Cyrus Edwards to Abraham Lincoln, 15 April 18491Woodlawn April 15th 1849My dear Sir,
I herewith enclose a letter from Gillespie which will shew you exactly how matters stand. You will see that it is, in good part, strictly confidential. But I know that he would not object to the use I now make of it. Burn it when read. This letter affords abundant reason to believe that Baker has taken the start of us and is making desperate exertions to defeat me.2 Now, with me the lure of office is nothing compared with the gratification of baffling his machinations. I once saw at the head of an old federal print the device of a rattle snake reposing quietly in his coil, and the motto "Tread not upon me." Bating the [?] venomous character of the reptile; I like the device—and I like the motto.3 His defeat in the ridiculous struggle for the Whig nomination to the U.S. Senate– and the wound inflicted upon his insatiate vanity by my eulogy of the deceased Hardin constitute the head and [front?] of my offending.4 May I not then hope for the continuance of your friendly exertions in my behalf? I have written to Gen. Green stating my convictions as to B's course, and authorizing him to lay my application before the President if he thinks it advisable. But I defer to your better judgment and shall most thankfully abide by it. Write to him as your own sense of propriety and policy may dictate. Cannot Stuart and other friends near you do something for me. I write today to Constable to enlist my friends on the Wabash.Most truly & sincerely
<Page 2>What of Judge Underwood and others? Will they aid me? Let me hear from you soon.
your friendCyrus Edwards5ALTON Il.
APR[April] 17Hon. A. LincolnSpringfieldIllinois
1Cyrus Edwards wrote and signed this letter, including the address on the second sheet, which was folded to create an envelope.
2Joseph Gillespie’s letter has not been located. Edwards was seeking the position of commissioner of the U.S. General Land Office. See the General Land Office Affair.
3“Tread not upon me” was an allusion to “Don’t Tread on Me,” a popular motto in the American colonies before the American Revolution. Associated with a single rattlesnake, use of the phrase and the rattlesnake image became so widespread that its exact origin is unknown. It is most often connected with the Gadsden Flag, which South Carolinian Christopher Gadsden designed in 1775 for the Continental Navy. Gadsden’s flag had a yellow background with a rattlesnake coiled in the middle and with the motto underneath.
David Hackett Fischer, Liberty and Freedom (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 77-78.
4Edward D. Baker and Edwards offered eulogies at the funeral for John J. Hardin in July 1847.
Sangamo Journal (Springfield, IL), 20 July 1847, 3:2.
5Abraham Lincoln would also become a candidate for the position of commissioner. Neither Edwards nor Lincoln received the appointment; President Zachary Taylor appointed Justin H. Butterfield to the post. See the General Land Office Affair.
Autograph Letter Signed, 2 page(s), Abraham Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress (Washington, DC).