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A Call for Transparency in 1849

October 28, 2013
by Jacque Porte

On April 21st, 1849, Abraham Lincoln was not yet president, and yet he was ahead of his presidential position and ahead of his time in calling for transparency in government. A recently-discovered letter from then Congressman Lincoln is up for sale for $80,000 (an excellent Christmas present for your beau).

“Now I request you… and everybody else, to get up a full and fair meeting of the Whigs (and Democrats too if you think fit) within the limits accommodated by that office; and give a decisive expression,” wrote Lincoln. “Let it be public, full, and fair. No cliqueism or cheatery about it.”

Experts have emphasized how the letter offers a rare glimpse into Lincoln’s early political career, but far more intriguing is his stress on public meetings. Transparency is certainly not a new idea, and it seems clear from this letter that Lincoln would have approved of the technological advances that allow citizens to access meetings and information.

This might be an excellent time to mention that the very site at which you are reading this article can connect you to the top choice in transparency-providers, where your local municipality or school can stream live meetings, post agendas and other documentation, and provide a searchable database for citizens. But we’re more subtle than that.

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