Abraham Lincoln to William A. Minshall, 17 September 18491Springfield, Sept 17th 1849Hon: W. A MinshallDear Sir
Yours of the 13th announcing the receipt of one of my letters is just received–2 Before this I expect you have received another, telling you all; but lest it may have miscarried, I will tell you again–3 I duly received the paper recommending our good friend, Fellows, and forwarded it to the proper (State) Department at Washington, accompanied by a letter of my own, informing the Secretary who, and what the signers, are, and giving both Majr[Major] Fellows and them as good an indorsement as I was able–4 This I most cheerfully did, and was all I knew how to do–5Your friend, as everA. Lincoln
3Lincoln is referring to a letter he wrote Minshall on September 6, 1849.
4Lincoln forwarded a letter Minshall and other Whigs signed, recommending Hart Fellows for appointment as secretary of the Oregon Territory, to Secretary of State John M. Clayton. In his own letter to Clayton, Lincoln endorsed Fellows as “worthy” of either a judgeship or appointment as secretary of the Oregon Territory, but stipulated that Simeon Francis was his personal choice for the latter.
President 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 in 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 Clayton dated August 21, 1849, Lincoln declined the appointment for secretary of the Oregon Territory and recommended Simeon Francis for the position instead.
Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 1:306-7.
5In the end, President Taylor appointed Edward Hamilton of Ohio secretary of the Oregon Territory. 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 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.
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.
Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life, 1:307; 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).
Copy of Autograph Letter Signed, 1 page(s), Private Collection