Abraham Lincoln's connection to Massachusetts dated to 1637 when his English ancestor, Samuel Lincoln, settled in Hingham, Massachusetts. Three centuries and 11 years later, Mr. Lincoln made his own concrete connections to the state when he made a speaking tour of Massachusetts for General Zachary Taylor, the Whig presidential candidate. From September 12 to 21, 1848, Congressman Lincoln toured the state -- meeting some of the state's most influential citizens, promoting Taylor, denouncing Democrats and criticizing the Free Soil Party, former President Martin Van Buren. It was a tough sell since Massachusetts Whigs were suspicious of the political principles of their party's standard-bearer and were tempted by those of Free Soil candidate.
Mr. Lincoln attended the Whig Convention in Worcester on September 13. Providentially, Mr. Lincoln filled a gap in the program the night before the convention began. Mr. Lincoln probably came to Worcester at the request of a fellow congressman who faced a serious election challenge that year. Lincoln scholar Arthur P. Rugg noted: "The satirical wit of Ebenezer Rockwood Hoar described the party as made up of 'conscience' and 'cotton' Whigs, the former regarding slavery as a moral issue, and the latter suffering their moral perceptions to be stifled by commercialism. The factions grew in strength and hostility until the meeting for the national convention in June, 1848." That split was particularly evident in Worcester where Charles Allen had abandoned the Whig Party to run as a Free Soil candidate against Whig Congressman Charles Hudson, a Universalist minister with whom Mr. Lincoln had served.1
Worcester Whig Chairman Alexander Bullock recalled that he encountered Mr. Lincoln on "the streets of Worcester...As the chosen head of the city committee of the party with which he acted, I had called a public meeting in yonder hall for the evening preceding the convention, and had invited several gentlemen of note to make addresses. None of them came. But as the sun was descending I was told that Abraham Lincoln, member of Congress from Illinois, was stopping at one of the hotels in town. I had heard of him before, and at once called upon him and made known my wish that he would address the meeting of the evening, to which he readily assented. I further suggested to him that as the party in whose cause we were then united was largely in the minority here, and as there was an unusual bitterness in the antagonistic politics of this community, he should practice much discretion, and leave our side as well in its prospects as he could. His benignant eye caught my meaning and his gentle spirit responded approval. His address was one of the best it had ever been my fortune to hear, and left not one root of bitterness behind." 2
Mr. Lincoln agreed to appear that night before an audience at Worcester's City Hall. He probably modeled his speech after one he had given on the floor of the House of Representatives in July. According to Lincoln scholar Louis A. Warren, "a few fragments of what he said on this occasion are all that has been preserved of the dozen or more speeches which he made in Massachusetts on this itinerary. While Lincoln probably used about 10,000 words in his Worcester address, less than 2,000 words have been recorded and these were gathered by a reporter for the Boston Advertiser who commented upon Lincoln's speech in that paper the following day." 3 Mr. Lincoln use graphic analogies to make his case why Whigs should not abandon their candidate for the Free Soil Party.
MR. LINCOLN has a very tall and thin figure, with an intellectual face, showing a searching mind, and cool judgment. He spokes in a clear and cool, and very eloquent manner, for an hour and a half, carrying the audience with him in his able arguments and brilliant illustrations -- only interrupted by warm and frequent applause. He began by expressing a real feeling of modesty in addressing an audience 'this side of the mountains,' a part of the country where, in the opinion of the people of his section, everybody was supposed to be instructed and wise. But he had devoted his attention to the question of the coming Presidential election, and was not unwilling to exchange with all whom he might meet the ideas to which he had arrived.
He then to show the fallacy of some of the arguments against Gen. Taylor, making his chief theme the fashionable statement of all those who oppose him, ('the old Locofocos as well as the new') that he has no principles, and that the Whig party have abandoned their principles by adopting him as their candidate. He maintained that Gen. Taylor occupied a high and unexceptionable Whig ground, and took for his first instance and proof of this his statement in the Allison letter -- with regard to the Bank, Tariff, Rivers and Harbors, &c. -- that the will of the people should produce its own results, without Executive influence. The principle that the people should do what -- under the constitution -- they please, is a Whig principle. All that Gen. Taylor does is not only to consent, but to appeal to the people to judge and act for themselves. And this was no new doctrine for Whigs. It was the 'platform' on which they had fought all their battles, the resistance of Executive influence, and the principle of enabling the people to frame the government according to their will. Gen. Taylor consents to be the candidate, and to assist the people to do what they think to be their duty, and think to be best in their natural affairs, but because he don't want to tell what we ought to do, he is accused of having no principles. The Whigs here [have?] maintained for years that neither the influence, the duress, or the prohibition of the Executive should control the legitimately expressed will of the people; and now that on that very ground, Gen. Taylor says that he should use the power given him by the people to do, to the best of his judgment, the will of the people, he is accused of want of principle, and of inconsistency in position.
Mr. Lincoln proceeded to examine the absurdity of an attempt to make a platform or creed for a national party, to all parts of which all must consent and agree, when it was clearly the intention and the true philosophy of our government, that in Congress all opinions and principles should be represented, and that when the wisdom of all had been compared and united, the will of the majority should be carried out. On this ground he conceived (and the audience seemed to go with him) that General Taylor held correct, sound republican principles.
Mr. Lincoln then passed to the subject of slavery in the States, saying that the people of Illinois agreed entirely with the people of Massachusetts on this subject, except perhaps that they did not keep so constantly thinking about it. All agreed that slavery was an evil, but that we were not responsible for it and cannot affect it in States of this Union where we do not live. But, the question of the extension of slavery to new territories of this country, is a part of our responsibility and care, and is under our control. In opposition to this Mr. L. believed that the self named 'Free Soil' party, was far behind the Whigs. Both parties opposed the extension. As he understood it the new party had no principle except this opposition. If their platform held any other, it was in such a general way that it was like the pair of pantaloons the Yankee pedlar offered for sale, 'large enough for any man, small enough for any boy.' They therefore had taken a position calculated to break down their single important declared object. They were working for the election of either Gen. Cass or Gen. Taylor.
The Speaker then went on to show, clearly and eloquently, the danger of extension of slavery, likely to result form the election of General Cass. To unite with those who annexed the new territory to prevent the extension of slavery in that territory seemed to him to be in the highest degree absurd and ridiculous. Suppose these gentlemen to prevent the extension of slavery to New Mexico and California, and Gen. Taylor, he confidently believed, would not encourage it, and would not prohibit its restriction. But if Gen. Cass was elected, he felt certain that the plans of farther extension of territory would be encouraged, and those of the extension of slavery to New Mexico and California, and Gen. Taylor, he confidently believed, would not encourage it, and would not prohibit its restriction. But if Gen. Cass was elected, he felt certain that the plans of farther extension of territory would be encouraged, and those of the extension of slavery would meet no check.
The 'Free Soil' men in claiming that name indirectly attempted a deception, by implying the Whigs were not Free Soil men. In declaring that they would 'do their duty and leave the consequences to God,' merely gave an excuse for taking a course that they were not able to maintain by a fair and full argument. To make this declaration did not show what their duty was. If it did we should have no use for judgment, we might as well be made without intellect, and when divine or human law does not clearly point out what is our duty, we have no means of finding out what it is by using our most intelligent judgment of the consequences. If there were divine law, or human law for voting for Martin Van Buren, or if a fair examination of the consequences and first reasoning would show that voting for him would bring about the ends they pretended to wish -- then he would give up the argument. But since there was no fixed law on the subject, and since the whole probable result of their action would be an assistance in electing Gen. Cass, he must say that they were behind the Whigs in their advocacy of the freedom of the soil.
Mr. Lincoln proceeded to rally the Buffalo Convention for forbearing to say anything -- after all the previously declarations of those members who were formerly Whigs -- on the subject of the Mexican war, because the Van Burens had been known to have supported it. He declared that of all the parties asking the confidence of the country, this new one had less of principle than any other.
He wondered whether it was still the opinion of these Free Soil gentlemen, as declared in the 'whereas' at Buffalo, that the whig and democratic parties were both entirely dissolved and absorbed into their own body. Had the Vermont election given them any light? They had calculated on making as great an impression in that State as in any part of the Union, and there their attempts had been wholly ineffectual. Their failure there was a greater success than they would find in any part of the Union.
Mr. Lincoln went on to say that he honestly believed that all those who wished to keep up the character of the Union; who did not believe in enlarging our field, but in keeping our fences where they are and cultivating our present possession, making it a garden, improving the morals and education of the people; devoting the administration to this purpose; all real Whigs, friends of good honest government; -- the race was ours. He had opportunities of hearing from almost every part of the Union from reliable sources, and had not heard of a country [count?] in which he had not received accessions from other parties. If the true Whigs come forward and join these new friends, they need not have a doubt. We had a candidate whose personal character and principles he had already described, whom he could not eulogize if he would. Gen. Taylor had been constantly, perseveringly, quietly standing up, doing his duty, and asking no praise or reward for it. He was and must be just the man to whom the interests, principles and prosperity of the country might be safely entrusted. He had never failed in anything he had undertaken, although many of his duties had been considered almost impossible.
