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[docketing]
10/07/1849
Rec'd[Received] 7 Octr[October]
Abraham Lincoln to John M. Clayton, 27 September 18491
Hon: J. M. ClaytonSecretary of StateDear Sir:
Your letter of the 17th Inst saying you had received no answer to yours informing me of my appointment as Secretary of Oregon, is received, and surprises me very much–2 I received that letter, accompanied by the commission, in due course of mail, and answered it two days after, declining the office, and warmly recommending Simeon Francis for ^it–^ the same office– I have also written you several letters since, alluding to the same matter, all of which ought to have reached you before the date of your last letter–3
Your Obt Servt[Obedient Servant]A. Lincoln
<Page 2>
SPRINGFIELD Ill.[Illinois]
SEP[SEPTEMBER] 28
FREE
Hon: Secretary of StateWashingtonD.C.
[docketing]
A. Lincoln declines the office of Secy.[Secretary] of Oregon
1Abraham Lincoln wrote and signed this letter, including the address on the last sheet, which was folded to create an envelope.
2Secretary of State John M. Clayton’s September 17, 1849 letter to Lincoln has not been located. His August 1849 letter informing Lincoln of his appointment as secretary of the Oregon Territory has also not been located. However, President Zachary Taylor appointed Lincoln secretary of the Territory of Oregon August 9, 1849.
3The Taylor administration offered Lincoln appointment as secretary of the Oregon Territory less than a month 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 President Taylor and Secretary of the Interior Thomas 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.
Lincoln first responded to Clayton, declining the position and recommending Francis for it instead, on August 21, 1849. He subsequently sent Clayton several more missives on the topic, including a petition signed by other Whigs in Springfield and the surrounding area affirming Francis as a qualified candidate for the position. In the end, Taylor appointed Edward Hamilton of Ohio secretary of the Oregon Territory. Francis’ name does not appear in the official registers of the officers and agents of the government for 1849, 1851, 1853, 1855, 1857, or 1859, so apparently he did not receive any other appointment during this period. The 1861 official register shows Francis worked in Oregon as a printer for the U.S. government and as a paymaster for the U.S. Army. In July 1861, he also wrote Lincoln requesting appointment as commissioner of Indian Affairs. Francis did not receive this appointment either, but, by 1863, he was a paymaster in Oregon.
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 the 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.
Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 1:306-7; Abraham Lincoln to John M. Clayton; Abraham Lincoln to John M. Clayton; 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; Register of all Officers and Agents, Civil, Military, and Naval, in the Service of the United States, on the Thirtieth September, 1851 (Washington, DC: Gideon, 1851); Register of Officers and Agents, Civil, Military, and Naval, in the Service of the United States, on the Thirtieth September, 1853 (Washington, DC: Robert Armstrong, 1853); Register of Officers and Agents, Civil, Military, and Naval, in the Service of the United States, on the Thirtieth September, 1855 (Washington, DC: A. O. P. Nicholson, 1855); Register of Officers and Agents, Civil, Military, and Naval, in the Service of the United States, on the Thirtieth September, 1857 (Washington, DC: A. O. P. Nicholson, 1857); Register of Officers and Agents, Civil, Military, and Naval, in the Service of the United States, on the Thirtieth September, 1859 (Washington, DC: William A. Harris, 1859); Register of Officers and Agents, Civil, Military, and Naval, in the Service of the United States, on the Thirtieth September, 1861 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1862), 118, 199; Register of Officers and Agents, Civil, Military, and Naval, in the Service of the United States, on the Thirtieth September, 1863 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1864), 151.

Autograph Letter Signed, 2 page(s), Chapin Library, Williams College (Williamstown, MA).