Abraham Lincoln to Thomas Ewing, 23 September 18491Tremont, Illinois, Sept 23. 1849Hon: T. EwingSecretary &c[etc]Dear Sir
Your despach of the 20th announcing my appointment as Governor of Oregon is just received, having reached Springfield in my absence, and been forwarded to me here by mail–2 I have just written a friend at Springfield to answer you by Telegraph that I decline the appointment, which I suppose will reach you long before this will–3 May I request you to express my gratitude to the President, for these repeated evidences of his kindness and confidence?4Your Obt Servt[Obedient Servant]A. Lincoln
2The telegraphic dispatch Lincoln refers to has not been located. Lincoln was in Tremont attending the Tazewell County Circuit Court.
The Lincoln Log: A Daily Chronology of the Life of Abraham Lincoln, 20 September 1849, http://www.thelincolnlog.org/Results.aspx?type=CalendarDay&day=1849-09-20; 25 September 1849, http://www.thelincolnlog.org/Results.aspx?type=CalendarDay&day=1849-09-25.
3It is unclear which of Lincoln’s friends in Springfield he asked to telegraph his reply to Secretary of the Interior Thomas Ewing, although Anson G. Henry wrote Ewing a letter on September 24, 1849, noting that although Lincoln declined the position he remained loyal to the administration. Since no one telegraphed Ewing as Lincoln had requested, Ewing telegraphed Springfield again on September 25 asking whether Lincoln was in Springfield to respond. In a letter to Ewing dated September 27, Lincoln wrote that his friend did not telegraph Ewing as requested for fear Lincoln was declining the position in haste. Once Lincoln learned of this, he traveled back to Springfield and telegraphed Ewing himself, declining the position.
Paul I. Miller, “Lincoln and the Governorship of Oregon,” The Mississippi Valley Historical Review 23 (December 1936), 392-93.
4Prior to offering Lincoln appointment as governor of the Oregon Territory, President Zachary Taylor’s administration had also offered Lincoln appointment as secretary of the Oregon Territory, an appointment which Lincoln also declined. Both positions were offered after Taylor 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 of 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 Taylor and Ewing. The administration hoped that by offering Lincoln a political appointment in the Oregon Territory, it would appease any angry Illinois Whigs and prevent additional attacks upon Butterfield’s appointment. But after serious consideration of the Oregon governorship offer, Lincoln also declined this position, 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.
Appointment of Abraham Lincoln as Secretary of the Territory of Oregon; Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 1:306-7; 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.
Copy of Autograph Letter Signed, 1 page(s), Paul C. Richards catalog, 93, p. 15.