Gustav Niebuhr, author of the new book on Bishop Henry Whipple’s efforts to lobby Lincoln for better treatment of the Dakota Indians which we featured in the last post, has a piece in The Los Angeles Times about Whipple’s influence on Lincoln and the fate of the Indians condemned to hang after the 1862 uprising:
The Founding Fathers had good reasons for explicitly barring government from inserting itself into matters of religion. But nothing in the Constitution forbids a president from consulting with clerics, and meetings between presidents and religious figures have, on occasion, helped shape history.
One such time came when an Episcopal Church bishop traveled to Washington from Minnesota to try to persuade Abraham Lincoln to make wholesale changes in the corrupt and brutal ways the federal government treated Native Americans. The entreaty may well have saved hundreds of Dakota Indians from execution — and the nation from a huge injustice.