Thomas Ewing to Abraham Lincoln, 23 June 18491
(private)D of I. Washington 23rd June 1849.My Dear Sir
I have no hesitation in expressing the opinion that if you had been, in the first instance, a candidate for the office of Commissioner of the General Land Office, you would have received the appointment–2 You were generally and favorably known here– Mr Butterfield was at first a candidate for the office of Solicitor of the Treasury, so that you and he would not have come in competition–
The President had determined to give this office to office to Illinois,3 and there was no other applicant in the State, however high his merits, who could, under all the circumstances have been presented to the President so favorably as yourself.
I also take great pleasure in saying, that your bearing throughout has been such as to entitle you to my highest consideration and respect.4Yours &c[etc]T EwingI have just read this letter to the President who fully concurs in itHon A LincolnSpringfield Ill
2Ewing references the competition over who would replace Richard M. Young as commissioner of the U.S. General Land Office. Originally, only Justin H. Butterfield, James L. D. Morrison, and Cyrus Edwards were vying to become commissioner. Lincoln entered the competition after learning that Butterfield was favored over Morrison and Edwards. See the General Land Office Affair.
Ewing wrote this letter in response to a letter Abraham Lincoln wrote him on June 22, 1849. Edwards became angry that Lincoln joined the competition for the position, and filed a letter with the U.S. Department of the Interior against Lincoln and in favor of Butterfield. This pained Lincoln, who requested this letter from Ewing in the hopes that it would help remove Edwards’ bad impression of him. Ewing, however, does not directly address the topic of Edwards’ candidacy in this letter.
3Butterfield was a prominent attorney in Chicago and a former district attorney, but Lincoln did not believe he deserved the position. Lincoln summarized his objections to Butterfield’s appointment as commissioner of the U.S. General Land Office in a May 16, 1849 letter to William B. Preston.
Thomas F. Schwartz, "'An Egregious Political Blunder': Justin Butterfield, Lincoln, and Illinois Whiggery," Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association 8 (1986), 9-19.
4Neither Morrison, Edwards, nor Lincoln received the appointment; the job went to Butterfield instead. See the General Land Office Affair. Ewing and Lincoln corresponded several more times on the topic of letters of recommendation Ewing and the Department of the Interior received concerning Lincoln’s candidacy for commissioner.
Handwritten Transcription, 1 page(s), University of Notre Dame Archives (South Bend, Indiana).