Abraham Lincoln to Usher F. Linder, 22 March 18481Washington, March 22– 1848–Friend Linder:
Yours of the 15th is just received, as was a day or two ago, one from Dunbar on the same subject–2 Although I address this to you alone, I intend it for you Dunbar, and Bishop, and wish you to show it to them– In Dunbar's letter, and in Bishop's paper, it is assumed that Mr Crittenden's position on the war is correct–3 Well, so I think– Please wherein is my position different from his? Has he ever approved the President's conduct in the beginning of the war, or his mode or objects in prossecuting it? Never– He condemns both– True, he votes supplies, and so do I– What, then, is the difference, except that he is a great man and I am a small one?4
Towards the close of your letter you ask three questions, the first of which is "Would it not have been just as easy to have elected Genl Taylor without opposing the war as by opposing it?"5 I answer, I suppose it would, if you ^we^ could do neither—could be silent on the question; but the Locofocos here will not let the whigs be silent– Their very first act in congress was to present a preamble declaring that war existed by the act of Mexico, and the whigs were obliged to vote on it–6 and this policy is followed up by them; so that they are compelled to speak and their only option is whether they will, when they do speak, tell the truth, or tell a foul, villainous, and bloody falsehood– But, while on this point, I protest against you calling the condemnation of
<Page 2>Polk, "opposing the war"– In thus assuming that all must be opposed ^to the war, ^ even though they vote supplies, who do not not endorse Polk, with due deference I say I think you fall into one of the artfully set traps of Locofocoism–
Your next question is "And suppose we could succeed in proving it a wicked and unconstitutional war, do we not thereby strip Taylor and Scott of more than half their laurels?" Whether it would so strip them is not matter of demonstration, but of opinion only; and my opinion is that it would not; but as your opinion seems to be different, let us call in some others as umpire– There are in this H. R. some more than forty members who support Genl[General] Taylor for the Presidency, every one of whom have^has^ voted that the war was "unnecessarily and unconstitionally commenced by the President" every one of whom has spoken to the same effect, who has spoken at all, and not one of whom supposes he thereby strips Genl of any laurels– More than this; two of these, Col. Haskell and Major Gaines, themselves fought in Mexico; and yet they vote and speak just as the rest of us do, without ever dreaming that they "strip" themselves of any laurels– There may be others, but Capt[Captain] Bishop is the only intelligent whig who has been to Mexico, that I have heard of taking different ground–
Your third questions is "And have we as a party, ever gained any thing by falling in company with abolitionists?" Yes– We gained our only national victory by falling in company with them in the election of Genl Harrison– Not that we fell into abolition doctrines; but that we
<Page 3>took up a man whose position induced them to join us in his election– But this question is not so significant as a question, as it is as a charge of abolitionism against those who have chosen to speak their minds against the President– As you and I perhaps would again differ as to the justice of this charge, let us once more call in our umpire– There are in this H. R.[House of Representatives] whigs from the slave states as follows: one from Louisiana, one from Mississippi, one from Florida, two from Alabama, four from Georgia, five from Tennessee, six from Kentucky, six from North Carolina, six from Virginia, four from Maryland and one from Delaware, making thirtyseven in all, and all slave-holders, every one of whom votes the commencement of the war "unnecessary and unconstitutional" and so falls subject to your charge of abolitionism!–7
"En passant" these are all Taylor men, except one in Tenn[Tennessee]– two in Ky[Kentucky], one in N.C.[North Carolina] and one in Va[Virginia]– Besides which we have one in Ills– two in Ia, three in Ohio, five in Penn– four in N.J. and one in Conn– While this is less than half the whigs of the H.R. it is three times as great as the strength of any other one candidate–
You are mistaken in your impression that any one has communicated expressions of yours and Bishop's to me– In my letter to Dunbar, I only spoke from the impression made by seeing in the paper that you and he were, "in the degree, though not in the extreme" on the same tack with Latshaw–Yours as everA. Lincoln
Linder about Gen Taylor
Linder about Gen Taylor
2Neither Usher F. Linder’s letter of March 15, nor Alexander P. Dunbar’s letter of an unknown date, has been located.
3William W. Bishop edited the Republican and the Courier, Whig newspapers in Charleston, Illinois.
Franklin William Scott, Newspapers and Periodicals of Illinois, 1814-1879, vol. 6 of Collections of the Illinois State Historical Library (Springfield: Illinois State Historical Library, 1910), 50; Abraham Lincoln to William H. Herndon.
4John J. Crittenden opposed the war and the Polk administration’s territorial ambitions, but consistently voted for measures to prosecuted the war. Crittenden’s reputation and statute allowed this seeming contradiction; in fact, Lincoln was much less temperate than Crittenden in his condemnation of the war and President Polk.
Albert D. Kirwan, John J. Crittenden: The Struggle for the Union (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1962), 196-97.
5Lincoln 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.
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), 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.
6Lincoln references the preamble in Congress’s declaration of war with Mexico enacted on May 13, 1846. When Democrats in both the House of Representatives and the Senate included this preamble in the bill raising troops and supplies to conduct the war, the Whigs faced a dilemma. Knowing the fate of the Federalist Party for opposing the War of 1812, most congressional Whigs recognized that it was essential for their political survival to appropriate men and material to carry the war to a successful conclusion, but bristled at the idea of exonerating Polk for his culpability for instigating the conflict. In the end, only fourteen of seventy-seven Whigs in the House and two of twenty-four in the Senate voted against the bill of May 13, 1846.
“An Act providing for the Prosecution of the Existing War Between the United States and the Republic of Mexico,” 13 May 1846, Statutes at Large of the United States 9 (1862):9-10; Michael F. Holt, The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party: Jacksonian Politics and the Onset of the Civil War, 233.
7The Whigs from slave states were as follows: Bannon G. Thibodeaux from Louisiana; Patrick W. Tompkins from Mississippi; Edward C. Cabell from Florida; John Gayle and Henry W. Hilliard from Alabama; Alexander H. Stephens, Robert A. Toombs, Thomas B. King, and John W. Jones from Georgia; William M. Cocke, John H. Crozier, Meredith P. Gentry, Washington Barrow, and William T. Haskell from Tennessee; Aylette Buckner, John B. Thompson, Green Adams, W. Garnett Duncan, Charles S. Morehead, and John P. Gaines from Kentucky; Thomas L. Clingman, Nathaniel Boyden, Daniel M. Barringer, Augustine H. Shepperd, Richard S. Donnell, and David Outlaw from North Carolina; Thomas S. Flournoy, William L. Goggin, John M. Botts, John S. Pendleton, William B. Preston, and Andrew S. Fulton from Virginia; John G. Chapman, J. Dixon Roman, Alexander Evans, and John W. Crisfield from Maryland, and John W. Houston from Delaware.
Kenneth C. Martis, The Historical Atlas of Political Parties in the United States Congress, 1789-1989 (New York: MacMillan, 1989), 100.
Autograph Letter Signed, 4 page(s), Box 3, Lincoln Collection, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (Springfield, IL)