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Abraham Lincoln to William A. Minshall, 6 September 18491
Hon: W. A. Minshall:Dear Sir:
Your note of the 31st was received several days ago2; but I have been too busy in court to answer it till now– On receiving notice of the appointment you mention, I declined it at once, and wrote to the Department at once in favor of a man in this town, whose name I do not mention, because I have not his authority to do otherwise–3 I would like exceedingly to oblige Mr Fellows, but the time is past in this case–4
Your friend as everA. Lincoln
1Abraham Lincoln wrote and signed this letter.
2William A. Minshall’s August 31, 1849 letter to Lincoln has not been located.
3President Zachary Taylor had appointed Lincoln secretary of the Oregon Territory August 9, 1849, less than a month after he 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 the position of secretary of the Oregon Territory, it would appease any angry Illinois Whigs and prevent additional attacks upon Butterfield’s appointment. In a letter to Secretary of State John M. Clayton dated August 21, 1849, Lincoln declined the appointment for secretary of the Oregon Territory and recommended Francis for the position instead.
Lincoln also wrote Clayton a letter September 16, 1849 and a letter September 27, 1849, reiterating his endorsement of Francis for 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 an 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.
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); 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; Register of Officers and Agents, Civil, Military, and Naval, in the Service of the United States, on the Thirtieth September, 1865 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1866), 193.
4Lincoln wrote Clayton September 12, 1849, endorsing Hart Fellows as “worthy” of either a judgeship or appointment as secretary of the Oregon Territory, while also stipulating that Francis was his personal choice for the latter. In this letter to Clayton, Lincoln enclosed a recommendation letter for Fellows from Orville H. Browning and others.
Lincoln wrote Minshall another letter related to this topic September 17, 1849. In the end, President Taylor appointed Edward Hamilton of Ohio secretary of the Oregon Territory. Fellows’ name does not appear in the official registers for the officers and agents of the government for 1849, 1851, and 1853, so apparently, he did not receive any other appointment.
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 this offer, Lincoln also turned this position down, 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.
Register of all Officers and Agents, Civil, Military, and Naval, in the Service of the United States, on the Thirtieth September, 1849, 250; Register of all Officers and Agents, Civil, Military, and Naval, in the Service of the United States, on the Thirtieth September, 1851; Register of Officers and Agents, Civil, Military, and Naval, in the Service of the United States, on the Thirtieth September, 1853; Abraham Lincoln to Thomas Ewing; Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life, 1:307.

Copy of Autograph Letter Signed, 1 page(s), Private Collection (Unknown).