Abraham Lincoln to Joseph Gillespie, 13 July 18491Springfield, July 13. 1849.Dear Gillespie:
Mr Edwards is unquestionably offended with me, in connection with the matter of the General Land-Office–2 He wrote a letter against me, which was filed at the Department–3 The better part of one's life consists of his friendships; and, of these, mine with Mr Edwards was one of the most cherished– I have not been false to it– At a word, I could I have had the office any time before the Department was committed to Mr Butterfield– at least Mr Ewing & the President say as much–4 That word I forebore to speak, partly for other reasons, but chiefly for Mr Edward’s sake– Losing the office that he might gain it, I was always for;5 but to lose his friendship by the effort for him, would oppress me very much, were I not sustained by the utmost consciousness of rectitude– I first determined to be an applicant, unconditionally, on the 2nd of June; and I did so then upon being informed by a Telegraphic despach, that the question was narrowed down to Mr B. and myself, and that the cabinet had postponed the appointment three weeks for my benefit–6 Not doubting then, that Mr Edwards was wholly out of the question, I nevertheless would not then have become an applicant, had I supposed he would thereby be brought to suspect me of treachery to him– Two or three days afterwards a conversation with Levi Davis convinced me Mr E. was dissatisfied; but I was then too far in to get out– His own letter, written on the 25th of April, after I had fully informed him of all that had passed up to within a few days
<Page 2>of that time, gave assurance I had that entire confidence from him, which I felt my uniform and strong friendship for him entitled ^me to–^7 me to– Among other things, it says "whatever course your judgment may dictate as proper to be pursued, shall never be excepted to by me"–8 I also had had a letter from Washington, saying Chambers of the Republican had brought a rumor then that Mr E. had declined in my favor,9 which rumor I judged came from Mr E himself, as I had not ^then^ breathed of his letter then, to any living creature–
In saying I had never before the 2nd of June determined to be an applicant, unconditionally, I mean to admit that before then, I had said ^substantially^ I would take the office rather than it should be lost to the state, or given to one in the state whom the whigs did not want; but I aver that in every instance in which I spoke of myself, I intended to keep, and now believe I did keep, Mr E. ahead of myself, for the office– Mr Edward’s first suspicion was that I had allowed Baker to over-reach me, as his friend, in behalf of Don: Morrison– I knew this was a mistake, and the result has proved it– I understand his view now is, that if I had gone to open war with Baker I could have ridden him down, and had the thing all my own way– I believe no such thing– With Baker & some strong men from the Military tract; & elsewhere for Morrison; and we and some strong men from the Wabash & elsewhere for Mr E. it
<Page 3>was not possible for either to succeed– I believed this in March, and I know it now. The only thing which gave either any chance was the very thing Baker & I proposed– an adjustment with themselves–10
You may wish to know how Butterfield finally beat me– I can not tell you particulars now, but will, when I see you– In the mean time let it be understood I am not greatly dissatisfied– I wish the office had been so bestowed as to encourage our friends in future contests,11 and I regret exceedingly Mr Edward’s feelings towards me– These two things away, I should have no regrets– at least I think I would not–
Write me soon.12Your friend, as everA. Lincoln–
Free.A LincolnM. C[Member of Congress] SPRINGFIELD Ill.[Illinois]
FREEJoseph Gillespie, Esq[Esquire]EdwardsvilleIlls–[Illinois]
1Abraham Lincoln wrote and signed this letter, with the exception of the phrase “me to” on the sheet in the second image. Lincoln also wrote the address lines in the last image (which is a sheet of paper folded to form an envelope). This letter accompanied another letter Lincoln wrote to Joseph Gillespie on July 13, 1849.
2This is a reference to the competition over who would replace Richard M. Young as commissioner of the U.S. General Land Office. Originally, only Justin H. Butterfield, James L. D. Morrison, and Cyrus Edwards were vying to become commissioner. Lincoln entered the competition after learning that Butterfield was favored over Morrison and Edwards. See the General Land Office Affair.
3In a June 22, 1849 letter to Secretary of the Interior Thomas Ewing, Lincoln discussed being aware that Edwards wrote a letter against him and in favor of Butterfield and requested Ewing’s help in removing Edwards’ “bad impression” of him.
4In response to the request Lincoln made for Ewing’s help in his June 22, 1849 letter, Ewing provided Lincoln a letter which stated that both he and President Zachary Taylor agreed that if Lincoln had volunteered himself as a candidate for commissioner of the U.S. General Land Office before Butterfield became a candidate, he would have received the position.
5Early in the competition for the appointment of commissioner of the U.S. General Land Office, Lincoln expressed a desire that the citizens of Illinois be consulted regarding who received the position, but did not volunteer himself as a candidate. By early April 1849, various Whigs were pressing him to enter the competition for the position. Lincoln responded to these solicitations by reiterating his support for Edwards, but he also consented to entering the competition if Edwards and Morrison could not agree among themselves which of them should withdraw and which should move forward as a candidate. By late April 1849, Lincoln still refused to enter the competition.
6Although the telegram Lincoln refers to has not been located, in mid-May 1849 he received several letters informing him that Edwards had removed himself as a candidate for the position and that President Taylor had delayed a decision on the appointment so that Lincoln could lobby for the position.
9This is either a reference to a letter Josiah M. Lucas wrote Lincoln May 10, 1849, or to a letter William H. Henderson wrote Lincoln May 13, 1849.
10Edward D. Baker supported Morrison for commissioner of the U.S. General Land Office. However, Baker and Lincoln eventually agreed that if Edwards and Morrison could decide between themselves which one of them would withdraw from the competition, Baker and Lincoln would both throw their support behind whichever candidate remained. Edwards and Morrison failed to come to such an arrangement, and Lincoln entered the competition in an effort to defeat Butterfield. In the end, the job went to Butterfield. See the General Land Office Affair.
Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 1:296; Abraham Lincoln to William B. Warren and Others.
11As Lincoln explained in a May 16, 1849 letter to William B. Preston, he believed the appointment of Butterfield to such a valuable patronage position as the commissioner of the U.S. General Land Office would be an affront to the Whigs who had worked so hard to get Taylor nominated and elected president.
Copy of Autograph Letter Signed, 4 page(s), Abraham Lincoln Association Files, Lincoln Collection, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (Springfield, IL).