Mr. Lincoln then went into a terse though rapid review of the origin of the Mexican war and the connection of the administration and of General Taylor with it, from which he deduced a strong appeal to the Whigs present to do their duty in the support of General Taylor, and closed with the warmest aspirations for and confidence in a deserved success.
At the close of this truly masterly and convincing speech, the audience gave three enthusiastic cheers for Illinois, and three more for the eloquent Whig member from that State. 4
Mr. Lincoln's speech drew the approbation of the National Aegis: "For sound conclusive reasoning, and ready wit, it is unsurpassed in the campaign." 5 After the convention concluded on Wednesday, Mr. Lincoln had dinner with several Whig leaders at the residence in Worcester of ex-Governor Levi Lincoln. Henry J. Gardner recalled: "Gov. Levi Lincoln, the oldest living Ex-Governor of Massachusetts, resided in Worcester. He was a man of culture and wealth; lived in one of the finest houses in that town, and was a fine specimen of a gentlemen of the old school. It was his custom to give a dinner party when any distinguished assemblage took place in Worcester, and to invite its prominent participants. He invited to dine, on this occasion, a company of gentlemen, among them myself, as a delegate from Boston. The dining-room and table arrangements were superb, the dinner exquisite, the wines abundant, rare, and of the first quality."
I well remember the jokes between Governor Lincoln and Abraham Lincoln as to their presumed relationship. At last the latter said: 'I hope we both belong, as the Scotch say, to the same clan; but I know one thing, and that is, that we are both good Whigs.' 6
Another version of that night's affair had Mr. Lincoln commenting "upon the beauty of the china, the fineness of the silverware and the richness of all the table appointments, and spoke of the company of distinguished and thoroughly educated men whom he met there in the animated, free and intimate conversation inspired by such an accomplished host as Governor Lincoln." 7
Thirteen years later, Gardner went to Washington and called on President Lincoln: "He came forward smiling and with extended hand, saying:' 'You and I are no strangers; we dined together at Governor Lincoln's in 1848.' When one remembers the increased burden on the President's mind at this trying time, the anxieties of the war, the army, the currency, and the rehabilitating the civil officers of the country, it seemed astonishing to me to hear him continue: 'Sit down. Yes, I had been chosen to Congress then from the wild West, and with hayseed in my hair I went to Massachusetts, the most cultured State in the Union, to take a few lessons in deportment. That was a grand dinner -- a superb dinner; by far the finest I ever saw in my life. And the great men who were there too! Why, I can tell you just how they were arranged at table.' He began at one end, and mentioned the names in order, and, I verily believe, without the omission of a single one." 8
On Thursday, Mr. Lincoln went southeast from Worcester to New Bedford, where he was to help campaign for Congressman Joseph Grinnell in an appearance at Liberty Hall. According to the New Bedford Daily Mercury, Mr. Lincoln delivered a "most admirable and effective speech" which was "marked by great originality, clear, conclusive, convincing reasoning and enlivened by frequent flashes of genuine, racy western wit." 9
Mr. Lincoln was an overnight guest with Congressman Grinnell. On Friday, Congress Lincoln went to Boston for a Whig Club rally. The Boston Atlas reported: "A full and enthusiastic meeting of this Club was held last evening at Washingtonian Hall, Broomfield Street. They were addressed by the Hon. Abraham Lincoln, of Illinois, in a speech of an hour and a half, which, for sound reasoning, cogent argument and keen satire, we have seldom heard equaled. He defended General Taylor from the charge that he had no principles, by showing conclusively that his avowed and well known principles were, that the people's will should be obeyed, and not frustrated by Executive usurpation and the interposition of the veto power.
He pointed out the absurdity of men who professed Whig principles supporting Van Buren, with all his Locofoism, while the Whigs were as much opposed to the extension of slavery as were the Van Buren party. His remarks were frequently interrupted by rounds of applause. As soon as he had concluded, the audience gave three cheers for Taylor and Fillmore, and three more for Mr. Lincoln, the Lone Star of Illinois, and then adjourned. It was a glorious meeting. 10
The Boston Herald reported that Congressman Lincoln's "remarks were well directed, and in his allusions to Van Buren he was exceedingly happy. He compared him to a man having a gun which went off at both ends -- that he would kill the object in view and those who supported him, at the same time." 11 Mr. Lincoln overnighted at the Tremont House in Boston. According to Lincoln scholar Louis Warren, the speeches at Boston and Worcester "were probably responsible for invitations to address groups at New Bedford, Lowell, Dorchester, Chelsea, Dedham, Cambridge, and Taunton, where he is known to have spoken in favor of the candidacy of Taylor. One or two of these engagements are known to have been made by Mr. [William] Schouler, editor of th Boston Atlas, in whose office Lincoln is known to have visited." 12
Mr. Lincoln spoke in Dearborn Park in Lowell on Saturday evening, September 16. The Lowell Daily Journal reported: "Mr. [George] Woodman introduced the Hon. Abraham Lincoln, of Illinois. It would be doing injustice to his speech to endeavor to give a sketch of it. It was replete with good sense, sound reasoning, and irresistible argument, and spoken with that perfect command of manner and matter which so eminently distinguishes the Western orators. He disabused the public of the erroneous suppositions that Taylor was not a Whig; that Van Buren was anything more than a thorough Locofoco, on all subjects other than Free Territory, and hardly safe on that -- and showed up, in a masterly manner, the inconsistency and folly of those Whigs, who, being drawn off from the true and oldest free soil organization known among the parties of the Union, would now lend their influence and votes to help Mr. Van Buren into the Presidential chair. His speech was interrupted by the cheers of the audience, evincing the truth of the great supposition that the dead can speak." 13 According to a report in the Lowell Courier, Mr. Lincoln's address had been "replete with good sense, sound reasoning and irresistible argument..." 14
One young local resident recalled that Mr. Lincoln was a "tall man about forty years of age, clothed in dark clothing, wearing a collar which turned over a black silk cravat, over six feet in height, slightly stooping as tall men sometimes are, with long arms, which he frequently extended in earnest gesticulation, of dark complexion with dark almost black hair, with strong and homely features, with sad eyes which now kindled into brightness in earnest argument, or quiet humor, and then assumed a calm sadness; a forceful and candid man I thought him rather than a eloquent one; he pointed his arguments with amusing illustrations, and funny stories, which he seemed to enjoy as he told them, for he joined in a comical way in the laugh they occasioned, shaking his sides, which peculiar manner seemed to add to the good humor of the audience; with a voice of more than average compass, clear and penetrating, pronouncing many of his words in a manner not usual to New England." 15
Mr. Lincoln overnighted in Lowell and spent Sunday there as well. On Monday, Mr. Lincoln's tour took him to Dorchester, where according to the Boston Courier, he spoke to a "full and enthusiastic" crowd. 16 On Tuesday, September 19, Mr. Lincoln attended a rally in Chelsea just north of Boston. "The Whigs of Chelsea last night held one of those meetings which do good to the inner man. The Hon. Abraham Lincoln made a speech, which for aptness of illustration, solidity of argument, and genuine eloquence, is hard to beat," according to the Boston Atlas. 17
After attending a Whig rally at Temperance Hall in Dedham on September 20, Congressman Lincoln left abruptly to address a Whig group at City Hall in Cambridge: "Mr. Lincoln . . . is a capital specimen of a `Sucker' Whig, six feet at least in his stockings, and every way worthy to represent that Spartan band of the only Whig district in poor benighted Illinois," reported one member of the audience. 18
On September 21, Mr. Lincoln spoke in Taunton at Union Hall. The Taunton Daily Gazette reported that "Mr. Lincoln is a genuine Sucker, and is well versed in the political tactics of the Western country. His speech was full of humor...." 19 The Old Colony Republican noted: "Leaning himself up against the wall, as he commenced, and talking in the plainest manner, and in the most indifferent tone, yet gradually fixing his footing, and getting command of his limbs, loosening his tongue, and firing up his thoughts, until he had got entire possession of himself and of his audience, were done in a style that will longer be remembered." 20 The Bristol County Democrat reported a much more negative commentary on Mr. Lincoln's speech:
The Taylor men were entertained Wednesday evening, the 20th inst., at Union Hall, by an address from the Hon. Abraham Lincoln of Illinois. The address as well as the speaker was such as to give unlimited satisfaction to the disheartened Taylorites. Such a treat it is indeed seldom their good luck to get, and they were in ecstasies. At a former meeting their spirits were too low for a good hearty cheer, but on this occasion 'the steam was up.' It was reviving to hear a man speak as if he believed what he was saying and had a grain or two of feeling mixed up with it; one who could not only speak highly of Taylor, but could occasionally swell with indignation or burst in hatred on the Free Soilers. When political spite runs high nothing can be too pungent or severe, and the speaker is appreciated in proportion as his statements are rash unscrupulous. So it was on this occasion. The speaker was far inferior as a reasoner to others who hold the same views, but then he was more unscrupulous, more facetious and with his sneers he mixed up a good deal of humor. His awkward gesticulations, the ludicrous management of his voice and the comical expression of his countenance, all conspired to make his hearers laugh at the mere anticipation of the joke before it appeared. But enough concerning the speaker; let us examine his arguments.
