Anson G. Henry to Abraham Lincoln, 15 June 18491June 15th 1849Dear Lincoln
I have written you the enclosed letter, at the request of Mr Kilpatrick, he having just arived in Town on business & not having time to do it himself before the mail would close–2 He talked more strongly than he has written– If after all Butterfield should be appointed, Mr Ewing will hear a little thunder from Illinois that he is not now anticipating.3
The train is laid broad & deep, & it now rests with the Administration to say whether the match shall be applied or not– I have recd.[received] several letters from Bakers District since you left urging an expression of indignation at the course the Cabinet Officers have pursued towards our only Whig Representative Col. Baker–4
I send you one as a specimen, which is mild compared with some others recieved–5 I have only to say the word, & the Whig papers in Quincy, Danville, Rockford, Rock Island &c[etc], will cut loose– The Journal here & the Galena & Chicago papers, although boiling over, will be kept still
<Page 2>at least for the present, in the hope of getting the Government Patronage6
I have advised them to hold on for a while in the hope that your appointment will correct the evils & secure Justice to Baker– If ever a good & true Whig was outraged by his party friends it has been him, and if they are determined to force him & his friends into a hostile attitude toward the new Administration they can continue their outrages a little longer, & accomplish their object to their hearts content–
Illinois could have been made more available to the Administration than Virginia, & that too, with one half the expenditure of capitol that has been used to conciliate the Whigs of that state–7 We have asked for nothing that is wrong ^not right^, & will submit to nothing that is wrong.8Yours TrulyA. G. Henry
<Page 3>P. S. While writing I learn that a fight has just come off in the street between Francis & Geo. Walker– Walker struck Francis from behind, Simeon turned, knocked him down & while pounding him, Cooly struck Sim, when Jo. pitched in with Lanphier & Fondy, all got black eyes– They met again & Sim caught a pitchfork fork & made George run for his life, Maxey coming up put a stop to the Melee– I will send you both versions to-morrow– Old Sim, had the best of it from all I can learn–9A. G. Henry
3Henry 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. Abraham Lincoln entered the competition after learning that Butterfield was favored over Morrison and Edwards. See the General Land Office Affair.
4This is a reference to Edward D. Baker not receiving a patronage position in President Taylor’s cabinet, which Baker sought in the aftermath of the Whig victory in the 1848 election. On February 27, 1849, Lincoln wrote President Taylor to urge Baker’s appointment, enclosing a petition signed by the Whig members of the Illinois General Assembly endorsing Baker. However, President Taylor did not offer Baker a cabinet position. Like his predecessor James K. Polk, Taylor apportioned his cabinet selections geographically. Ewing of Ohio represented the “Old Northwest” as secretary of the interior.
Baker represented the state’s sixth congressional district as a Whig in the Thirty-First Congress (1849-1851). Before his election, Illinois’ sixth congressional district was represented by Democrats Joseph P. Hoge (1843-1847) and Thomas J. Turner (1847-1849).
Elbert B. Smith, The Presidencies of Zachary Taylor and Millard Fillmore (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1988), 52-55; Paul H. Bergeron, The Presidency of James K. Polk (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1987), 23-24; Blue Book of the State of Illinois (Springfield, IL: Phillips Bros., 1903), 238-39.
6This is a reference to the competition for patronage positions in Springfield, Galena, and Chicago, Illinois, some of which were unresolved at the time Henry wrote this letter to Lincoln.
7This is a reference to the so-called “Virginia policy” the Taylor administration employed with regard to political appointments following its victory in the election of 1848. Prior to the election, Taylor promised to reward all who supported him equally once he became president, irrespective of their political affiliation. After the election, President Taylor also hoped that by allowing several of President James K. Polk’s last-minute Democratic appointments to stand, and by appointing Democrats himself, he would gain Democratic support for Whig candidates—or at least not raise the ire of Democratic voters. His administration paid particular attention to Virginia’s Democrats. Four Democrats from Virginia were appointed to new terms, Virginia was permitted to keep its Democratic postmasters, custom collectors, U.S. marshals, and U.S. attorneys, and more than sixty Democratic Virginian clerks in Washington, DC were permitted to keep their jobs. Many Whigs were upset and demoralized by President Taylor’s Virginia policy, particularly after the Democratic Party won numerous elections in 1849.
Michael F. Holt, The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party: Jacksonian Politics and the Onset of the Civil War (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 422-24.
8Ultimately, neither Morrison, Edwards, nor Lincoln received the appointment; the job went to Butterfield instead. See the General Land Office Affair.
9This is a reference to a public brawl that took place in the streets of Springfield, Illinois on June 15, 1849. The main parties involved were Simeon Francis, George Walker, and Charles H. Lanphier, although Springfield Mayor John Calhoun, Illinois Secretary of State Horace S. Cooley, William B. Fondey, John C. Maxey, and Simeon’s brother Josiah Francis were also involved. Simeon Francis was editor of the Illinois Daily Journal, a Whig newspaper in Springfield. Walker and Lanphier were co-editors of the Illinois State Register, a Democratic newspaper in Springfield. Calhoun and Cooley were both Democrats, as was Fondey. Maxey worked in the livery business in Springfield and was apparently a bystander in the incident. The Illinois Daily Journal and the Illinois State Register each published accounts of this incident, although details of the incident differed between the two papers.
Henry wrote Lincoln another letter on June 15, 1849, but no letter from Henry to Lincoln with additional accounts of this incident has been located.
Illinois Daily Journal (Springfield), 16 June 1849, 3:1; Daily Register (Springfield, IL), 18 June 1849, 3:1-2.
Autograph Letter Signed, 3 page(s), Abraham Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress (Washington, DC).