of work on the batteries around us,” one of [Major] Anderson’s officers wrote to the War Department . . .”

In the city of New York, and throughout the . . . North – there was mixed reaction. Some thought the decision unfortunate but unavoidable. Some, especially Buchanan Democrats and also businessmen with Southern connections, heartily approved.”

(Lincoln and the First Shot, Richard N. Current, J.B. Lippincott Company, 1963, excerpts pp. 54-56)

 

Belligerent Public Enemies in a Territorial War

Lincoln’s unfortunate choice of a mentor on reconstruction, William Whiting of Massachusetts, below refers to the American people in the South peacefully seeking self-government as belligerent public enemies, who, when finally conquered with fire and sword, deserved no more than eternal contempt and suspicion. He further proclaims the North’s “right to hang them as murderers and pirates,” and “whatever rights are left to them besides the rights of war will be such as we choose to allow them.  He believed the Southern States had forfeited their legal status in the Union they departed, only to be dragged back in as conquered territories and a people entitled to no rights.

As far as loyal Union men of the South are concerned, and they were numerous, Lincoln refused their wise counsel to abandon Fort Sumter in early 1861 to allow time and diplomacy for the settlement of sectional differences. They, as well as former President James Buchanan, suggested calling a Constitutional Convention of the States as the proper solution for disputes. These measures would have saved a million lives, and quite possibly the Union.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Belligerent Public Enemies in a Territorial War

“Lincoln’s plan of reconstruction was built on a concept of a wartime President’s powers so extended as to transcend the points of reference of earlier chief executives. It was military reconstruction, and it was the most direct imaginable intervention of the will of the national government into the internal structure of the State’s. In terms of power, Lincoln’s reconstruction plan was radical indeed.

The fact is that Lincoln enjoyed the services as mentor – with respect to the war-swollen power potentials of his office – of a prominent champion of Radical Republicanism, an old-line Boston abolitionist, William Whiting.

Brought into the War Department as its solicitor – primarily in order to prepare briefs that the government employed to fend off suits – in Northern States and in border areas, alleging the unconstitutionality of conscription and internal security measures – Whiting was the most learned lawyer in the United States in matters of the international laws of war.

He became the natural source of legalisms in support of the reconstruction program that the President was gradually evolving out of information he gained primarily from Army and War Department sources.

Here is Whiting’s prophetic essay of July 28, 1863, issued as a letter to the Philadelphia Union League, under the title, “The Return of the Rebellious States to the Union.” Note its harmony with the Lincoln plan as issued the following December, so far as the assumption of national powers is concerned, as well as its expression of concern with respect to the untrustworthiness of a conquered South.

“As the success of the Union cause shall become more certain and apparent to the enemy, in various localities, they will lay down their arms, and cease fighting. Their bitter and deep-rooted hatred of the Government, and of all the Northern men who are not traitors, and of all Southern men who are loyal, will still remain interwoven in every fiber of their hearts, and will be made, if possible, more intense by the humiliation of conquest and subjugation.

The foot of the conqueror planted upon their proud necks will not sweeten their tempers; and their defiant and treacherous nature will seek to revenge itself in murders, assassinations and all other underhand methods of venting a spite which they dare not manifest by open war, and in driving out of their borders all loyal men.

To suppose that a Union sentiment will remain in any considerable number of men, among a people who have strained every nerve and made every sacrifice to destroy the Union, indicates dishonesty, insanity or feebleness of intellect.

Beware of committing yourselves to the fatal doctrine of recognizing the existence, in the Union, of States which have been declared by the President’s proclamation to be in rebellion. For, by this new device of the enemy – this new version of the poisonous State rights doctrine – the Secessionists will be able to get back by fraud what they failed to get by fighting. Do not permit them, without proper safeguards, to resume in your counsels, in the Senate and in the House, the power which their treason has stripped from them.

Do not allow old States, with their Constitutions still unaltered, to resume State powers.

The rebellious districts contain ten times as many traitors as loyal men. The traitors will have a vast majority of the votes. Clothed with State rights under our Constitution, they will crush out every Union man by the irresistible power of their legislation. If you would be true to the Union men of the South, you must not bind them hand and foot, and deliver them to their bitterest enemies.

Having set up a government for themselves . . . they were no longer mere insurgents and rebels, but became a belligerent public enemy. The war was no longer against “certain persons” in the rebellious States. It became a territorial war; that is to say, a war by all persons situated in the belligerent territory against the United States.”

(The Radical Republicans and Reconstruction: 1861-1870, Harold M. Hyman, Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1967, excerpts pp. 91-95)

 

Lincoln Facilitates Western Virginia Secession

In James Randall’s “Civil War and Reconstruction” of 1937 (DC Heath & Company), he writes that “In tracing the formation of West Virginia, the historian finds it necessary to go behind the printed histories, most of which follow a definite pattern and justify every step of the new-state movement as a triumph of Unionism and a vindication of popular rule . . . [but] the masses of archival and manuscript material that have come down to us reveal irregularities and extra-legal processes of such a nature that traditional conclusions will have to be abandoned.”

Randall writes further that “It is probable that, had war not supplied the impulse, no dismemberment of the State would have occurred,” and that a so-called ordinance from Wheeling on August 20, 1861, “was in reality the work of an active but limited group of seperationists in the counties near Pennsylvania and Maryland.” As the secessionists drew a map of their new “State,” the people within “had no opportunity, county by county, to determine whether they would adhere to Virginia, or join the new commonwealth” (pp. 329-330)

It is worth noting that the United States Constitution which Virginia ratified, stipulates in Article IV, Section 3: “. . . no new State shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State . . . without the Consent of the Legislature of the State concerned . . .”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Lincoln Facilitates Western Virginia Secession

“Lincoln was not opposed to secession if it served his political purposes. This fact is proven when he orchestrated the secession of western Virginia from the rest of the State and set up a puppet government of the new State of West Virginia, in Alexandria, Virginia, right across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.

His own attorney General, Edward Bates, believed that this act was unconstitutional, arguing the obvious – that States must first exist before being accepted into the Union. Neither the president or Congress had the constitutional authority to create States, for a truly free State can only be created by its people.

This was another patently undemocratic or dictatorial act that, once again, Lincoln rationalized in the name of “saving democracy.” Lincoln ignored the arguments of his attorney general as well as the words of the Constitution, but benefited in 1864 by additional electoral votes and congressional representation that was completely controlled by the Republican party in Washington, not the people of western Virginia.

Interestingly, the legislation establishing West Virginia allowed for the people of the new State to vote on a gradual emancipation program. This was Stephen Douglas’s position in the Lincoln-Douglas debates – that the new territories should be permitted to vote on whether or not they wanted slavery.”

(The Real Lincoln, A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda and an Unnecessary War, Thomas J. DiLorenzo, Forum, 2002, excerpts pp. 148-149)

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