General Taylor, he argued, has principles, though he has not given expression to them on the Tariff, Bank and other questions of policy. This, however, is in direct contradiction of Taylor, himself, who in his letter to Delany writes, 'As regards the second and third inquiries (about a bank and tariff), I am not prepared to answer them. I could only do so after investigating them. I am no politician; nearly forty years of my life have been passed on the Western frontier and in the Indian count[r]y.' The speaker next discussed the veto question and said that Taylor was the first Whig candidate that had come fully up to the Whig platform in his point, because unlike all other candidates before him he had not even claimed the right to advise Congress on matters of policy. The proper limitation of the veto, he contended, was the Whig platform itself, and General Taylor by his equivocal silence had come up to it better than the great parent of Whig principles -- Henry Clay. He did not know that General Taylor had professed that he would not veto the Wilmot proviso, but believed that he would not, because Gen. Taylor had promised not to veto any measure unless it was unconstitutional or passed in haste and acknowledge that to be constitutional which had been established by long usage and acquiesced in by the people. As the constitutionality of the Wilmot Proviso he said 'had never been disputed,' it was therefore acquiesced in by the people and consequently Taylor was bound not to veto it.
He subsequently admitted in speaking of Cass, that in the Nicholson letter the constitutional power of Congress to exclude slavery from any territory in the Union was denied. Yet he seemed to forget this when he said the constitutionality of the Proviso had never been disputed. He seemed to be entirely ignorant that every propagandist of slavery in existence, with John C. Calhoun at their head, claimed the right, under the Constitution, and independent of Congress, to carry their 'property' into any part of the United States territory and there to hold it.
Calhoun said in the Senate that when the South consented to the Missouri Compromise the rights of the South granted by the Constitution were given up but belonged to the South the same as if no compromise had been made. Thomas Corwin said in his speech on the Compromise Bill introduced in the Senate last session of Congress that the constitutionality of any measure excluding slavery from the territories could not with safety be left to the decision of the Supreme Court. The House of Representatives had the same views and rejected the bill. None of these facts did the speaker allude to, but instead uttered the stupendous falsehood that the constitutionality of the 'Proviso' had never been disputed. Without this 'whopper,' however, the argument would have been defective. There would have been a gap in it, so the lie was made big enough to fill the gap that the argument might there be made sound and conclusive.
He related a conversation which he overhead at the dinner table of a house in Lowell between two Free Soilers. One of them remarked that the reasoning of the Taylor men was not logical, for it certainly was illogical to say, 'General Taylor is a slaveholder, therefore we go for him to prevent the extension of slavery.' He thought this was an unfair statement of the case and gave what he deemed the correct one in the form of a syllogism as follows: 'General Taylor is a slaveholder, but he will do more to prevent the extension of slavery than any other man who it is possible to elect, therefore we go for Taylor.'
It needs no argument to prove that the major proposition does not include the minor o[n]e and has nothing to do with it. But let that pass. The minor proposition asserts that General Taylor will do 'more' to prevent the extension of slavery than any other man it is possible to elect, and this assertion is made before the logician has even attempted to prove that General Taylor was opposed to the extension of slavery at all! The attempt is made to prove that he will do more than any other man before it is proved that he will do the first thing. But taking for granted that General Taylor will not veto the Proviso (a position founded on a lie) is that a proof that he will do anything to prevent the extension of slavery? He may never have a chance to veto the Proviso even if elected in November. The slave states are equal with the free states in the Senate and before the proviso can pass that body one or two of the Southern Senators must yield.
Under such circumstances, is it likely that any Senator from the South will be influenced to vote for the Proviso by the executive patronage of the unrepentant slaveholder, Zachary Taylor? Is it not more probable that it would be brought to bear on some Northern doughface? It would be quite safe for Taylor to make an equivocal promise not to veto the Proviso, but he has not even done so much as that. The speaker contended that Van Buren had approved the policy of the Mexican War and the annexation of new territory. This he did not prove from Van Buren's letter written in 1844. If he had read that letter to his hearers they would have found that Van Buren wrote against annexation, partly because it would produce war. The proof he gave was the fact that some of the same individuals who supported Van Buren in 1844 had since voted both for Texas and war.
He said in another part of his speech that the Northern Democrats were opposed to the annexation of Texas in 1844. Yet he undertook to prove that Van Buren was in favor of annexation and war from the fact that these men once supported him and that at the very time they themselves were opposed to annexation. But why should Van Buren be held responsible for all who now support him? Are the sins of Berrien Mangum and other propagandists of slavery to be laid to his charge? He was enough to answer for his own account if we acquit him of all guilt connected with the Native Church burning of Philadelphia.
To show the recklessness and audacity of the honorable gentleman and the low estimate he had formed of his hearers, it will suffice to give but one specimen. Speaking of Van Buren, he said, 'he (Van Buren) won't have an electoral vote in the nation nor as many as all others in any county in the nation.' The reasoning adopted by the Whig Free Soilers he gave in the form of a syllogism as follows: 'We can't go for General Taylor because he is not a Whig. Van Buren is not a Whig; therefore, we go for him.' This dishonest statement of the case elicited warm applause from his truth-loving hearers. The syllogism should have stood thus: We can't vote for a man without principles. General Taylor has got none, and Van Buren has, at least, got one good Whig principle; therefore, we go for Van Buren against Taylor.
For the benefit of those who are like the speaker, always misrepresenting the Free Soil Party, I will define our position in a pro-syllogism. The abolition of slavery in the territory of the United States can never be accomplished unless the North is united. But the North cannot be united until old party lines are broken down. But these lines cannot be broken down unless every man is willing to sacrifice his attachment to minor questions and make opposition to slavery the leading idea; therefore, we have come out of the old pro-slavery parties and formed the United Party of the North. 21
On September 22, Massachusetts Whigs rallied at the Tremont Temple in downtown Boston to hear New York Senator William H. Seward. Afterwards, Mr. Lincoln "spoke about an hour, and made a powerful and convincing speech. . . . The audience then gave three hearty cheers for `old Zack,' three more for Governor Seward, and three more for Mr. Lincoln, and then adjourned; thus ended one of the best meetings ever held in this good Whig city." 22 Lincoln scholar Louis A. Warren wrote: 'It is not known that Abraham Lincoln wrote out any of his Massachusetts speeches, but it is said that the Worcester speech was the best one of them all, and the others were largely a repetition of the Worcester speech. This would suggest that the Boston Speech, which was the climax of his itinerary, was patterned very largely after his address at Worcester." 23
Before Congressman Lincoln entrained for home the next day, he conferred with Senator Seward: "I have been thinking about what you said in your speech. I reckon you are right. We have got to deal with this slavery question, and got to give more attention to it hereafter than we have been doing." 24
A dozen years later, Abraham Lincoln returned to New England where he spoke in three states, but he did not speak in Massachusetts on his way to or from New Hampshire where his son Robert Todd Lincoln was studying for Harvard's entrance exams. Moving to Cambridge Robert would become Mr. Lincoln's favorite Massachusetts resident. Mr. Lincoln wrote David Davis on July 27, 1860: "Bob has got in at Harvard, and sends me a blank bond, which he says must be signed by me, and some citizen of Massachusetts. The condition is for the payment of all the college dues. If you can conscientiously do so, will [you] please write our friend, Julius Rockwell, that he can safely sign the bond with me. 25 Mr. Lincoln himself wrote Rockwell: "My son, who has entered Harvard University, sends me the enclosed blank bond, which, with the head-note, explains itself. I think of you more readily than any other citizen of Massachusetts, as one who would probably be willing to oblige me, by signing it. I have, however, requested our friend, Judge D. Davis, to write you on the subject; and I do not ask you to sign the bond, unless his letter shall be entirely satisfactory. If it be satisfactory, please fill the blanks properly, sign the bond, and enclose it to 'Robert T. Lincoln' Exeter, New-Hampshire, for which I shall be greatly obliged. 26 Lincoln scholar F. Lauriston Bullard noted: "Edward Everett Hale twice affirmed the truth of a story which he included in a volume of reminiscences, how when Robert T. Lincoln applied for admission to Harvard College in 1859, bearing a letter of introduction to President Walker from Stephen A. Douglas, James Russell Lowell intimated that he probably was the only man in the faculty who ever had heard of that young man's father." 27
In early 1860, Massachusetts was considered Seward territory. Indeed, Mr. Lincoln was warned by New Hampshire Republicans that he should not visit Boston because the New Hampshire Republicans needed him more. Also, unlike Connecticut, New Hampshire and Rhode Island, the gubernatorial election in Massachusetts was not scheduled until the fall. Massachusetts was divided as the Republican National Convention in Chicago approached. Governor Nathaniel Banks decided against reelection, and he hoped to graduate to the Presidency. The Massachusetts party, however, was split.
On the first convention ballot, Massachusetts cast 21 ballots for Seward and 4 for Mr. Lincoln. Seward picked up one vote on the second ballot. Even on the third ballot, Seward received 18 votes, but Mr. Lincoln had picked up 4 more hand now had 8. By then the rest of New England had moved solidly to Mr. Lincoln's side. But when the time came for Mr. Lincoln's nomination to be declared unanimous, John A. Andrew seconded the motion. Ohio journalist Murat Halstead wrote: "Mr. Andrew of Massachusetts seconded the motion in a speech, in which his vanity as a citizen of the commonwealth of Massachusetts was ventilated, and he said it had not been for old Massachusetts to strike down William Henry Seward, concluding by a promise to give the nominee of that Convention one hundred thousand majority." 28 Historian William B. Hesseltine speculates that Andrew really did not support the Seward, however.
