Abraham Lincoln to John J. Crittenden and Thomas Corwin, 2 September 18501Springfield, Illinois, Sept 2. 1850–Hon: John J. Crittenden, &Hon: Thomas Corwin–
I suppose both of you have a slight general recollection of me; though nothing more, I am aware– My friend, John Addison, who will present this, desires a clerkship; and, for a reason which I do not wish to commit to paper, or even to speak of particularly, I very much wish he could be gratified– I will only say, it will be righting him in a point, in which, I feel quite sure, he has been greatly wronged–2 As to his capacity and faithfulness, he will find abundant testimonials in Washington–3Your Obt Servt[Obedient Servant]A. Lincoln
2In a July 31, 1850 letter to Lincoln that has not been located, John Addison intimated that he was being retaliated against in some way for his support of Lincoln. Addison was a clerk in the U.S. Department of the Interior during the General Land Office Affair, a lengthy competition for the position of commissioner of the U.S. General Land Office in which Lincoln eventually participated. Ultimately, in June 1849, President Zachary Taylor awarded the position to Justin H. Butterfield.
During the competition for the position, supporters of each candidate sent letters of reference and recommendation to both Taylor and Secretary of the Interior Thomas Ewing. Although the U.S. Department of the Interior oversaw the U.S. General Land Office, President Taylor was ultimately responsible for appointing the commissioner of the U.S. General Land Office. Following the appointment of Butterfield, Lincoln wrote Ewing June 22, 1849, requesting that all letters of recommendation and reference filed with the U.S. Department of the Interior pertaining to his candidacy for commissioner be returned to him. Ewing complied, returning all but three of the letters from Lincoln’s file. Lincoln suspected that the letters written by Richard W. Thompson and Elisha Embree were purposefully omitted by someone at the Department of the Interior in order to give Butterfield an advantage over him in the competition for the job. In the end, Lincoln chose not to make his suspicions public, explaining to Addison that his loyalty to both Taylor and “the great whig cause” induced him to remain silent. But he acknowledged Addison’s claims of being unfairly targeted by someone, which, he wrote, “fills me with indignation.” The perpetrator could have been Butterfield but was most likely Ewing.
On April 22, 1850, the Democrat-controlled U.S. House of Representatives formed a committee under William A. Richardson to investigate Ewing’s role in and handling of patronage appointments as well as his management of pension payments and Department of the Interior accounts. On June 8, 1850, the New York Herald reported that Butterfield’s appointment as commissioner of the U.S. General Land Office was one patronage appointment that the Richardson Committee was investigating, particularly with regard to letters missing from the file on Lincoln that was shown to President Taylor prior to Taylor selecting the final appointee. However, when the committee filed its final reports on September 4-7, 1850, it made no finding regarding Butterfield’s appointment. The Whig-controlled U.S. Senate also exonerated Ewing of all charges, although suspicions remained in some Whig circles that Ewing had indeed suppressed letters of recommendation from Lincoln’s file.
Abraham Lincoln to John Addison; John Addison to Abraham Lincoln; Abraham Lincoln to John Addison; Abraham Lincoln to John Addison; 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), 149; H.R. Ex. Doc. No. 79, 31st Cong., 1st Sess. (1850); Thomas Ewing to Abraham Lincoln; Abraham Lincoln to Thomas Ewing; Thomas Ewing to Abraham Lincoln; Abraham Lincoln to Thomas Ewing; Cong. Globe, 31st Cong., 1st Sess., Appendix, 1209-37 (1850); Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 1:304; Biographical Directory of the American Congress 1774-1996 (Alexandria, VA: CQ Staff Directories, 1997), 1729; Paul I. Miller, “Lincoln and the Governorship of Oregon,” The Mississippi Valley Historical Review 23 (December 1936), 393-94; New York Herald (NY), 8 June 1850, 3:5.
3No reply from either John J. Crittenden or Thomas Corwin, if they wrote one, has been located. This letter of recommendation was at least the third time Lincoln attempted to help Addison secure a federal appointment. Addison’s name appears in the official register of the officers and agents of the government for 1851 as a clerk in the Department of the Interior’s pension office. However, his name does not appear in the official register for 1853, so apparently, he did not receive another federal appointment following the pension office position.
John Addison to Abraham Lincoln; Abraham Lincoln to John Addison; Abraham Lincoln to John Addison; Register of all Officers and Agents, Civil, Military, and Naval, in the Service of the United States, on the Thirtieth September, 1851, 149; 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).
Autograph Letter Signed, 1 page(s), Charles Roberts Autograph Letters Collections, Haverford College Library, Haverford College (Haverford, PA).