No-one seems to have the definitive answer...yet.
The best explanation we have come across so far takes us back
to the start of the American Civil War in 1861...
At this point in history 98% (yes, 98%) of all the finished
cotton produced world-wide came from Manchester, UK and 9 out
every 10 people living in the city worked in the cotton (or
related) industries. Despite the fact that the lifeblood of
the city depended almost entirely on the cotton industry, the
working people of Manchester came together at the Free Trade
Hall on 31st December 1862 to express their support for Abraham
Lincoln and the Northern States in their fight to abolish slavery.
By supporting the Union under President Lincoln at a time when
there was an economic blockade of the Southern States, the Lancashire
cotton workers were denied access to raw cotton - the lifeblood
of the region - which caused considerable unemployment and severe
hardship throughout the cotton industry. The dates which mark
the American Civil War (1861-1865) also became known as the
time of the Lancashire Cotton Famine.
Born 12 February 1809
Assassinated 15 April,1865
President of the USA
American civil war
15 April,1861-9 April,1865
Lancashire cotton famine
The statue (above) commemorates the support that the working people of Manchester gave in the fight for the abolition of slavery during the American civil war.
By supporting the Union under President Lincoln at a time when there was an economic blockade of the southern states, the Lancashire cotton workers were denied access to raw cotton which caused considerable unemployment throughout the cotton industry.
Extracts of President Lincoln's letter to the working people of Manchester thanking them for their help are reproduced around the statue's plinth...
EXTRACT OF AN ADDRESS FROM THE WORKING PEOPLE OF MANCHESTER TO HIS EXCELLENCY ABRAHAM LINCOLN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA...
Free trade hall public meeting, 31 December 1862,
Chairman: Abel Heywood
"...the vast progress which you have made in the short space of twenty months fills us with hope that every stain on your freedom will shortly be removed,
and that the erasure of that foul blot on civilisation and Chritianity - chattel slavery - during your presidency, will cause the name of Abraham Lincoln to be honoured and revered by posterity.
We are certain that such a glorious consummation will cement Great Britain and the United States in close and enduring regards."
EXTRACT OF THE PRESIDENT'S LETTER IN RESPONSE TO THE WORKING PEOPLE OF MANCHESTER, 19 JANUARY, 1863
"...I know and deeply deplore the sufferings which the working people of Manchester and in all Europe are called to endure in this crisis. It has been often and studiously represented that the attempt to overthrow this Government which was built on the foundation of human rights, and to substitute for it one which should rest exclusively on the basis of slavery, was likely to obtain the favour of Europe.
Through the action of disloyal citizens, the working people of Europe have been subjected to a severe trial for the purpose of forcing their sanction to that attempt. Under the circumstances I cannot but regard your decisive utterances on the question as an instance of sublime Christian heroism which has not been surpassed in any age or in any country. It is indeed an energetic and re-inspiring assurance of the inherent truth and of the ultimate and universal triumph of justice, humanity and freedom.
I hail this interchange of sentiments, therefore, as an augury that, whatever else may happen, whatever misfortune may befall your country or my own, the peace and friendship which now exists between the two nations will be, as it shall be my desire to make them, perpetual."
Abraham Lincoln January 19, 1863.
As a result of the Lancashire cotton famine, many families were forced to leave the city of Manchester to find work elsewhere.
For many, life here in Manchester was no better than for those of the slaves whose cause they were now supporting.
Mortality rates for Manchester in 1851 show that fully 51% of all children died before reaching the age of fourteen. Children could be sold as the equivalent of slaves by desperate parents for a five year period of 'apprenticeship' for as little as 15/- (75p).
Such children would be set to work in the "dark, satanic mills" of Manchester and the North, nothing more than slaves. Indeed, it can be genuinely argued that the 'slaves' of Manchester endured conditions in the manufacture of cotton materials every bit as bad as the slaves of Louisiana and other American states in the South were forced to endure in the growing of the raw material itself. Anyone who doubts the truth of this statement should check the original testimonies of Mill Workers
Certainly, the mortality rate of children in Manchester in the mid-nineteenth century was higher than in the slave plantations of America, for Manchester in those days was only a wonderful city to behold if you were fortunate enough to have been born into money or were a part of the 'ruling class'.
"Certainly Manchester is the most wonderful city of modem times."
(From "Coningsby" by Benjamin Disraeli, 1844.)
But if you happened to be born with no money behind you, as part of the new working (as opposed to agricultural) class, then Manchester was the most horrific hell-hole yet devised by man anywhere on the planetů
" But the most horrible spot .... lies....immediately south west of Oxford Road and is known as Little Ireland. The race that lives in these ruinous cottages, behind broken windows, mended with oilskin, sprung doors, and rotten door-posts, or in dark, wet cellars, in measureless filth and stench....must surely have reached the lowest stage of humanity."
(From " The Condition of the Working Class in England" by Frederick Engels, 1847).
For it was here that the first industrial city in the world was born. Non-existent labour regulations, coupled with an explosive growth in population and consequent high availability of cheap and willing labour led to cotton-mill workers being exploited to the point of abject slavery. And this is the real reason why the people of Manchester were the only people in Europe only too keen to support President Lincoln and the North in the fight against slavery...because in freeing American slaves they saw a chance that they too could one day be free men also, (see below).
As the first industrial city in the world, Manchester drew the great minds and thinkers of the age. Some, like Disraeli left in wonder, but others, like Karl Marx left in rage. It is said that Marx met his fellow friend and intellectual Frederick Engels at Chethams Library, Manchester, having witnessed first-hand the horrors of the shanty-town known as 'Little Ireland' which had sprung up on Oxford Road to house the ever growing numbers of mill workers. Marx is said to have slammed his fist down so hard in rage onto the heavy oak library table that the indentation caused can still be seen to this day. Marx determined that there had to be a better way for men to live and work together than the unfettered capitalism red in tooth and claw that he witnessed in Manchester. And so the seeds of Communism were sown in a library in Manchester.
As the Smiths song rightly notes, "Manchester, so much to answer for."
So it was natural that having lived and endured in such poor conditions in the dark, dank cotton factories and mills of Manchester, that the more adventurous Mancunians decided to try life in `the new world'.
The West was opening up. Lincoln and the northern states, by 1865, had won the war to abolish slavery, becoming the first country in the world to establish the concept of "equal rights for all."
America must have seemed a very beguiling country of refuge to every oppressed worker and semi-slave in Manchester by April 1865. And so those that could afford the fare made their way to Liverpool and thence to a new life in the land of the free, the truly free (when compared to the feudal society still prevalent in Britain at that time).
With them they took a name - Manchester.
Because Manchester, like Lincoln's brave new world, stood
for freedom of speech, freedom of thought, freedom of trade
and freedom to aspire.
It seems, as the old saying goes, that `you can take people out of Manchester but you can't take Manchester out of the people'.
Is this why so many Manchesters sprang up in America after 1862?
If you happen to come from any of the other Manchesters dotted
about the globe we would really like to hear from you, particularly
if you have any details on how your
Manchester came to get its name (and on what date, if possible).
Please send your e-mails to firstname.lastname@example.org