Abraham Lincoln and California

Abraham Lincoln and California

President Abraham Lincoln very much wanted to visit California but never got to the Golden State. One of his last conversations before he left for Ford’s Theater on the night of his assassination was with House Speaker Schuyler Colfax, who was himself about to depart for California. The two leaders discussed Colfax’s trip, prompting Mr. Lincoln to say in farewell: “Don’t forget, Colfax, tell those miners that that is my speech to them, which I send by you. Let me hear from you on the road, and I will telegraph you at San Francisco. Pleasant journey and good bye.”1

Mr. Lincoln, who that afternoon had discussed visiting California with his wife, told Colfax of the importance of the California miners’ work: “During the war, when we were adding a couple of million dollars every day to our national debt, I did not care about encouraging the increase in the volume of our precious metals. We had the country to save first. But now that the rebellion is overthrown and we know pretty nearly the amount of our national debt, the more gold and silver we mine makes the payment of that debt so much the easier.” He said: “Tell the miners from me, that I shall promote their interests to the utmost of my ability; because their prosperity is the prosperity of the nation, and we shall prove in a very few years that we are indeed the treasury of the world.” 2

A few weeks earlier, Mr. Lincoln had told an old Illinois friend who was returning to California: “I have long desired to see California; the production of her god mines has been a marvel to me, and her stand for the Union, her generous offerings to the Sanitary Commission, and her loyal representatives have endeared your people to me; and nothing would give me more pleasure than a visit to the Pacific shore, and to say in person to your citizens, ‘God bless you for your devotion to the Union,’ but the unknown is before us. I may say, however, that I have it now in purpose when the railroad is finished, to visit your wonderful state.”3

Mr. Lincoln had access to many Americans who lived in California. For example, many Union Generals – including General Henry W. Halleck, William T. Sherman and Ulysses S. Grant – had served and lived in California before the war. A number of Mr. Lincoln’s Illinois friends had moved to California. and some were rewarded with patronage jobs during his Administration. Naturally, Mr. Lincoln became fascinated with America’s western shore and did his best to promote the construction of a transcontinental railroad even during the midst of the Civil War.

In July 1862, President had signed legislation to build the transcontinental railroad. In his final message to Congress in 1864, Mr. Lincoln wrote: “The great enterprise of connecting the Atlantic with the Pacific States by railways and telegraph lines has been entered upon with a vigor that gives assurances of success, notwithstanding the embarrassments arising from the prevailing high prices of materials and labor. The route of the main line of the road has been definitely located for one hundred miles westward from the initial point at Omaha City, Nebraska, and a preliminary location of the Pacific railroad of California has been made from Sacramento eastward to the great bend of the Truckee river in Nevada.

Numerous discoveries of gold, silver and cinnabar mines have been added to the many heretofore known and the country occupied by the Sierra Nevada and Rocky mountains, and the subordinate ranges, now teems with enterprising labor, which is richly remunerative. It is believed that the product of the mines of precious metals in that region has, during the year, reached, if not exceeded, one hundred millions on value.4

When Mr. Lincoln first ran for president in 1860, Mr. Lincoln’s California friends couldn’t help him much. On each of the first three ballots at the Republican National Convention in Chicago in May, California cast all eight of its votes for New York Senator William H. Seward. In the election that November Mr. Lincoln carried California with less than one third the state’s votes, beating Senator Stephen A. Douglas by less than 1300 votes. Southern Democrat John Breckinridge ran a close third and Union Party candidate John Bell ran a distant fourth. It was the weakest performance by Mr. Lincoln in any state he won that year – greatly helped by last-minute speeches by newly elected Oregon Senator Edwin D. Baker. Mr. Lincoln later called it “the closest political bookkeeping that I know of.”5 President Lincoln did much better in the 1864 election when he got nearly 59% of the vote in defeating Democrat George B. McClellan.

President Lincoln’s closest California friend no longer lived there by 1861. Edward D. Baker had been a political and legal colleague in Illinois before he moved to California in 1852. (The Lincolns’ second, deceased son was named for Baker.) Although he had established political roots in his new home state, Baker quickly left California in 1860 when he saw a chance to be elected to the Senate by moving to Oregon. He did so and won election a few months later. In Washington, Baker immediately rose to prominence – both for his rhetorical skills and his relationship to the new President. Baker’s influence over California’s Republican patronage just as quickly infuriated other Republicans from the state – resulting in a spirited confrontation at the White House on March 30, 1861 in which President Lincoln clearly took Baker’s side.

