2139
2139
Abraham Lincoln
AUTOGRAPH LETTER SIGNED ("A. LINCOLN") AS SIXTEENTH PRESIDENT, TO MAJOR GENERAL ROBERT C. SCHENCK, ATTESTING TO THE LOYALTY OF FRANCIS THOMAS OF MARYLAND
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2139
Abraham Lincoln
AUTOGRAPH LETTER SIGNED ("A. LINCOLN") AS SIXTEENTH PRESIDENT, TO MAJOR GENERAL ROBERT C. SCHENCK, ATTESTING TO THE LOYALTY OF FRANCIS THOMAS OF MARYLAND
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Fine Manuscript and Printed Americana

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Abraham Lincoln
AUTOGRAPH LETTER SIGNED ("A. LINCOLN") AS SIXTEENTH PRESIDENT, TO MAJOR GENERAL ROBERT C. SCHENCK, ATTESTING TO THE LOYALTY OF FRANCIS THOMAS OF MARYLAND
One page (8 x 5 in.; 203 x 127 mm) on a bifolium of Executive Mansion letterhead, Washington, 31 May 1863; very lightly soiled, short fold separations, mounting remnants on verso of second leaf.
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President Lincoln vouches for a Maryland Unionist Congressman. Lincoln had served in Congress together with fellow Whig Robert C. Schenck in the 1840s and made Schenck a Major General at the beginning of the war. Severely wounded at the Second Battle of Bull Run in August 1862, Schenck was given command of the Middle Department. He firmly supported the Unconditional Unionists from his headquarters in Baltimore—where this letter was dispatched—and despite the necessity of tact in the politically sensitive border state of Maryland, had little tolerance for middle ground.

In July 1861, Secretary of War Simon Cameron, with the president’s encouragement, had authorized Congressman (and former Maryland Governor) Francis Thomas to raise four regiments of loyal citizens from western Maryland for the protection of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. A month later, Thomas recommended and Lincoln endorsed three officers for the 1st Maryland Regiment, Potomac Home Guard.

In early September 1862, Thomas sent Lincoln a lengthy private letter (now in the Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress: “Our acquaintance is very limited … [and] it may be presumptuous, in me, to write this letter.” Nevertheless, he continued, “In my humble judgment, all the evils now threatening seriously the utter ruin of the country, are to be traced, to the error consumatted in the organization of your Cabinet. There is not, so far as my knowledge extends, at the head of any one of the Departments, a single individual who has come into your Administration, under the right influences. …” “Now I have watched, with the deepest anxiety,” Thomas informed Lincoln, “all, or nearly all of your difficulties have their origin in the fact that you have Presidential aspirants in your cabinet, and Presidential aspirants, in your own party, outside of your cabinet, all of whom have their partisans in the Senate and House of Representatives.”

Lincoln's masterful management of his "team of rivals" averted a cabinet crisis, and he also solidified Thomas support. The Cumberland, Maryland, Civilian and Telegraph of 30 April 1863, reported on an address Thomas gave at a mass meeting of Unconditional Union men of Allegany County, Maryland. Thomas “accorded to President Lincoln the purest motives, and a patriotic determination to crush the rebellion and restore peace and prosperity to the country.... He said that power and responsibility must rest somewhere, and that he was willing to confide in the President, and sustain him to the fullest extent, in carrying out the measures adopted by Congress for prosecuting the war. He spoke of the emancipation proclamation of the President as a retaliatory measure for the confiscation acts of the southern conspirators, and said it was a war measure calculated to subdue the rebels who had raised the standard of rebellion, without any justifiable cause....”

A month later, Lincoln sent the present endorsement of Thomas to General Schenck:

"I have been requested to say, what I very truly can, that I esteem Gov. Francis Thomas, as an able, and very true man. I do not know that he agrees with me in everything—perhaps he does not; but he has given me evidence of sincere friendship, & as I think, of patriotism."

Whether this letter was solicited by Thomas is not known; it is known, however, that he and Schenck frequently disagreed about application of loyalty tests and the treatment of supposed Southern sympathizers. In December 1863, Schenck resigned from the army and became a colleague of Thomas after winning a Congressional seat from Ohio.

 

Fine Manuscript and Printed Americana

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