Massachusetts Republicans rallied behind the Lincoln presidential candidacy. Lincoln scholar F. Lauriston Bullard wrote that "John A. Andrew had returned form the Chicago convention full of enthusiasm for the nominee. As a member of the notification committee he had traveled to Springfield, and at a ratification meeting in Faneuil Hall he told how captivated he had been by the party's choice. 'I would trust my case with the honesty and with the intellect and with the art and with the brain of Abraham Lincoln as a lawyer and I would trust my country's cause in the care of Abraham Lincoln as its chief magistrate while the wind blows and the water runs.'" 29 Historian Reinhard H. Luthin wrote: "The Bay State Republican organization -- a fusion of erstwhile 'Conscience' Whigs, radical Jeffersonian Democrats, anti-liquor reformers, anti-Irish Know-Nothings and assorted anti-slavery groups -- was full of the vitality that came with lusty growth. By 1860 no opposition party was formidable enough to challenge its supremacy. For years the Democrat party had been sterile, comprising only a small minority; as one critic observed: 'Their leaders have always acted on the principle of keeping the party in Massachusetts 'conveniently small'...'in order to have fewer competitors for the federal offices.'" 30
Mr. Lincoln was tempted to return to Massachusetts during the campaign late that summer. But Republicans believed in the American tradition that campaigning by a presidential candidate was undignified and that Democrat Stephen A. Douglas's swing through the North was counterproductive. Republican National Committee Secretary George Fogg urged Mr. Lincoln not to accept invitation to a horse show in Springfield. "The treads of Douglas in search of his 'father's grave,' and his 'anxious mother's' pantry, are freely commented on by the Republican papers, who hold up your quiet and dignified retirement in contrast. You could not go to Springfield without your journey being in some measure a political ovation. As such, it would relieve Douglas of the charge of being the only stump candidate for the Presidency. It would also be construed by the Democratic papers into evidence of Republican alarm. In this view, it might 'hurt.' Everything east I believe is well. The election is ours now. The triumph is ours." 31 Indeed, Mr. Lincoln triumphed in Massachusetts with 63% of the vote to just 23% for Douglas.
In 1860 campaigning by surrogates was the norm. In September, Senator William H. Seward made a tour of the Midwest. Massachusetts Congressman Charles Francis Adams, Jr. recorded the meeting of William H. Seward with Mr. Lincoln as Seward went from St. Louis to Chicago: "We went through to Chicago on the regular train, nor did they give Governor Seward a car for himself; when we got to Springfield the train was quite full, and our party were occupying seats as ordinary passengers. 'Mr. Lincoln and Judge [Lyman] Trumbull,' my diary records, 'came on board the train. Judge Trumbull I had met before in Washington, and again in St. Louis the previous day; but 'old Abe' was a revelation. There he was, tall, shambling, plain and good-natured. He seemed shy to a degree, and very awkward in manner; as if he felt out of place, and had a realizing sense that properly the positions should be reversed. Seward too appeared constrained.' Judge Trumbull, between whom and Seward the true senatorial ill-will and cold distrust existed, did the introducing, we all standing in the aisle of the car; for no arrangement had been made for stopping the train, and we none of us left it. There was no demonstration; not a pretence of a reception. It was exactly as if a couple of ordinary business men had come down to a station to meet some travelers passing through, and exchange a few words during a five-minutes stop...Lincoln's face is a good ordinary face. He has proved his skill as a debater; but, if could judge by a passing glance at a moment when the man was obviously embarrassed, I should say that his eye never belonged to a man great in action; it is neither the quick sharp eye of a man of sudden and penetrating nature, nor the slow firm eye of one of decided will; but it is a mild dreamy eye which one would scarcely expect to see on a successful chief magistrate in these days of the republic[.] Mais nous verrons." 32
The son of President John Quincy Adams and grandson of President John Adams, Charles Francis Adams had a long political pedigree. He was a key ally of Seward -- especially during Seward's efforts to find a congressional compromise with the South in early 1861. In so doing, Adams alienated his Bay State allies. Senator Charles Sumner was furious with Adams for his willingness to compromise and sought to prevent his nomination as minister to Great Britain. According to historian Eric Foner, "Adams believed that his offer had stripped away the pretense from southern complaints and revealed the reality of the secessionists' demands. The fact that his concessions did not satisfy the South proved that 'the question is one of power, and nothing short of surrender of everything gained by the election will avail. They want to continue to rule.'" 33 Seward, however, was grateful for Adams' support.
Massachusetts was quickly out of the running for a Cabinet appointment in the Lincoln Administration. Vice President-elect Hamlin objected to Banks as a "trimmer in politics" although he was supported by Massachusetts Republicans like George S. Boutwell who wrote Mr. Lincoln that Banks was "distinguished for coolness, capacity for conciliation, without surrendering principles, firmness, and courage." 34 Charles F. Adams had been considered by President-elect Lincoln for the Cabinet because of his close relationship with Seward. In early January, wrote historian John Niven, "the Massachusetts congressional delegation unanimously recommended Adams in a strongly worded statement, but privately Henry Wilson was not enthusiastic, as he explained in a follow-up letter to Lincoln. He had deferred, he said, to the wishes of his colleagues and the Massachusetts central committee. If Welles were appointed from New England, he would be just as pleased. 'I know them both well,' he said, 'and I can truly say that they are able, pure and true men. Mr Welles...is no speaker, but one of the best writers in our section of the country.' Lincoln's sometimes fumbling troubleshooter, Leonard Swett, who was in Washington at this time, added the weight of his counsel to that of Wilson. He had not thought much of Welles before his visit to the capital. Now he was certain that Welles would be a good appointment, and that he had brought support in New England." 35
After Mr. Lincoln took office as president, Congressman Adams was named as Minister to Great Britain. Secretary Seward and Adams went to the White House, where according to Adams son, "Presently a door opened, and a tall, large-featured, shabbily dressed man, of uncouth appearance, slouched into the room. His much-kneed, ill-fitting trousers, coarse stockings, and worn slippers at once caught his eye. He seemed generally ill at ease, -- in manner, constrained and shy." 36 began to thank the President for the honor. But Mr. Lincoln interrupted: "Very kind of you to say so Mr. Adams but you are not my choice. You are Seward's man." He then continued the conversation by saying to Seward, "Well Seward, I have settled the Chicago Post Office." 37 The comparison of the two positions infuriated Adams. He had served in Congress from Massachusetts as a Republican after he had earlier abandoned the Whig Party to help found the Free Soil Party. Adams was a stiff and serious man whose personality and principles often made politics and diplomacy difficult. Nevertheless, as Minister to England, Adams helped solve the Trent affair and keep England out of the war.
Among Mr. Lincoln's other key diplomatic appointments from Massachusetts was Anson Burlingame, who had favored the reelection of Illinois Senator Stephen A. Douglas in 1858. Burlingame, who lost his reelection bid in 1860, was a talented speaker and ardent abolitionist who supported Nathaniel Banks' abortive ambition for Republican nomination in 1860. Burlingame was described by Iowa politician Josiah B Grinnell as "cultured, magnetic as an orator, genial..." Burlingame was first appointed Minister to Austria, but his appointment was rejected in Vienna because of his support for Hungarian revolution. In an attempt to reduce diplomatic friction with Europe, President Lincoln instead appointed Burlingame Minister to China -- where he became so close to the government that he switched positions in 1867 and represented China in Washington. But Iowa Republican reported that in 1861, Burlingame told him: "I am a restless spirit and have an ambition to see the world and serve abroad." 38
Mr. Lincoln had great respect for the political talents of Massachusetts residents. The day after his inauguration, President Lincoln was greeted at the White House by a Massachusetts delegation for which Congressman Charles R. Train served as spokesman. In response, President Lincoln said: I am thankful for this renewed assurance of kind feeling, and confidence, and support of the Old Bay State, in so far as you, Mr. Chairman, have expressed, in behalf of those whom you represent, your sanction of what I have enunciated in my inaugural address. This is very grateful to my feelings. The subject was one of great delicacy, in presenting views at the opening of an administration under the peculiar circumstances attending my entrance upon the official duties connected with the Government. I studied all the points with great anxiety, and have presented them with whatever of ability and sense of justice I could bring to bear.
