I HOPE Edinburgh City Council and the group who compiled the wording on its Melville Monument plaque watched the recent PBS America six-part TV series Divided We Stand. Portraying Abraham Lincoln's life, it revealed parallels with Melville's position in abolishing the UK's slave trade.

Lincoln was always anti-slavery but in early life was no instant abolitionist. Despite his friendship with the great black reformer Frederick Douglass, he did not accept that blacks could become US citizens or that both races could co-exist in one nation, but advocated blacks' repatriation and colonisation in Africa. In Congress in 1847-49 he drafted a compensation bill for slave owners, not slaves, as in the UK.

As president in 1861 he argued with Douglass and white abolitionists that compromise, time and practicality were essential. He wanted to bring the Confederate states with their slavery back into the Union, under "Freedom national, slavery local" (though would not permit new slave states joining the Union).

Until his Emancipation Proclamation in January 1863 his war policy was solely to maintain the Union. Only thereafter did the Civil War also become a war against slavery, but even then not for morality but to increase the chance of victory. His freedoms applied only to the seceding Confederacy; the four northern slave states in the Union kept their 800,000 slaves and slavery laws.

Despite the Gettysburg/Vicksburg victories in July 1863 the Union forces still faced strong Confederate opposition. Lincoln knew that with the war continuing he could lose the presidency in November 1864, thereby threatening both the Union and the limited progress achieved on slavery. Only in January 1865, after Sherman's Atlanta victory probably ensured his re-election success, did he finally support the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery (almost entirely); and blacks were given full citizens' rights in law by 1870 (after his assassination).

Thus Lincoln's views on slavery and abolition developed over time. He knew that abolition depended on the population's and legislators' acceptance, just as Henry Dundas, Viscount Melville, did here in the 1790s. Ethically, both were anti-slavery.

The reinstalled plaque's wording sadly does not reflect the spirit of Lincoln's 1865 inauguration oration "With malice towards none, with charity for all", but gives an unfair, partial, misleading view of Melville rather than the balanced "whole truth" he and such a critical period in our history deserve, for our citizens' and visitors' enlightenment. Would those responsible treat Lincoln with such malice?

John Birkett, St Andrews.

The danger of banning alcohol

THE Mexicans have a saying, “I am responsible for me”. Max Cruickshank (Letters, April 22) should embrace that; in fact he probably has. His tirade claiming shops selling alcohol are part of the problem is ludicrous. The USA introduced Prohibition in the last century, how did that go?

It’s the same with any legal drug and indeed illegal drugs. People make choices and if it’s not legal then we simply create black markets and criminality.

I have a vested interest. I have sold alcohol for over 40 years and have never felt guilty any more than someone selling sugary foods, gambling or tobacco would. This nanny state that we’ve created has been an unmitigated disaster and solved nothing.

The growth of cocaine as a recreational drug is endemic across Scotland. The key to helping people avoid excess is education and encouraging responsible drinking.

Let me stress I do not want to see people damaged by excessive drinking or any other drug but controlling availability will never solve the problem.

John Gilligan, Ayr.

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Malta shows the way for ferries

WE have just returned from a most wonderful holiday on Malta, an island which is nearly as good as Arran. The big difference is that Malta and Gozo have a ferry service which works.

Four smallish, push-me, pull-you ferries ply non-stop across the channel, even in a gale, (at least, it was a gale, or worse, when we crossed), straight in and straight back out with no time-consuming manoeuvring, behind very adequate breakwaters.

They carry 900 passengers and up to 160 cars, have a perfectly adequate coffee cabin and shop, and are supremely efficient.

Perhaps the so-called experts of CMAL and Transport Scotland should take a trip to Malta to see how a ferry service should be run. They have wasted so much taxpayers’ money so far, but such a trip would certainly not be.

John NE Rankin, Bridge of Allan.

Glasgow needs a change of heart

MARK Smith's article "11 great Glasgow buildings we could be about to lose (Herald Magazine, April 20) painted a depressingly familiar picture. In any so-called developed country such properties would be viewed as possibilities and not liabilities by any local council with drive and ambition. Sadly this does not apply to Glasgow City Council, which displays an abysmal lack of such qualities.

The usual scenario is of gradual decline (no security available, it seems), subject to vandalism and eventually set on fire by some of the moronic young males who view these as ideal arson targets so as to brighten up their sad lives.

A change of heart and direction are badly needed.

David Simpson, Glasgow.

Poles apart

IN today’s Quick Crossword (The Herald, April 23), one of the clues was “…… pole, Native American religious object”. This is an error: the totem poles, a culture item unique to the highly distinctive civilisations of the North-West Pacific Coast, have no religious function. They commemorate the lineage and history of clans or individual families, depicting animals in the clan’s supposed ancestry; and thus have a significance more comparable to family coats of arms in European tradition than to any kind of religious icon.

Derrick McClure, Aberdeen.

The Herald: Native totem poles in Stanley Park, Vancouver.Native totem poles in Stanley Park, Vancouver. (Image: Getty)

AI ... oh

GORDON Fisher's very good letter headed "This complaint what I have" , written in a Glasgow hostelry (April 23), far outdoes anything AI can produce. On asking ChatGPT to generate a sentence using mangled English grammar, I was presented with the tame and disappointing " Me go store yesterday buy milk and bread".

Perhaps we do not have as much to fear as we thought from Artificial Intelligence.

David Miller, Milngavie.