“To resolve the difficulties, a self-appointed deputation from the anti-Baker faction went to Washington to present their grievances to President Lincoln. Spokesman for the deputation was James W. Simonton, who was one of the editors of the [San Francisco] Bulletin, which had long been unfriendly to Baker.” wrote Baker biographers Harry C. Blair and Rebecca Tarshis . Before the 35-member delegation arrived at the White House, however, Mr. Lincoln had breakfast with Senator so he had been thoroughly briefed on his side of the dispute. Blair and Tarshis wrote:

“The first speaker was Joseph A. Nunes, who had interviewed Lincoln in Springfield when he was still President-elect. Pointing out that Baker was officially a resident of Oregon, Nunes courteously suggested that the President appoint to the federal positions in California the men he and his associates would name rather than those of Baker’s choice. Nunes had made a good impression on Lincoln during [an earlier] Springfield interview. Having no cause to change his opinion of Nunes now, Lincoln remarked that Nunes’ report was respectful in tone and that he would keep it for further reference.”
“James Simonton was the next speaker. Less tactful than Nunes, Simonton read a paper abusing Baker. Although Baker was sitting in the room, Simonton brought up the old charges of Baker’s supposed association with gamblers and ‘all that class of persons,’ which the Bulletin had repeatedly made during the Vigilante days of 1856. When he finished, Simonton laid the paper from which he had been reading on the table. Lincoln, who had listened to the entire diatribe without interrupting, asked Simonton if the paper was meant for him.
“Yes,” Simonton answered.
“I will burn it in the presence of the man who wrote it,’ replied the President, crumpling the paper in his hand and throwing it into the fireplace.”6

One of the California petitioners tried to say something positive about Baker. Mr. Lincoln said: “Not a word; not a word. I don’t want to hear a word. I have known Colonel Baker twenty-five years. I have known him better than any of you know him, and I don’t want any defense of him from anyone.'”7 Indiana Congressman George Julian wrote: “The anger of Mr. Lincoln was kindled instantly, and blazed forth with such vehemence and intensity that everybody present quailed before it. His wrath was simply terrible, as he put his foot down and told the delegation that Senator Baker was his friend; that he would permit no man to assail him in his presence; and that it was not possible for them to accomplish their purpose by any such methods. The result was that the charges against Senator Baker were summarily withdrawn and apologized for, and such a disposition of the offices on the Pacific slope finally made as proved satisfactory to all parties.”8

Shortly thereafter, Senator Baker raised an army regiment in the East but declined an appointment as a general in order to preserve his congressional status. Colonel Baker was on active military duty in the summer and fall of 1861. His death in a relatively minor military action at Ball’s Bluff on the Potomac River in October 1861 devastated the President. Almost a year later, recalled Illinois Congressman Isaac N. Arnold, “when the President was living in a cottage at the ‘Soldier’s Home, on the heights north of the capital, some one spoke to him of Baker’s burial place in the ‘Lone Mountain Cemetery” [on San Francisco Bay]. The name seemed to kindle his imagination and touch his heart. He spoke of this ‘Lone Mountain’ on the shore of the Pacific, as a place of rest. Lincoln then gave a warm and glowing sketch of Baker’s eloquence, full of generous admiration, and showing how he had loved this old friend.”9 A California woman wrote in the San Francisco Bulletin that the mention of the “Lone Mountain Cemetery “brought out “in a few deep-toned words, a eulogy on one of its most honored dead. Having witnessed the impressive spectacle of that glorious soldier’s funeral, I gave him the meager outline one can convey in words, of something which, having been once seen, must remain a living picture in the memory forever.” She saw her comments “move and touch the soul of such a man as Abraham Lincoln…”10

President Lincoln remained loyal to Colonel Baker even after his death. He appointed Baker’s son-in-law, Robert J. Stevens, to be Superintendent of the San Francisco Mint. Investigations into Stevens’ professional conduct finally caused the President reluctantly to dismiss him in April 1863.

California Senator James A. McDougall had also been a friend and legal colleague of Mr. Lincoln in Illinois. Unlike Baker, McDougall was a Democrat. On his election to the Senate in March 1861, McDougall wrote the President: “On Wednesday last I was elected to the federal Senate — I write this note to say that I will stand by the government and that I only desire to know when where and how I may render the best service to our common country. Permit me to say further that I have faith in you. 11

Historian Allan G. Bogue wrote of McDougall: “Brilliant, eccentric in dress and behavior – he reportedly once rode a horse at breakneck clip down a Washington thoroughfare attired in vaquero dress – and regrettably alcoholic, McDougall was a committed Union man who became increasingly irresponsible in Republican eyes during the course of the War.”12 Iowa politician Josiah B Grinnell wrote that McDougall “was seldom sober enough to represent either himself or his loyal people.” Lincoln biographer Isaac N. Arnold wrote that “McDougall, before going to California, had been a prominent lawyer at Jacksonville and Chicago, and Attorney-General of Illinois. He was the bitter enemy of the Secretary of State, Mr. Seward, having caused some of his California friends to be arrested, and confined in Fort LaFayette. I shall state what was universally known and deeply mourned by all of McDougall’s friends, when I mention that habits of intemperance overclouded the last years of his life. But it could not be said of him that ‘when the wine was in, the wit was out.” Poor McDougall’s wit was always ready, drunk or sober.”

