Abraham Lincoln to William Butler, 1 February 18391Vandalia, Feb: 1. 1839Friend Butler:
Your letter enclosing one to Mr Baker, was received on yesterday evening—2 There is no necessity for any bad feeling between Baker & yourself— Your first letter to him was written while you were in a state of high excitement, and therefore ought not to have been construed as an emination of deliberate malice— Unfortunately ^however^ it reached Baker while he was writhing under a severe tooth-ache, and therefore he at that time was incapable of exercising that patience and reflection which the case required— The note he sent you was written while in that state of feeling, and for that reason I think you ought not to pay any serious regard to it— It is always magnanamous to recant whatever we may have said in passion; and when you and Baker shall have done this, I am sure there will no difficulty ^be^ left between you— I write this without Bakers knowledge; and I do it because nothing would be more painful to me than to see a difficulty between two of my most particular friends—3
About your dissatisfaction in relation to the South East county I will now say that I all the while laboured under a mistake—4 When I wrote to Frink & Murphy that I would go for their county, I only meant that I would go for giving them a county as against Springfield & the old county; and it never occurred to me that I was pledging myself to one party of the new-county men against another, for I did not then know they were divided into parties— When I consented for the lines to approach Springfield nearer than the petition asked, I really thought I was confering a favour upon the new-county— And, by the way, if you will ^compare^ examine Frink's petition with the lines as they now stand, you will
<Page 2>see that there is but three quarters of a township more taken from Sangamon county than the petition asked for; and as to that ^the^ part from Montgomery, I have before told you we could not control that—5
No news here now—Your friend as everA. Lincoln
<Page 4>Mr Wm ButlerSpringfieldIllinois
1Abraham Lincoln wrote the body of the letter, his signature, and the address. William Butler penned the docketing.
3Butler had written Lincoln and Baker on January 21 and 22, respectively, criticizing them for their position on the division of Sangamon County. His letters were precipitated by the House of Representatives passing a bill dividing part of Sangamon County into three counties. Lincoln and Baker opposed division of Sangamon County, but as the first session of the Eleventh General Assembly proceeded, some division appeared inevitable. The general consensus was to divide the county into four equal counties, substantially decreasing the size of Sangamon and isolating it in the corner of one of the new counties. Using his position on the Committee on Counties, Lincoln hoped to divide the county in such a manner that Sangamon would not be disadvantaged. On January 16, 1839, Lincoln introduced a bill dividing Sangamon into three counties. The House passed the bill on January 21, creating the three small counties of Logan, Dane, and Menard, and leaving Sangamon relatively large. Butler accused Lincoln and Baker of kowtowing to land speculators. Lincoln’s response to Butler was much more conciliatory than Baker’s response. Butler’s subsequent response to Lincoln has not survived, while a copy of his subsequent response to Baker, dated January 29, has been preserved. Butler apologizes, writing that he had written “under misapprehension,” and that “it was not my intention to insult you or any of my friends though under the misapprehension I felt myself badly treated.” Baker was apparently not satisfied, for on February 28 Butler professed “I am willing to meet you as we parted at which time I hope for such mutual concessions as will enable us to remain as we ever have been if you still persist in a different course I can regret it.”
Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 1:145-46; Abraham Lincoln to William Butler; Edward D. Baker to William Butler; Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1953), 1:141-42.
Autograph Letter Signed, 4 page(s), Lincoln Collection, Chicago Historical Society (Chicago, IL)