Joshua F. Speed to Abraham Lincoln, 13 February 18491House Reps 13 Feby 1849Dear Lincoln,
I wish to write to you fully freely and in strict confidence of my action as negotiator in the matter which was the subject of your last letter to me–2
I introduced the subject by drawing the Govenor out first upon the talent, capacity, and standing of Douglas Breeze & others–
Having done this by way of directing his attention to Illinois men– I elicited without exciting distrust an opinion from him as to the capacity of Hardin Baker & yourself–
Do not communicate it to B for it may prejudice him against the Govenor– But in my opinion you stand higher in his estimation than he– Baker[’]s moral weight is not as great as it should be– His career is regarded as erratic– and he is not thought to possess those patient, ploding, business qualifications so necessary to make a first rate Cabinet officer–
I do not however believe that Crittenden will exert much influence—he has more confidence in Taylor[’]s judgment of men than in his own– He will I think take
<Page 2>a place in the cabinet himself—and beyond this, in the formation of the Cabinet I do not think he will go–3
So much for my mission in behalf of our friend–4
Now for yourself– If you desire any thing– Bob Todd has as much influence with Crittenden as any one here–5
I hope he may succeed– and as I said before I do not believe Crittenden will aid at all in the formation of the cabinet–Your friendJ. F. Speed
2Lincoln’s letter to Speed has not been located. The topic of Lincoln’s letter to Speed is not known, but the context of Speed’s letter and Lincoln’s reply suggests that Speed was working to secure Edward D. Baker and Lincoln cabinet-level positions in the incoming administration of Zachary Taylor.
3John J. Crittenden was Taylor’s first choice for any cabinet position of the former’s choosing, but Crittenden steadfastly rejected the president-elect’s entreaties to join the cabinet. Crittenden’s support of Taylor as the Whig Party nominee in 1848 alienated Henry Clay, who coveted the nomination, destroying their political alliance. Hoping to sustain his reputation for honesty and perhaps out of deference to Clay, Crittenden refused a cabinet post. Besides, he had won election as governor of Kentucky, and felt an obligation to serve.
Thomas E. Stephens, "Crittenden, John Jordan," American National Biography (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 5:741; Elbert B. Smith, The Presidencies of Zachary Taylor and Millard Fillmore (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1988), 52.
4In Lincoln’s reply, he references a letter from Speed to Baker that included a passing allusion to the postmaster position in Louisville, Kentucky, as a possible position for Baker, but Baker did not get the appointment.
Register of all Officers and Agents, Civil, Military, and Naval, in the Service of the United States, on the Thirtieth September, 1847 (Washington, DC: J. & G. S. Gideon, 1847), 326; 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), 377; 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), 416.
5In his reply, Lincoln ruminated if he was suited for a cabinet position or desired a lesser job. “Still there is nothing about me,” he wrote Speed, “which would authorize me to think of a first class office; and a second class one would not compensate me for being snarled at by others who want it for themselves.” By the spring of 1849, however, Lincoln had become embroiled in a hotly contested race to become commissioner of the U.S. General Land Office. He also considered but eventually turned down the governorship of the Oregon Territory.
Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 1:307.
6In his reply, Lincoln noted that he did show Speed’s letter to Baker.
Autograph Letter Signed, 2 page(s), Abraham Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress (Washington, DC),