Abraham Lincoln to Usher F. Linder, 20 February 18481
Dear Linder:
In law it is good policy to never plead what you need not, lest you oblige yourself to prove what you can not– Reflect on this well before you proceed– The application I mean to make of this rule is, that you should simply go for Genl Taylor; because by this, you can take some democrats, and lose no whigs; but if you go also for Mr Polk on the origin and mode of prossecuting the war, you will still take some democrats, but you will lose more whigs, so that in the sum of the opperation you will be loser–2 This is at least my opinion; and if you will look round, I doubt, if you do not discover such to be the fact amongst your own neighbors– Further than this: By justifying Mr Polk's mode of prossecuting the war, you put yourself in opposition to Genl[General] Taylor himself, for we all know he has declared for, and, in fact originated, the defensive line policy–3
You know I mean this in kindness, and I wish it to be confidential–
Yours as everA. Lincoln

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Gen Taylor
1Abraham Lincoln wrote and signed this letter.
2Lincoln references the movement to draft Zachary Taylor as the Whig Party’s candidate in the presidential election of 1848. Lincoln had been actively working to advance Taylor’s candidacy as a member of the so-called “Young Indians,” a Whig Executive Committee founded by Truman Smith in the spring of 1847 to provide the Whig Party with a unified national organization for the imminent presidential campaign. Including principally but not exclusively Southern Whigs, the Young Indians made it their goal to nominate Zachary Taylor as the Whig Party standard bearer in 1848. Some Whigs condemned the movement for Taylor, a southern slaveholder who had no previous political affiliation, as an abandonment of Whig principles. Taylor’s insistence on an independent candidacy, separate from party affiliation, further eroded his following among the party faithful, including Henry Clay, the party’s standard bearer in the 1844 election and was still the nominal head of the party.
Abolitionists, peace advocates, anti-slavery reformers, Whigs, and even some Democrats opposed the Mexican War and criticized President James K. Polk for its origins and conduct. Criticism centered in Congress, where Whigs and anti-war Democrats attacked the president. Lincoln himself questioned the war’s origins in his spot resolutions of December 22, 1847, and delivered a scathing attack on Polk in a speech made on January 12, 1848. Whigs hoped to capitalize on opposition to Polk’s war policy and territorial expansion in the southwest to win the presidency in 1848.
Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 1:275-76; Holman Hamilton, Zachary Taylor: Soldier in the White House (Hamden, CT: Archon, 1966), 63-64; Michael F. Holt, The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party: Jacksonian Politics and the Onset of the Civil War (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 248-51, 255-57, 309-30, 333-39; K. Jack Bauer, Zachary Taylor: Soldier, Planter, Statesman of the Old Southwest (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1985), 233-34; Robert W. Johannsen, To the Halls of the Montezumas: The Mexican War in the American Imagination (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985), 275-87; Paul H. Bergeron, The Presidency of James K. Polk (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1987), 85-91.
3Taylor and the Polk administration clashed repeatedly during the war over strategy and war aims, particularly over territorial acquisition, which Taylor wished to limit, in opposition to the intentions of President Polk and many Democrats. Polk sharply rebuked Taylor for the armistice enacted after the Battle of Monterrey and blamed Taylor for American losses at the Battle of Buena Vista. He also gutted Taylor’s army to outfit the expedition against Veracruz. Taylor came to believe his disfavor was due less to his generalship than to his growing popularity and threat as a potential presidential candidate.
Elbert B. Smith, The Presidencies of Zachary Taylor and Millard Fillmore (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1988), 35-39; K. Jack Bauer, Zachary Taylor: Soldier, Planter, Statesman of the Old Southwest, 185, 186, 187, 189, 210-13, 217-18.

Autograph Letter Signed, 2 page(s), Andre De Coppet Collection, Princeton University (Princeton, NJ).