Abraham Lincoln to John Addison, 9 September 18501Springfield, Illinois, Sept 9, 1850John Addison, Esq[Esquire]Sir:
There are some letters remaining at the Department of the Interior, which were placed there as recommendations of myself for Comr[Commissioner] of the Genl Land Office–2 I will thank you to withdraw them, and forward them to me,3Truly Yours.A. Lincoln
09/18/1850 Sept 18. 1850
09/18/1850 Sept 18. 1850
Withdrawn 9 additional letters in favor of Hon. A Lincoln applicant4 for the office of Commissioner of Genl[General] Land Office.Jno Addison5
1Abraham Lincoln wrote and signed this letter. John Addison wrote the text on the reverse side of the letter, which is pictured in the second image.
2In the spring and summer of 1849, James L. D. Morrison, Cyrus Edwards, Justin H. Butterfield, and, eventually, Lincoln competed for appointment as commissioner of the U.S. General Land Office. In June 1849, President Zachary Taylor awarded the position to Butterfield. See the General Land Office Affair.
During the competition for the position, supporters of each candidate sent letters of reference and recommendation to both President 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.
3Immediately after Butterfield’s appointment, Lincoln wrote Ewing and requested that all letters of recommendation and reference filed with the U.S. Department of the Interior pertaining to his candidacy for commissioner of the U.S. General Land Office 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. Ultimately, Lincoln chose not to make his suspicions public, explaining in a letter to Addison that his loyalty to both Taylor and to “the great whig cause” induced him to remain silent. However, Addison, who was a clerk in the U.S. Department of the Interior during the General Land Office Affair, in a July 31, 1850 letter to Lincoln, intimated that he was being retaliated against in some way for his support of Lincoln. In a letter replying to Addison, dated August 9, 1850, Lincoln 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.
In September 1850, Lincoln wrote a letter of recommendation for Addison for a new clerkship position. 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. His name does not appear, however, in the official register for 1853, so apparently, he did not receive another federal appointment following the pension office position.
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; 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; 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, 2 page(s), Abraham Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress (Washington, DC).