If it meet the approbation of our good friends in Massachusetts, I shall be exceedingly gratified; while I hope it will meet the approbation of friends everywhere. I am thank ful for the expressions of those who have voted with us; and like every other man of you, I like them certainly as I do others. [Laughter.] As President, in the administration of the Government, I hope to be man enough not to know one citizen of the United States from another, [cries of 'Good!'] nor one section from another. I shall be gratified to have the good friends of Massachusetts and others, who have thus far supported me in these national views, still to support me in carrying them out." 39
A year and a week later, Congressman Train brought another delegation, including Nathaniel Hawthorne, to the White House: "I thank you, Mr. Train, for your kindness in presenting me with this truly elegant and highly creditable specimen of the handiwork of the mechanics of your State of Massachusetts, and I beg of you to express my hearty thanks to the donors. It displays a perfection of workmanship which I really wish I had time to acknowledge in more fitting words, and I might then follow your idea that it is suggestive, for it is evidently expected that a good deal of whipping is to be done. But, as we meet here socially, let us not think only of whipping rebels, or of those who seem to think only of whipping negroes, but of those pleasant days which it is to be hoped are in store for us, when, seated behind a good pair of horses, we can crack our whips and drive through a peaceful, happy and prosperous land. With this idea, gentlemen, I must leave you for my business duties." 40
Congressman John B. Alley wrote: "Senator Sumner and myself called upon him, one morning to urge the appointment of a Massachusetts man to be a Secretary of Legation, chiefly upon the ground of his superior qualifications. We urged the appointment somewhat persistently, but Mr. Lincoln said emphatically, 'No;' that he should give the place to an applicant from another State, who was backed by strong influence, although he acknowledged that he did not think him fit for the position. We were naturally indignant, and wished to know if one of acknowledged fitness was to be rejected because he was a Massachusetts man, and one whom he was willing to say was not fit, was to be appointed. 'Yes,' said the President, 'that is just the reason' -- and facetiously added, 'I suppose you two Massachusetts gentlemen think that your State could furnish suitable men for every diplomatic and consulate station the Government has to fill. We replied that we thought it could. He appeased our displeasure by saying he thought so too, and that he considered Massachusetts the banner State of the Union, and admired its institutions and people so much that he had sent his 'Bob'...to Harvard for an education. He said he could do nothing further in the way of appointments for Massachusetts, because he could not afford to and she did not need it. Massachusetts, he said, was intelligent and patriotic. Her people would do right and support his administration, even if he offended scores of her most esteemed public men. 'But,' he added, 'not so with this other State. It is a close State. I can mention half a dozen of her public men, Republicans, who have influence enough to carry the State over to the other side. For this reason,' he concluded, 'I cannot afford to disregard the wishes of these men.' His reasons, together with his shrewd compliment to Massachusetts, restored our good humor, and we went away satisfied." 41
Governor John Andrew was more difficult to satisfy. He was hard-driving, hard-drinking and hard to make happy. He was an energetic if uncharismatic leader who strongly supported the Union war effort even if he less warmly supported President Lincoln. Contemporary Frank Preston Stearns wrote: "In the New York Herald of December 20, 1860, there was the following item: 'Governor-elect Andrew, of Massachusetts, and George L. Stearns have gone to Washington together, and it is said that the object of their visit is to brace up weak-kneed Republicans.' This was one object of their journey, but they also went to survey the ground and see what was the true state of affairs at the Capital. Stearns wrote from Washington to the Bird Club: 'The watchword here is "Keep quiet," a sentence full of significance for the interpretation of the policy pursued by the Republican leaders that winter. Andrew returned with the conviction that war was imminent and could not be prevented. His celebrated order in regard to the equipment of the State militia followed immediately, and after the bombardment of Fort Sumter this was looked upon as a true prophecy. He foresaw the difficulty at Baltimore, and had already chartered steamships to convey regiments to Washington, in case there should be a general uprising in Maryland." 42
"Nearly everybody had a high regard for Andrew's gifts," wrote historian Allan Nevins. "This aggressive, generous, choleric little man, the Miles Standish of the Bay State, had proved far-sighted, fearless and unwearied. To be sure, his judgment was erratic, for he was emotional and impulsive; he was tactless, and his fierce bluntness made many enemies. He liked to write fiery letters about the sins of Ben Butler and other opponents, and declaim them aloud to everybody within earshot. His fits of impatience, his violent language, his exaggerated loves and hates, however, were easy to forgive, for he put a manly honesty into all his acts."43 William B. Hesseltine wrote that "Andrew had emotion and energy, but his judgment was weak and his enthusiasm outran his capacity."44
When hostilities broke out at Fort Sumter, Governor Andrew acted expeditiously to dispatch Massachusetts militia to Washington. Early Lincoln biographer Josiah G. Holland wrote: "Massachusetts was the first state to respond to the call for troops. Governor Andrew, a devoted friend of the administration, acted as promptly then in the support of the government, as he afterwards labored with efficient persistence in the destruction of the rebellion; but the credit of having the troops ready for motion and action was due mainly to the foresight of Governor N. P. Banks, afterwards a Major General in the federal service. He was Governor Andrew's predecessor; and three years before the breaking out of the rebellion declared, when rallied on his devotion to the military, that the troops would be called upon within a few years to suppress a slaveholders' rebellion..."45
Massachusetts contributed two leading political generals to the war one effort -- one a Republican, former Governor Banks, and the other a Democrat, Benjamin F. Butler. Butler's transformation from a pro-Southern Democrat to a radical Republican during the Civil War was the most striking. In 1860, Butler had been determined to block Stephen Douglas' nomination -- even though he went to the Democratic National Convention pledged to him. After fulfilling his obligation to Douglas, he switched his votes to Jefferson Davis -- actually hoping to nominate James Guthrie of Kentucky. Eventually, he switched to support the Breckinridge ticket, and ran as the ticket's dramatically unsuccessful candidate for governor in 1860. "I sedulously devoted myself to an endeavor to keep the peace, and keep the peace, and keep the Democratic party together, because I looked to that as the only source of safety to the Union," wrote Butler.46
Lawyer Butler's passions were split between political and military affairs. Butler's mother tried to get him to West Point, but he was denied an appointment -- helping to establish his long antipathy to West Point graduates. Later, he signed on to a new militia company in 1839 -- believing that each generation of his family would be called on to serve in war. He spent the next 20 years working his way up through the ranks of the Lowell militia until he was its leader -- and the logical person to lead Massachusetts troops leaving to fight in the Civil War. One governor, however, literally try to redistrict Butler out of his leadership position by changing the lines of Lowell's regiments.
Frank Preston Stearns wrote: "Both Sumner and Wilson opposed the appointment of General Butler to the command of the Massachusetts Volunteers, and preferred Caleb Cushing, who afterwards proved to be a more satisfactory member of the Republican party than Butler; but, on the whole, Andrew would seem to have acted judiciously. They were both bold, ingenious and quick-witted men, but it is doubtful if Cushing possessed the dash and intrepidity which Butler showed in dealing with the situation at Baltimore. That portion of his military career was certainly a good success, and how far he should be held responsible for the corrupt proceedings of his brother at New Orleans I do not undertake to decide.
It is likely that Governor Andrew regretted his choice three weeks later, when General Butler offered his services to the Governor of Maryland to suppress a slave insurrection which never took place, and of which there was no danger then or afterwards. A sharp correspondence followed between the Governor and the General, in which the latter nearly reached the point of insubordination. For excellent reasons this was not made public at the time, and is little known at the present day; but General Butler owed his prominence in the war wholly to Governor Andrew's appointment.47
Once back in uniform, It was hard to get Butler outside the lines. Benjamin Butler did not lack in ambition. In his memoirs he wrote: "I encamped with my brigade four years, in 1857, 1858, 1859, and 1860, so that in fact I had commanded a larger body of troops, duly uniformed and equipped, than any general of the United States army then living except General Scott."48 In order to get his troops to Washington in April 1861, Butler circumvented Baltimore where a mob had earlier attacked and killed some Massachusetts soldiers. Butler subsequently occupied the city without any orders to do so -- infuriating the commanding Union general, Winfield Scott. That was the high point of Butler's military accomplishments. According to Butler biographer Richard S. West, Jr., "As a commander of troops in the field Butler gained a reputation for inadequacy which has followed him down through history. At Annapolis and Baltimore he had won by strategy, by the quick move that took the enemy by surprise and avoided bloodshed. His droll seizure of the State Seal of Maryland might not indeed have prevented Maryland from seceding had a secession movement matured; but after his surprise push into Baltimore it would have been suicide for Baltimore businessmen to rebel in the face of the cannon on Federal Hill."49 Lincoln aide John Hay recorded on November 8, 1861 a letter from Benjamin Butler to the President that demonstrated Butler's extraordinary ambition:
Gen'l Wool has resigned. Gen'l Fremont must. Gen'l Scott has retired.
I have an ambition, and I trust a laudable one, to be Major-General of the United States Army.
Has anybody done more to deserve it? No one will do more. May I rely upon you, as you may have confidence in me, to take this matter into consideration?
I will not disgrace the position. I may fail in its duties.
