Abraham Lincoln to Elisha Embree, 12 September 18491Springfield, Ills, Sept 12, 1849 Dear Judge
Your letter asking my aid in behalf of your friend Stickney has been received–2 I had already made a recommendation for the Secretaryship of Oregon;3 I however mentioned that, and then endorsed you and Webb in the strongest terms I could and sent your letters to Mr Clayton–4 Please accept my thanks for your kind letter to the President in my behalf; and also the expression of my deep regret for your failure in the late Congressional contest– I did not, however, dare to hope for your success– There was too much against you–5Your friend as everA. Lincoln
<Page 2>SPRINGFIELD Ill.[Illinois]
FreeA Lincoln MC[Member of Congress]
FREEHon E, EmbreePrincetonIndiana–
1Abraham Lincoln wrote and signed this letter, including the address on the last page, which was folded to create an envelope.
3This is a reference to Lincoln recommending Simeon Francis for appointment as secretary of the Oregon Territory. President Zachary Taylor had appointed Lincoln secretary of the Oregon Territory August 9, 1849, less than a month after he appointed Justin H. Butterfield commissioner of the U.S. General Land Office, a position Lincoln had sought after learning that Butterfield was favored for the job. See the General Land Office Affair. As Lincoln explained in a May 16, 1849 letter to William B. Preston, he believed the appointment of Butterfield to such a valuable patronage position would represent an affront to Whigs in Illinois who had worked so hard to get Taylor nominated and elected president. Many Illinois Whigs were indeed upset by Butterfield’s appointment and criticized both President Taylor and Secretary of the Interior Thomas Ewing. The administration hoped that by offering Lincoln the position of secretary of the Oregon Territory, it would appease any angry Illinois Whigs and prevent additional attacks upon Butterfield’s appointment. In a letter to Secretary of State John M. Clayton dated August 21, 1849, Lincoln declined the appointment for secretary of the Oregon Territory and recommended Francis for the position instead. Lincoln reiterated his endorsement of Francis for the appointment in two other letters to Clayton in late September 1849.
4Lincoln’s letter to Clayton endorsing Embree and Edwin B. Webb has not been located. In the end, Taylor appointed Edward Hamilton of Ohio secretary of the Oregon Territory.
On September 20, 1849, in a final effort to ease any tensions caused by Butterfield’s appointment, the Taylor administration also offered Lincoln appointment as governor of the Oregon Territory. After serious consideration of this offer, Lincoln also turned this position down, at least in part because Mary Lincoln had no desire to live in such a remote location. Taylor appointed John P. Gaines of Virginia governor of the Oregon Territory instead.
Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life, 1:307; Abraham Lincoln to Thomas Ewing; Register of all Officers and Agents, Civil, Military, and Naval, in the Service of the United States, on the Thirtieth September, 1849 (Washington, DC: Gideon, 1849), 250.
5Embree served as a Whig to the Thirtieth Congress, but failed to win reelection in 1848. The Democratic Party claimed victory in many congressional elections that year; Embree lost to Democrat Nathaniel Albertson.
Biographical Directory of the American Congress 1774-1996 (Alexandria, VA: CQ Staff Directories, 1997), 561, 997; 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), 440-41.
Autograph Letter Signed, 2 page(s), Elisha Embree Papers (L52), Indiana State Library (Indianapolis, IN).