Abraham Lincoln to Walter Davis, 26 June 18481Washington, June 26. 1848–Dear Walter:
Your letter of the 16. was received last night– I have just separated the business half of it from the other, and sent it to the 2nd Auditor with the request that he will attend to it and notify me– The papers you express some wish to have returned, I suppose will have to remain on file as vouchers– I will look further into it however–2
Your political news is particularly gratifying– Dont be alarmed by the accounts of whig defection in Ohio, New-York & New England– Barn-burnerism, among the locos, will more than match it–3 We hear such news as you write, from most all quarters, and we are all in high spirits–4 Give my good will to Jack, and the other friends–Yours as ever–A. Lincoln
2Correspondence between Abraham Lincoln and Walter Davis, in the spring of 1848, indicates that Lincoln was offering Davis and his mother, Maria Davis, assistance in getting pension and land warrants due Thomas Davis, Walter’s brother, who died in battle during his service in the Mexican War. Land claims came under provisions of section nine of an act passed by Congress on February 11, 1847. Section five of an act passed on July 19, 1848 gave three-months extra pay to all soldiers who engaged in military service during the Mexican War who completed their term of enlistment or had been honorably discharged. For those who had died in battle or died subsequent to service, the money would go to their relatives.
Abraham Lincoln to Walter Davis; Certification of Abraham Lincoln to Commissioner of Pensions Concerning Thomas Davis; Walter Davis to Abraham Lincoln; Abraham Lincoln to Walter Davis; “An Act to Raise for a Limited Time an Additional Military Force, and for Other Purposes,” 11 February 1847, Statutes at Large of the United States 9 (1862):125-26; “An Act to Amend an Act Entitled ‘An Act Supplemental to an Act Entitled, ‘An Act providing for the Prosecution of the Existing War Between the United States and the Republic of Mexico,’’ and for Other Purposes,” 19 July 1848, Statutes at Large of the United States 9 (1862):248; James L. Edwards to Maria Davis in Care of Abraham Lincoln.
3Barnburners” were Democrats who supported Martin Van Buren. Lincoln was no doubt referring to anti-slavery and some regular Whigs who condemned the nomination of Zachary Taylor, a southern slaveholder with no previous affiliation with the Whigs, as the party’s candidate in the presidential campaign of 1848. Many Whigs viewed Taylor’s nomination as an abandonment of Whig principles and, as an act of protest, Henry Clay and many others refused to endorse Taylor and participate in the campaign. Accusations that Taylor was not a Whig plagued his campaign, and Lincoln and other Taylorite Whigs, lead by John J. Crittenden, spent the summer and fall of 1848 working to convince party faithful and neutrals of the general’s Whig bona fides. Lincoln was also referring to disgruntled Democrats who opposed the nomination of Lewis Cass as the Democratic Party standard bearer. For some “Conscience” Whigs and disaffected Democrats, these nominations proved the last straw, and they began making plans for an anti-slavery party. Conscience Whigs and Van Buren Democrats came together to form the Free Soil Party. The party held a convention in Buffalo in August and nominated Van Buren for president.
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), 333-39; K. Jack Bauer, Zachary Taylor: Soldier, Planter, Statesman of the Old Southwest (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1985), 243-44.
4Lincoln proved prescient regarding New York: Taylor won the state and its vital thirty-six electoral votes with 47.9% of the popular vote, to 25.1% for Cass and 26.4% for Van Buren.
Lincoln’s forecast for Ohio and New England proved less accurate. Ohio followed most of the Old Northwest and went for Cass, giving him 47% of the vote to Taylor’s 42.1% and Van Buren’s 10.8%.
In New England, Taylor won in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Vermont, with Cass winning in Maine and New Hampshire. Taylor only received an absolute majority, however, in Rhode Island, and Cass only in New Hampshire. The Free Soil Party made significant inroads in their respective majorities, indicating the growing influence of anti-slavery rhetoric in the region.
Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 1:280-84; John L. Moore, Jon P. Preimesberger, and David R. Tarr, eds., Congressional Quarterly’s Guide to U.S. Elections, 4th ed. (Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2001), 1:650, 733.
Autograph Letter Signed, 1 page(s), Nicholas H. Noyes Collection of Historical Americana, Cornell University (Ithaca, NY)