P.S. I have made the same suggestion to other of my friends.50
Butler's Republican counterpart in military and political ambition was Nathaniel Banks. He was one of the first Union officers to be named a major general -- in June 1861. He was also most of most conspicuous failures as a political general. "Banks was a clever, interesting, showy politician without much depth or purpose. But he was a favorite of Seward's, and a man of influence in the Bay State, where he had honestly earned his prominence," wrote historian Allan Nevins.51 "Always a gifted speaker with strong interpersonal skills, he made a smooth transition to military life and inspired others to perform their duty for the cause," wrote historian Thomas J. Goss.52
However, according to Goss, "Banks lacked any practical military experience that could justify his appointment as a major general. Prior to the war, he had served on the Military Affairs Committee during his first term in Congress, but he had used that post mostly to improve his standing back home by exerting pressure on the management and contracts for the Springfield Armory in his own congressional district. Banks was unwilling to get involved in setting military policy for the antebellum army. While in Congress, he once claimed that he was 'not acquainted with details of military matters, and personally [had] no pride in them.' As a state governor, Banks officially commanded the state militia and led it on the annual encampments, but he had little impact on its training and did not practice any form of field command."53 Goss wrote that Banks "would fulfill his assigned role simply by being in uniform and in the field."54
"Banks...failed both as a general and as a director of Reconstruction," wrote historian Joseph G. Dawson III. Banks had failed to understand President Lincoln's objectives and turn them into reality after he replaced Butler as the military commander in Louisiana. Dawson wrote: "Actually, his failure as a Reconstruction leader can be attributed, in part at least, to his military defeats. Had Banks overwhelmed the Confederate armies and occupied the rest of Louisiana, he could have followed a firmer program of reconstruction. Instead, he combined Lincoln's directives with his own moderate labor program, and relaxed Butler's restrictions, expediently endeavoring to cement Confederate sympathizers to an uncertain alliance of Unionists. The result was an ineffectual civil government dominated by the army."55 The result was also a frustrated Chief Executive back in Washington.
Like Butler, Banks tried to work the political system to make up for his military deficiencies. Mrs. Lincoln was no fan of Banks, whom she "considered a weak failure, overrated." She wrote Charles Sumner in late November 1864: "Gen Banks has been in W- for ten days past, unremitting in his attention to the President." Two days later, she wrote another friend that "Gen Banks is here, working for dear life, for the Cabinet".
More effective than either Butler or Banks was Governor Andrew. He lacked social grace or nuanced political judgment, but he had enormous drive and intelligence. He was an attorney, religious activist and strong abolitionist who opposed many of Governor Banks' moderate policies as a member of Massachusetts House before the Civil War. His nomination for the Governorship was engineered by his friend Charles Sumner and his political allies. Andrew's support for John Brown's Harpers Ferry raid in 1859 had certified his radical credentials. Historian William B. Hesseltine wrote: "John Albion Andrew, was a dynamo of radical energy, stimulating the other governors, bringing pressure on Lincoln, scolding the administration for slowness and inefficiency, and attempting both to dictate policy and to direct military campaigns. In every respect, Andrew was the antithesis of his New England colleagues. He had not been a successful lawyer, business man, or railroad manager. Aside from an aggressive piety, he possessed none of the hardy virtues which New England traditionally admired. He was a throw-back to an earlier day, a Puritan crusader in the tradition of Cromwell's Ironsides and Jonathan Elliot. He was a man whom only a crisis could have brought to the top -- a seminal character who produced crises where he went."57
Andrew's appearance was distinctly unmilitary but his attitude was determinedly militaristic. Historian William B. Hesseltine wrote: "John Andrew had neither the appearance nor the manner of a statesman. He had been feeble in infancy, and had grown up to be a pudgy and untidy man." Although he did not like or admire President Lincoln, Governor Andrew nevertheless supported President Lincoln's war policies and reelection in 1864 -- after first toying with John Fremont's candidacy and promoting the 1862 Altoona Conference of Governors to provide an alternative to Lincoln's leadership. Cantankerous, emotional, unpredictable, and driven, Governor Andrew was a doer. Hesseltine wrote: "With that discovery, Andrew's impatience with the administration began. Through the years it mounted as instance after instance proved to the governor that he was more efficient, and more patriotic, than Lincoln and the Washington officials. In the end, he concluded that Lincoln was far too moderate, too confused, and too obtuse to lead the country." Hesseltine wrote: "The first clash between Andrew and Lincoln came when the president authorized Ben Butler to raise an independent command in New England. The Massachusetts governor had no desire to aid a Democratic rival, and refused to commission officers for one of the regiments which Butler raised. Andrew and Butler quarrelled like fishwives, and carried their vituperation to the White House. Lincoln forced Andrew to commission Butler's officers, and effected a compromise between the contestants. But never again did John Andrew trust Abraham Lincoln."58 But Andrew never stopped complaining. President Lincoln replied to one telegram from Governor Andrew in mid-August 1862
Your dispatch saying 'I cant get those regts. off because I cant get quick work out of the U.S. disbursing officer & the Paymaster' is received.
Please say to these gentlemen that if they do not work quickly I will make quick work with them. In the name of all that is reasonable, how long does it take to pay a couple of Regts.?
We were never more in need of the arrival of Regts. than now -- even to-day.59
One of Governor Andrew's pet projects was the recruitment of two regiments of African-American troops from Massachusetts. Since there were not sufficient potential soldiers in his own states, Andrew sent agents elsewhere to recruit black soldiers. President Lincoln wrote Governor Andrew in February 1864: "Yours of the 12th. was received yesterday. If I were to judge from the letter, without any external knowledge, I should suppose that all the colored people South of Washington were struggling to get to Massachusetts; that Massachusetts was anxious to receive and retain the whole of them as permanent citizens; and that the United States Government here was interposing and preventing this. But I suppose these are neither really the facts, nor meant to be asserted as true by you. Coming down to what I su, ppose to be the real facts, you are engaged in trying to raise color, e, d troops for the U.S. and wish to take recruits from Virginia, through Washington, to Massachusetts for that object; and the loyal Governor of Virginia, also trying to raise troops for us, objects to your taking his material away; while we, having to care for all, and being responsible alike to all, have to do as much for him, as we have to do for you, if he was, by our authority, taking men from Massachusetts to fill up Virginia regiments. No more than this has been intended by me; nor, as I think, by the Secretary of War. There may have been some abuses of this, as a rule, which, if known, should be prevented in future."
If, however, it be really true that Massachusetts wishes to afford a permanent home within her borders, for all, or even a large number of colored persons who will come to her, I shall be only too glad to know it. It would give relief in a very difficult point; and I would not for a moment hinder from going, any person who is free by the terms of the proclamation or any of the acts of Congress.60
Equally determined as Andrew in his opposition to slavery was the state's senior senator, Charles Sumner. Sumner was Massachusetts' leading political personality -- certainly he was in his own vain eyes. A "Conscience Whig," he was one of the founders of the Free Soil Party He had been elected to the Senate in 1851 as a Free Soiler. Five years later, Sumner had become a northern hero when an intemperate speech by Sumner on the Senate floor led a few days later to a vicious beating by South Carolina Congressman Preston S. Brooks on May 21, 1856. Sumner biographer David H. Donald noted that Sumner "had stumbled into politics largely by accident. He rose to leadership in the Massachusetts Free Soil movement as much through the unavailability of his rivals as through his own talents and exertions. Candidate of a minority party, he was first chosen to the Senate through the devious workings of a political coalition. At nearly any point during his first five years in office, had he been up for re-election, he would almost certainly have been defeated. Then Preston Brook's attack gave him his second term in the Senate and thereby assured him seniority and prestige within the Republican Party. Never chosen by direct popular vote for any office, Sumner, by 1861, nevertheless had become one of the most powerful men in the United States."61
With Republican control of Congress, Sumner served as chairman of Senate Foreign Relations Committee and was a supporter of President Lincoln's war policies. Dealing with Sumner, however, was never easy. Offensiveness was an art form for Sumner, who was as honest as he was offensive but had more conviction than common sense. Educated and erudite, he valued his martyrdom as much as his identity and honor. He had a talent for making enemies and alienating potential supporters, but he also could be a gracious and charming friend. Indiana Congressman George W. Julian wrote in his memoirs that "Sumner, I think, was the purest man in the Senate, if not the ablest, He was preeminently the hero of duty, and the servant of what he believed to be the truth. No man could have made a more absolute surrender of himself to his country in the great conflict which threatened its life. His weary and jaded look always excited my sympathy, for he seemed to be sacrificing all the joys of life, and life itself, in his zeal for the public service."62 Journalist Noah Brooks wrote that Sumner "was a model of forensic elegance, scholarly culture, and precision. His manner of statement was emphatic, even oracular. Some of his unfriendly critics said he was dogmatic; and he spoke with a certain fastidiousness in the choice of language which provoked injurious comments. Speaking to me of these comments, which had reached his ears, Sumner once said that when he addressed the Senate, even on matters of mere routine, he thought he ought to be as accurate and as fastidious as if he were engaged in high debate....Sumner's bearing was apt to be dictatorial and unduly impressive, even on occasions of slight importance. Sumner's figure was tall, well-knit, and handsome. He had a noble head, a profusion of dark-brown hair, which was arranged with an appearance of studied negligence, and his presence was always commanding and dignified."63
Historian Allan Nevins wrote that Sumner "had enough of an uncertain, flickering greatness of his own to divine the far deeper, more stable greatness of Lincoln....He was learning to admire Lincoln's patient sagacity, his passion for justice, and the Euclidean precision of his intellectual processes, even though the President's magnanimity seemed weakness to him, and the President's humor (a quality of which Sumner had none) quite incomprehensible."64 Donald wrote: "That President and Senator should agree upon so many basic issues was not surprising, for both men drew their political ideas from the same well. It was not until after Lincoln's death, when Sumner had to restudy his speeches and letters in order to prepare a eulogy, that the Senator came to understand how much both their political philosophies derived from the Declaration of Independence."65 Sumner himself said: "I was always honest and very plain with Mr. Lincoln; but he never allowed difference of opinion, or frankness, to interrupt our familiar and confidential intercourse."66
Standing in Sumner's senatorial shadow was Henry Wilson, who suffered by comparison with his more impressive, more educated, more dignified colleague, Wilson's humble origins were reflected in his nickname, the "Natick Cobbler." Possessed of strong principles and a strong character, Wilson chaired the 1852 national Free Soil Convention. The Republican candidate for Governor of Massachusetts in 1854, Wilson joined the Know-Nothing movement to control it -- assuring his own defeat but the election of a Republican legislature. During the Civil War, his relationship with the Confederate spy, Rose O'Neal Greenhow, may have been the source of much Southern intelligence. He was also a leader of the Chase for President boomlet in early 1864. A shoemaker by trade, he was a long-time member of the Massachusetts Legislature, ending his career there as President of the State Senate.
