Abraham Lincoln to Robert M. Ewing, 12 November 18561Springfield, Novr 12. 1856R. M. Ewing, Esq.[Esquire]Petersburg, Ills.Dear Sir
Yours of the 8th inclosing the forged article “From the New-York Tribune” published in the Menard Index, was received yesterday–2 Although the getting up of the thing was intended to deceive, and was very malicious and wicked, I do not think much could be made by exposing it– When you shall have exposed it, they will then say they merely meant it as a “take off” and never intended it to be understood as genuine–3 If you had a local paper there to simply denounce it as a forgery, that would be well enough; but I doubt whether anything else can be done with it, to advantage–4
I am truly glad you are determined to fight on– In the next struggle I hope we shall be able to pull together– Let us all try to make it so–5Yours RespectfullyA. Lincoln–
[ docketing ]
2Robert M. Ewing’s letter to Lincoln and the enclosed article have not been located.
The forged article, purporting to be the comments of the New York Tribune after John C. Fremont’s defeat in the presidential election of 1856, allegedly came from Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune. Democratic newspapers copied the letter in the weeks before the election, and it supposedly appeared in the New York Tribune on November 6, 1856. The Menard Index published it in its November 8 edition.
Daily Illinois State Register (Springfield), 27 November 1856, 2:1; Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield), 14 November 1856, 2:3; 25 November 1856, 2:1; 28 November 1856, 2:1; Erik S. Lunde, “Greeley, Horace,” American National Biography, ed. by John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 9:467-70.
3Although the forgery was not defended as a “take off,” the Illinois State Register argued that it was intended only “as a joke.” The Illinois State Journal responded, “This has been a very favorite way for the pro-slavery press to wriggle out of the manifold spurious charges trumped up by them during the recent canvass.”
Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield), 28 November 1856, 2:1.
4Lincoln’s views notwithstanding, the local Republican press denounced the article as a fraud. Under the headline “A Bold Forgery,” the Illinois State Journal on November 14 exposed the fraud, noting that no such article appeared in the Tribune November 6 or any other date and, most pointedly, the November 6 edition has not arrived in Springfield, much less Petersburg, at the time the Index printed its November 8 edition. The Menard Index apparently confessed the transgression, but the Illinois State Journal was having none of it; under the headline “The Forgery of the Menard Index,” the Journal opined on November 25: “We by this transaction are impressed with a very poor opinion of its honesty, and think it is not too severe to rank such deliberate forgery with theft or highway robbery.” The New York Tribune itself condemned the Index: “We knew from the outset that the party of ‘Buchanan, Breckinridge and Free Kansas’ would resort to fraud and even forgery to avert the doom which they had richly deserved, for we had the evidence before our eyes; but we did hope that the perpetration of these most flagrant crimes would cease with the party exigency which provoked them. In this we were mistaken. The Menard Index, a Douglas organ in Illinois, appeared on the 7th inst. with the following barefaced and villainous forgery attributed to The Tribune, and it has since, in spite of its palpable spuriousness, been copied into other journals of like character with that in which it originated.” The Tribune published the forgery in its entirety on November 22.
Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield), 14 November 1856, 2:3; 25 November 1856, 2:1; 28 November 1856, 2:1; New-York Daily Tribune (NY), 22 November 1856, 4:5-6.
5Lincoln is undoubtedly referencing the outcome of the just concluded 1856 Federal Election. Democrat James Buchanan won the presidential election against Republican candidate Fremont and American Party candidate, Millard Fillmore.
Howard W. Allen and Vincent A. Lacey, eds., Illinois Elections, 1818-1990 (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1992), 10.
Autograph Letter Signed, 1 page(s), Box 5, Lincoln Collection, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (Springfield, IL).