William Nelson to Abraham Lincoln, 9 June 1849Peekskill, June 9, 1849.
In answer, my dear sir, I say to you in all candor, that I not only would as soon you should be appointed to the office as any other Illinoisian,1 but should greatly prefer you to any other person I can now think of, from whatever quarter of the Union he may hail, because in my heart I believe you “honest, capable and faithful to the Constitution,” and I know that if faithful and efficient services in the Whig cause during the late struggle give merit to any one, none can rightfully claim a greater share than yourself;2 and I take it upon myself to say that if I had the disposal of the patronage of the Home Department, (I believe the Land Office is in that department.) I should forthwith say to Mr. Young, “Sir, the public good has no further need of your services in the Land Office;”3 and to Abraham Lincoln, “Walk in, sir, and take charge of that office.”4Yours, truly,Wm. Nelson.Hon. A. Lincoln.
1Justin H. Butterfield, James L. D. Morrison, and Cyrus Edwards were vying to become commissioner of the U.S. General Land Office. Abraham Lincoln entered the competition after learning that Butterfield was favored over Morrison and Edwards. As competition for the job intensified, William H. Henderson and Josiah M. Lucas, Lincoln supporters living in Washington, DC, urged Lincoln to come to the nation’s capital to personally lobby for the position. On June 9, Butterfield wrote Lincoln suggesting that neither go to Washington. Lincoln did not respond to this suggestion, and on June 10, both set out for the capital. Lincoln arrived on or before June 19. Lincoln requested this letter of reference from William Nelson just before he left for Washington. See the General Land Office Affair.
William H. Henderson to Abraham Lincoln; William H. Henderson to Abraham Lincoln; Josiah M. Lucas to Abraham Lincoln; The Lincoln Log: A Daily Chronology of the Life of Abraham Lincoln, 10 June 1849, http://www.thelincolnlog.org/Results.aspx?type=CalendarDay&day=1849-06-10; 19 June 1849, http://www.thelincolnlog.org/Results.aspx?type=CalendarDay&day=1849-06-19.
2Lincoln was a member of the so-called “Young Indians,” a Whig Executive Committee founded by Truman Smith in the spring of 1847 to provide the Whig Party with a unified national organization for the presidential campaign of 1848. Including principally but not exclusively Southern Whigs, the Young Indians made it their goal to nominate Zachary Taylor as the Whig Party standard bearer in 1848. At the end of the first session of the Thirtieth Congress, Lincoln spent eleven days in Massachusetts stumping for Taylor to win the presidential election of 1848. Throughout the fall of 1848, he also stumped for Taylor in other locations throughout the Northeast and in the Midwest.
Holman Hamilton, Zachary Taylor: Soldier in the White House (Hamden, CT: Archon, 1966), 63-64; Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 1:275-76, 280-84.
3Butterfield, Morrison, Edwards, and Lincoln were vying to replace Richard M. Young as commissioner of the U.S. General Land Office.
4Ultimately, neither Morrison, Edwards, nor Lincoln received the appointment; the job went to Butterfield instead. See the General Land Office Affair.
Copy of Printed Transcription, 1 page(s), Belmont Chronicle (St. Clairsville, OH), 11 January 1866, 1:7.