Historian Allan G. Bogue wrote that "Wilson no doubt suffered, both in his own mind and in those of many observers, from comparison with his colleague. He was 'strong and earnest' of face, but his scrambling rise to the Senate owed much to the putrescent forces of Know-Nothingism in Massachusetts." Noted Bogue, "Wilson was an indefatigable worker, the armies of the Union would owe him much, and along the way he struck more than one notable legislative blow at slavery as well."67 As strong abolitionist as Sumner, Wilson served briefly under General B. McClellan and was chairman of the Senate Committee on Military Affairs throughout the war.
"He was stout, florid, dark-haired, and of a portly figure," wrote journalist Noah Brooks. "In manner he was entirely unlike his colleague, Mr. [Charles] Sumner. Wilson was rather loose and ramshackle in his manner of speech; his enunciation was not distinct, his delivery was slipshod, and he was neither precise nor fortunate in his choice of words to express ideas. He impressed on as a man of great mental force not well schooled."68 A Massachusetts colleague, Congressman George Boutwell, wrote that Wilson "was not learned, he was not eloquent, he was not logical in a high sense, he was not always consistent in his political actions, and yet he gained the confidence of the people, and he retained it to the end of his life. His success may have been due in part to the circumstance that he was not far removed from the mass of the people in the particulars named, and that he acted in a period when fidelity to the cause of freedom and activity in its promotion satisfied the public demand."69 Iowa politician Josiah B Grinnell knew Wilson for decades and recalled that he "had a rare fund of good sense; of temperate habits, turning down his glasses at dinners when others drained them..." But Grinnell noted that Wilson "never was a fluent orator -- measured and slow, with thoughts too heavy for tongue..."70
Senator Wilson could be counted to give President Lincoln his unvarnished opinions. He wrote President Lincoln in May 1861: "When I returned home after the Executive Session I found nearly all the people sore, sad, disheartened -- it seemed as if your administration was destined to go down before it began its career. At the time your proclamation was issued after the fall of Sumpter the people were full of complaints, and when I went to Washington three weeks ago they were anything but satisfied with the management of affairs. On my return home this week I find almost every one hopeful, confident, satisfied. To-day our friends are full of confidence in you and your Cabinet. The change in three weeks is very marked and most gratifying and I am sure the people are for prompt and earnest action. They now feel that you are doing the right thing and that all will be done in your power to put down treason".71
Journalist Ben Perley Poore wrote that at the beginning of the Civil War, Wilson "had raised a three-years' regiment, which he had brought to Washington, but not wishing to take the field, he had resigned the command, and had solicited from General McClellan a position on his staff. When he reported for duty he was ordered to appear the next morning mounted, and accompanied by two other staff officers, in a tour of inspection around the fortifications. Unaccustomed to horsemanship, the ride of thirty miles was too much for the Senator, who kept his bed for a week, and then resigned his staff position. He performed herculean labors on his Committee, and examined personally the recommendations upon which thousands of appointments had been made."72 Wilson was a tireless proponent for increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of the Union army. He was a strong advocate for the care and conditions of Union soldiers and the employment of black soldiers. He also sponsored legislation which instituted an army draft for the first time in American history. Senator John Sherman observed: that Wilson "is entitled to much of the praise due for the numerous laws required to fit the Union citizen soldiers for military duty. His position was a difficult one, but he filled it with hearty sympathy for the Union soldiers, and with a just regard for both officers and men."73
Wilson's political support for the President was firmer and steadier than Sumner's. Wilson biographer Ernest A. McKay wrote: "Political differences had never been a legitimate excuse for Wilson to upset personal relationships. While he followed his own course in Congress and may have held some reservations about Lincoln's ways, he never held any personal animosity towards him. At least once he cautioned Lincoln to take care of himself and remonstrated with him about the pressures of office. Lincoln knew, too, that Wilson worked long hours, particularly in reorganizing and modernizing the new army, and as war progressed he gained confidence in Wilson's handling of legislation."74
Wilson was more cautious and conciliatory than Charles Sumner. After President Lincoln proposed compensated emancipation, wrote biographer Abbott, "Wilson promptly introduced a bill to grant aid to Maryland and Delaware. His measure was then absorbed by a more comprehensive joint resolution which promised aid to any state undertaking gradual emancipation. Not too pleased with a paper victory, Wilson turned with his colleagues to examine West Virginia's petition for statehood. He was willing to admit the state provided she free the children of slaves within her own borders. Sumner, who demanded immediate emancipation of all slaves, refused to vote for the bill."75 Despite the failure of Congress or border states to agree to compensated emancipation, Wilson continued to press for it unsuccessfully in Missouri.
George Ashmun had served with fellow Whig Lincoln in Congress in the 1840s. He subsequently played several important roles in Mr. Lincoln's life -- including presiding at the Republican National Convention in Chicago, leading the Republican delegation to Springfield that notified Mr. Lincoln of his nomination and bringing Stephen A. Douglas to the White House to meet with President Lincoln after the fall of Fort Sumter in April 1861. Ashmun was also one of the last people to see President Lincoln before he left for the theater on April 14, 1865. He was seeking help for a cotton claim of his clients and wanted a commission to examine the merits of the case. The President responded: "I have done with 'commissions.' I believe they are contrivances to cheat the Government out of every pound of cotton they can lay their hands on." Ashmun was offended, which the President quickly tried to correct: "You did not understand me, Ashmun. I did not mean what you inferred. I take it all back....I apologize you, Ashmun." Running late, Mr. Lincoln gave Ashmun a card: "Allow Mr. Ashmun and friend to come in at 9 A.M. to-morrow."76
John B. Alley was a manufacturer and importer represented the north shore of Massachusetts. Alley, who was first elected to Congress in 1858 was strongly anti-slavery and associated with Republican radicals but maintained good relations with President Lincoln and had frequent contact with him. Alley later wrote: "I greatly admired him. He was a many-sided person, and for this reason, perhaps, the estimate by different individuals who had the same opportunities of knowing him, was widely different. Many of the most distinguished men of the country, who were in daily intercourse with him, thought but little of his capacity as a statesman."77 On one occasion Congressman Alley complained that President Lincoln had completely changed his mind. "Yes, I have; and I don't think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday."78
Alley wrote that President Lincoln "was so simple, so child-like, so sincere, that it seemed to me that that was the chief reason why he was so little appreciated during his Presidency by his compeers in public life. He exhibited a degree of wisdom and firmness of purpose, a sagacity and soundness of judgment absolutely without parallel among the statesmen of his day; while his toleration of difference of opinion, his sagacity in harmonizing discordant elements and his politic treatment of envious and ambitious rivals, exceeded anything I have ever seen in any other of our statesmen. In illustration of this I may say, that he had in Cabinet several rivals in whose judgment or fitness he had but little confidence. Yet he managed to make them and the country believe that he was on the most excellent terms with each and all of them."79 Congressman Alley wrote: "In small and unimportant matters was so yielding that many thought his excessive amiability was born of weakness. But in matters of vital importance, he was firm as a rock. Neither Congress nor his Cabinet could, in the slightest degree, influence his action on great questions, against the convictions of his patriotic judgment."80
Journalist Ben Perley Poore wrote that "Alley was a true representative of the industrial interests and anti-slavery sentiments of old Essex."81 Alley frequently asked for presidential favors -- but none more controversial than his request for a presidential pardon for a sea captain convicted of slave trading. According to Lincoln friend Ward Hill Lamon, the convicted man "had served out the term of sentence of imprisonment, but was still held on account of the fine not being paid. Mr. Lincoln was much moved by the pathetic appeal. He then, after pausing some time, said to Mr. Alley: 'My friend, this appeal is very touching to my feelings, and no one knows my weakness better than you. It is, if possible, to be too easily moved by appeals for mercy; and I must say that if this man had been guilty of the foulest murder that the arm of man could perpetrate, I might forgive him such an appeal. But the man who could go to Africa and rob her of her children, and then sell them into interminable bondage, with no other motive than that which is furnished by dollars and cents, is so much worse than the most depraved murderer that he can never receive pardon at my hand. No, sir; he may stay in jail forever before he shall have liberty by any act of mine."82
George S. Boutwell was an emancipation-supporting lawyer who was named as Governor Andrew's military representative to the federal government at the outset of the Civil War. He was appointed commissioner of internal revenue in July 1862 before winning election to Congress that November. Boutwell continued serving at the Treasury Department until March 1863 and had frequent contact with President Lincoln who had initially preferred another candidate for the finance post. Although Boutwell himself as served as a Democratic governor of Massachusetts in the early 1850s, Boutwell was a strong supporter of Nathaniel Banks -- and had advocated his elevation to the Cabinet in December 1860. Indiana Congressman George W. Julian wrote in his memoirs that "Boutwell impressed the House as a man of solid qualities, and a formidable debater."83 Boutwell biographer Thomas H. Brown wrote that as "a freshman legislator, his views [preceded] him. He was already a well known advocate of stringent war measures, emancipation, use of black troops, black suffrage, and the punishment of Southern states."84
Congressman Henry L. Dawes was the choice of Republican moderates for governor in 1860, but more radical Republicans engineered the nomination of John Andrew in his stead. He was reelected and chaired the House Committee on Elections. Journalist Ben Perley Poore wrote that Dawes "had acquired a deserved reputation for honesty, sincerity, and untiring industry."85 He chaired a House "investigation of the alleged abuses of the War Department, which resulted in a scathing report against Cameron's methods in administering the office, and a vote of censure upon Cameron by the House," wrote Pennsylvania Republican Alexander K. McClure. Historian T. Harry Williams noted that "Dawes told how the secretary had won over his enemies with fat contracts at meetings 'where the hatchet of political animosity was buried in the grace of public confidence and the national credit was crucified between malefactors.'"86 McClure wrote: "Lincoln promptly exhibited the generous sense of justice that always characterized him by sending a special message to the House, exculpating Cameron, because the acts for which he was criticized had not been exclusively Cameron's, but were largely acts for which the President and Cabinet were equally responsible."87
Congressman Daniel W. Gooch was, according to historian T. Harry Williams, "[t]he most able of the House members of the Committee [on the Conduct of the War] ....benign, grandfatherly face seemed incongruous in that fierce company. A skilled lawyer, he conducted most of the cross-examination of witnesses and acted as the Committee's legal adviser."88 He eventually became chairman of the House Military Affairs Committee in 1863.
