Thursday, January 31, 2008
From today's edition of the Springfield (Illinois) Journal-Register comes the news that a long-lost letter written by Abraham Lincoln has been discovered in the National Archives in College Park, Maryland.
Written on October 22, 1864, the subject of the letter is Lincoln's response to various individuals who were complaining about voter eligibility requirements in Tennessee for the presidential election of 1864. Lincoln's running mate (and successor just a few months later), Andrew Johnson, was then serving as the military governor of Tennessee. Johnson required that any voters wishing to cast their ballots in the election would have to swear a loyalty oath to the Union and required additional steps of them as well. This tactic helped to assure Lincoln's re-election. Supporters of Lincoln's Democrat opponent, George B. McClellan, expressed outrage over these oaths and the other measures instituted by Johnson. They felt the requirements were too stringent and intimidated voters into voting for Lincoln.
Lincoln's response was politically brilliant, as always. In the letter, Lincoln wrote "I decline to interfere in any way with any presidential election." He then summarized his arguments for letting the states and Congress sort out any concerns about the election. Thus, he put the Democrats' arguments for "States' Rights" back on them. If the Federal Government shouldn't have interfered with the states for any reason, then why should it for this issue as well? And he also ended up defending his running mate's actions without basically doing anything. Impressive.
Historians have known about this letter for many years since the text of it is included in The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. But until now, the whereabouts of the original letter were unknown. A researcher for the Springfield-based "Papers Of Abraham Lincoln" organization found the letter while going through other documents at the National Archives in College Park.
The photo I included with this post is of the second of the letter's four pages. You can see all of the photos at the Papers Of Abraham Lincoln.
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 8:28 AM