Abraham Lincoln to Richard F. Barrett, 17 April 18401Springfield, Ills. April 17th 1840Dear Doctor:
Do not fail to procure a copy of the Journal of the New York Convention of 1821.2 I sometimes see the Debates of the New York Convention referred to, and I am not sure whether the Journal & Debates are one & the same, or distinct— If they are distinct, try to procure both— I would not miss your getting them for a hundred dollars— If they can not be found in New York City, they certainly can in Albany— I would be glad if you could also procure the Journal of the New York Senate for the fall session of 1812—
If you get the Journals mentioned, bring them with you on your return, unless you can send them sooner by some entirely safe conveyance—3
Write me on the receipt of this—Your friend, as everA. LincolnP. S. Your Brother has been nominated for the Legislature by the Locos, after all— Whether he will accept or not is not yet certain; but I presume he will—6A. L.
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2Lincoln does not make it clear to which convention he is referring, but it was probably the New York Constitution Convention of 1821. Lincoln was perhaps interested in Martin Van Buren’s role in that gathering. During the presidential campaign of 1840, Lincoln sought to counter the Democratic claim that William Henry Harrison was an abolitionist by repeating an accusation, originally made in the 1836 election, that Van Buren endorsed enfranchisement for free blacks during the 1821 convention. Lincoln perhaps hoped to further substantiate his claims using the journal/debates.
Nathaniel H. Carter, William L. Stone, and Marcus T. C. Gould, Reports of the Proceedings and Debates of the Convention of 1821, Assembled for the Purpose of Amending the Constitution of the State of New York (Albany, NY: E. and E. Hosford, 1821); Sidney Blumenthal, A Self-Made Man: A Political Life of Abraham Lincoln, 1809-1849 (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2016), 206.
3 Barrett was in New York City in his capacity as fund commissioner--a position created by the General Assembly in an act passed on February 1, 1840, to replace the three-person Board of Fund Commissioners created by the Internal Improvement Act to negotiate loans, buy and sell bonds, deposit and withdraw money, and administer the various fiscal aspects of the internal improvement program The General Assembly elected Barrett to the post on the same day that it passed the act, with Lincoln voting for Barrett. In March, Barrett went to New York City to settle the debts and liabilities of the internal improvement system, which had put the state in dire financial straits in the aftermath of the Panic of 1837.
Illinois House Journal. 1839. 11th G. A., special sess., 334-36; Sangamo Journal (Springfield, IL), 6 March 1840, 2:1.
4Lincoln spoke at Whig Party rallies at Carlinville and Belleville, Illinois, on April 6 and 11, respectively.
Sangamo Journal (Springfield, IL), 17 April 1840, 2:7.
5In February 1840, the Council of Revision approved an act passed by the General Assembly incorporating Springfield as a city. On April 6, citizens of Springfield accepted the new city charter by the vote Lincoln recorded.
Sangamo Journal (Springfield, IL), 10 April 1840, 2:1.
6James W. Barrett did accept the nomination, tallying 1211 votes in the election held in August, ranking him the third highest Democrat in votes behind John Calhoun (1266) and Jesse B. Thomas, Jr (1241).
Theodore C. Pease, ed., Illinois Election Returns, 1818-1848, vol. 18 of Collections of the Illinois State Historical Library (Springfield: Illinois State Historical Library, 1923), 344.
Autograph Letter Signed, 2 page(s), Rosenbach Museum and Library (Philadelphia, PA).