Harder to charm were Massachusetts intellectuals. Their disdain was epitomized by "Richard Henry Dana [who] wrote in 1863 that the most striking thing about Washington politics was the absence of personal loyalty to the President. 'He does not act, or talk, or feel like the ruler of a great empire in a great crisis,' Dana complained. 'He likes rather to talk and tell stories with all sorts of persons...than to give his mind to the noble and manly duties of his great post. It is not difficult to detect that this is the feeling of his cabinet. He has a kind of shrewdness and common sense, mother wit, and slipshod, low leveled honesty, that made him a good western jury lawyer. But he is an unutterable calamity to us where he is."89
Lincoln scholar F. Lauriston Bullard noted that "The first professional writer to discover the greatness of Lincoln, and sympathetically to analyze and extol that greatness for public consumption was James Russell Lowell, and he was the foremost American man of letters of his time. He was proud of that discovery. More than a score of years after Lincoln's death he wrote to Richard Watson Gilder: 'I did divine him earlier than most men of the Brahmin caste.'"90 Writing in the December 1863 edition of the North American Review, Lowell observed: "Never did a President enter upon office with less means at his command, outside his own strength of heart and steadiness of understanding for inspiring confidence in the people, and so winning it for himself. All that was known of him was that he was a good stump speaker, nominated for his availability -- that is because he had no history -- and chosen by a party with whose more extreme opinions he was not in sympathy."91
In 1864, both Generals Butler and Banks maneuvered for political advantage.
Butler was allegedly recruited for the Republican national ticket in 1864, but the memories of the alleged offers depend on Butler and former Secretary of War Simon Cameron, both considered unreliable by many historians. Banks biographer West wrote: "In his numerous trips to Washington the unemployed general made political contacts with the henchmen of both Seward and Chase. The latter sent him -- through an intermediary named B.F. Camp -- a bid to join forces with the Secretary of the Treasury in the next election. The overture was put in writing by J.D. Sanborn, a Treasury agent, in a letter dated from Baltimore on October 5, 1863:
"My dear Gen. At the urgent request of B.F.C[amp], I am induced again [to] state that every much wishes to meet you about the matter in my postscript from N.Y. some 8 or 10 days since. He retired from Washington yesterday after having a long Confab & leaving with the promise, (so he states) that he would see you, relative to the Combination of the Secty. & yourself. I infer from what he avers, that the Secty. is very anxious to get your assistance in the Coming political Contest & if that he cannot Convince you that he can win, he is perfectly willing to go in for you, in preference [sic] to any other person, & will throw the influence of the Dept. in your favor. Now this is a very important question & I am not prepared to say what I might think. -- Even if asked, B.F.C. is fearful that you will get into wrong hands, as he has already heard of your Dinner at Delmonico's in Company with Mr. Weed, & probably that is troubling Mr. C[hase]. If you are disposed to see C[amp] he is now stopping at Barnum's but will Jump at the chance to meet you at any point...I expect to be in every Tuesday & hope to hear from you at the Astor Ho[use]. Yrs. Ever, J.D.S.[anborn].92
Butler's blunt style was admired by some Republican radicals who ignored his military ineffectiveness. Butler was calculating and calculated. Historian William Frank Zornow wrote: "Grant and Sherman earned their praises by hard campaigning and sweeping victories, but Butler won his by shrewd, bold moves which captured imagination rather than citadels. It was his innate theatrical sense and mastery of press-agentry which made butler's exploits such worthwhile copy. Whatever he did was news, and public opinion was divided sharply on the question of his greatness. Was he really a genius, military or otherwise, as most of his friend readily admitted, or was he, as Hay's friend Judge Cartter said, merely the 'smartest damned rascal that ever lived'?"93
In March of 1864, former Secretary of War Simon Cameron visited General Benjamin Butler in Virginia. Years later, he claimed that he had been authorized to ask Butler if he would be willing to run for vice president with President Lincoln. Historian Don E. Fehrenbacher has argued, however, that the story lacks credibility. "The story of the offer was first told by Cameron and then elaborated by Butler. This ostensible corroboration may have been merely echo; however; for it is difficult to believe that the self-important Butler would have remained silent for two decades about so flattering a proposal. Viewed from any angle, the story lacks credibility. Even if Lincoln had been willing to preempt the power of the national convention in such fashion, the controversial 'beast' of New Orleans would have been a poor choice, offensive to the very elements whose allegiance the president most wanted to secure. Lincoln knew well enough that Butler, about whose character he had serious doubts, was no political friend but instead a prime favorite of radical elements hostile to his reelection. The man's rumored presidential ambition, rather than his vice-presidential potential, was the more likely reason for sounding him out, if Lincoln undertook to do so in the early months of 1864."94
As Fehrenbacher contended, the Cameron scenario is implausible given President's suspicions of Butler. John Hay recorded in his diary on May 22, 1864: "I said to the President today that I thought Butler was the only in the Army to whom power would be dangerous. McClellan was too timid & vacillating to usurp. Grant was too sound and cool headed & too unselfish; Bank is also. Fremont would be dangerous if had more ability & energy.
"'Yes,' said the Ancient, 'he is like Jim Jett's brother. Jim used to say that his brother was the biggest scoundrel that ever lived, but in the infinite mercy of Providence he was also the biggest fool."95
Some other Massachusetts Republicans toyed with opposing President Lincoln's reelection. Lincoln scholar F. Lauriston Bullard wrote: "Governor Andrew, intense, energetic, quick on the trigger, volcanic in utterance, was somewhat in sympathy with the movement to supersede Lincoln." But he never actively supported the dump-Lincoln movement though he wrote Horace Greeley: "Massachusetts will vote for the Union cause at all events and will vote for Mr. Lincoln so long as he remains a candidate."96 That fall, President Lincoln easily carried Massachusetts' electoral votes in 1864 by a 72-28% margin. Shortly before the election, President Lincoln told a Massachusetts regiment leaving for home:
You have completed a term of service in the cause of your country, and on behalf of the nation and myself I thank you. You are going home; I hope you will find all your friends well. I never see a Massachusetts regiment but it reminds me of the difficulty a regiment from that State met with on its passage through Baltimore; but the world has moved since then, and I congratulate you upon having a better time to-day in Baltimore than that regiment had.
To-night, midnight, slavery ceases in Maryland, and this state of things in Maryland is due greatly to the soldiers. Again I thank you for the services you have rendered the country 97
Death reconciled President Lincoln to even his Massachusetts critics. Frank Preston Stearns wrote of Governor Andrew: "The finest passage in his speeches, as we read them now, is his tribute to Lincoln's character in his address to the Legislature, following upon Lincoln's assassination. After describing him as the man who had added "martyrdom itself to his other and scarcely less emphatic claims to human veneration, gratitude and love," he continued thus: "I desire on this grave occasion to record my sincere testimony to the unaffected simplicity of his manly purpose, to the constancy with which he devoted himself to his duty, to the grand fidelity with which he subordinated himself to his country, to the clearness, robustness, and sagacity of his understanding, to his sincere love of truth, his undeviating progress in its faithful pursuit, and to the confidence which he could not fail to inspire in the singular integrity of his virtues and the conspicuously judicial quality of his intellect."98