Abraham Lincoln to Josiah M. Lucas, 25 April 18492Springfield Ills. April 25, 1849.J. M Lucas, Esq[Esquire]Dear Sir:
Your letter of the 15th is just received. Like you, I fear the Land Office is not going as it should; but I know nothing I can do. In my letter written three days ago, I told you the Department understands my wishes.3 As to Butterfield, he is my personal friend, and is qualified to do the duties of the office; but of the quite one hundred Illinoisians, equally well qualified, I do not know one with less claims to it. In the first place, what you say about Lisle Smith, is the first intimation I have had of any one man in Illinois desiring Butterfield to have any office.4 Now, I think if any thing be given the state, it should be so given as to gratify our friends, and to stimulate them to future exertions. As to Mr. Clay having recommended him, that is "quid pro quo." He fought for Mr. Clay against Gen Taylor to the bitter end as I understand; and I do not believe I misunderstand. Lisle Smith too, was a Clay delegate, at Philadelphia;5 and against my most earnest entreaties, took the lead in filling two va-Yours as ever(signed) A. Lincoln.7
<Page 2>cancies, from my own district with Clay men.6 It will now mortify me deeply if Gen. Taylor[']s Administration shall trample all my wishes in the dust merely to gratify these men.
2Nicolay wrote this letter and signed Abraham Lincoln’s name. The original letter in Lincoln’s hand has not been located.
3Lincoln’s letter has not been located. Lincoln references the contest over who would become commissioner of the U.S. General Land Office. See the General Land Office Affair.
4In his letter of April 15, Josiah M. Lucas informed Lincoln that there was a campaign afoot to appoint Justin H. Butterfield commissioner, and that Lisle Smith had arrived in Washington, DC, to solicit support for Butterfield’s candidacy.
Richard M. Young, incumbent commissioner of the General Land Office, had appointed Lucas as a temporary clerk in the Land Office in March 1849. Lucas was worried about his tenure with rumors swirling that Young was to be replaced. Lucas held onto his job through the spring, and he sent Lincoln a steady stream of letters informing Lincoln on the contest for commissioner and on appointments to land offices throughout Illinois.
5Smith had represented Cook County as a delegate to the Whig National Convention held in Philadelphia in June 1848.
Lucas wrote Lincoln that “a letter has been forced out of” Henry Clay endorsing Butterfield’s candidacy for commissioner. Lincoln intimates that Clay endorsed Butterfield because the latter supported Clay over Zachary Taylor as candidate of the Whig Party in the presidential election of 1848. In February 1848, Butterfield had written Lincoln that he believed Clay would receive the nomination, and asked Lincoln’s opinion. Lincoln had been actively working to advance Taylor’s candidacy as a member of the so-called “Young Indians,” a Whig Executive Committee created 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 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 Clay, the party’s standard bearer in the 1844 election and still the nominal head of the party. As an act of protest, Clay and many others refused to endorse Taylor and participate in the campaign.
Illinois Journal (Springfield), 4 May 1848, 2:6; 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.
6Particularly galling was that Smith had joined Lincoln as one of the assistant electors for Taylor during the presidential campaign of 1848.
Lincoln and many Taylor supporters grew restive over the patronage policy of the administration, and conflicts and complaints over the distribution of patronage dominated the first nine months of the Taylor presidency.
Illinois Journal (Springfield), 23 August 1848, 1:2; Michael F. Holt, The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party: Jacksonian Politics and the Onset of the Civil War, 414-19; Elbert B. Smith, President Zachary Taylor: The Hero President (New York: Nova History, 2007), 169-70.
7Lincoln eventually became a candidate for the job of commissioner of the U.S. General Land Office, but he did not receive the appointment, the job going to Butterfield instead. See the General Land Office Affair.
Handwritten Transcription, 2 page(s), Abraham Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress (Washington, DC).