“Coming down from the Senate chamber, after a late executive session in which he had been opposing one of Seward’s nominations, he found the rain falling in torrents, the night dark and dismal, and his own steps unsteady. As he passed from the Capitol gate towards Pennsylvania Avenue, the senator had to cross a ditch full of filth and water. McDougall, in the darkness, made a misstep, and tumbled in. A policeman ran to his aid, and helping him out, enquired gruffly: ‘Who are you, anyhow?’ ‘I, I was,’ said poor Mac, ‘I, I was Senator McDougall, when I fell in, now I think,’ looking at his filthy garments with disgust, ‘now, I think I, I am Seward.'”13

Colonel Baker’s death led to an investigation by the Congressional Committee on the Conduct of the War. Historian Stephen Sears wrote: “President Lincoln occasionally used Halleck or Stanton to absorb abuse that might otherwise have been directed at himself. One such occasion was the campaign against General Charles Stone, the army commander who was held responsible for Baker’s death. Noted Stephen Sears: “In this debate, Senator James A. McDougall of California termed General Stone’s patriotism above reproach — yet it was said he was a traitor. ‘Who says it?’ McDougall asked. ‘Rumor says it — the great manufacturer of falsehoods…’ Lincoln replied that Stone had been arrested under his ‘general authority,’ but it was not now in the public interest ‘to make a more particular statement of the evidence.’ The president was keeping his distance, leaving the matter to Stanton. Not for the first time, the secretary of war would serve as the administration’s lightning rod.”14

Describing that debate, Lincoln aide John Hay wrote that McDougall, in his very bitter and intemperate language, attacked the Secretary of War by an enemy, and for many acts of his official career, specifying them in detail. He made the most ingenious use of the few facts that he had as foundation for his remarks, and pieced his speech out with fancy and distorted inference. He was particularly eulogistic of Gen. McClellan whom he seemed to use as the embodiment of all the virtuous antagonism to the Administration. His most earnest endeavor was to disjoin Mr. Lincoln from the Administration, to represent Gen. McClellan as a persecuted hero, and Gen. Stone as a martyr for opinion’s sake.” Hay added: “McDougall himself made a little speech at the conclusion of every other man’s speech, and interjected two or three little speeches into the body of every one’s remarks. His usual average is six speeches a day, but he overdrew to-day largely.”15

Senator John Conness was elected to the Senate in 1863 by a combination of Republicans and Union Democrats to replace an anti-war Democrat, Milton S. Latham. President Lincoln must have had confidence in Conness since he endorsed one letter with the comment that Conness, “who writes the above is habitually careful not to say what he does not know.” 16 Journalist Noah Brooks wrote in July 1864: “Senator Conness and Assistant Secretary Otto, of the Interior Department, waited upon the President yesterday to procure from him the appointment of the three Commissioners required by law to act on behalf of the Government in the examination of the work on the Pacific Railroad in California. Representative Cole and Senator McDougall had already filed their nominations for these officers, the same being Governor [Frederick] Low, T. G. Phelps and one Burke of San Jose. The President, with his usual genius for splitting the difference, offered to Conness the nomination of two of the Commissioners if he would take one of those already named. The Senator took Governor Low and added to his name those of P H. Sibley of Placer, and Josiah Johnson of Sacramento. The three gentlemen last named are accordingly the Commissioners appointed by the President.”17

Conness was rewarded with California patronage when Salmon P. Chase was Secretary of the Treasury and reciprocated with support for Chase’s presidential ambitions in 1864. Conness had particular problems with California’s patronage when William P. Fessenden became secretary of the Treasury. “Two names had been presented by my colleague for [jobs in the Internal Revenue service in California], and Mr. Fessenden wished to gratify him by their appointment. No more unfit men could be chosen, and I went to the President to hinder the work of my colleague and the Secretary, saying to him that he could not afford to give commissions to the person in question. Always considerate to me, he accepted my statements, and by this time Mr. Fessenden had again been chosen Senator by Maine to take office after the 4th of March next ensuing.” President Lincoln advised that he would simply sit on the appointments until after Fessenden left office and better nominees named by his successor.”18

On the other hand, noted historians Harry J. Carman and Reinhard H. Luthin, in 1864 Conness requested that President Lincoln remove “Postmaster Parker of San Francisco and thus make way for a favorite. Lincoln felt bound to comply, even though the new appointee had neither the respect nor the confidence of the better element of the Golden Gate city.” 19 Conness responded with his own favors. The Cincinnati Gazette reported on a presentation of a cane to President Lincoln which had been presented to Conness by the late California Senator David C. Broderick. Broderick, a Democrat who was a determined opponent of slavery, had been killed in a duel in 1860. Lincoln scholar William Shutes wrote that future Senator Edward D. Baker delivered a powerful eulogy: “The popular emotion was so aroused that through public subscription a large monument soon came to stand high in Lone Mountain Cemetery. And the persuasive influence of the grave beneath it helped positively to elect Lincoln to the presidency and to hold California steadfast to the Union.”20

According to the Gazette, President Lincoln “accepted the cane, and, with much emotion, replied that he never personally knew the Senator’s friend, Mr. Broderick, but he had always heard him spoken of as one sincerely devoted to the cause of human rights. Testimony to this point of his character had been borne by those whom he had not intimately known, as also by those with whom he was personally and intimately known, as also by those with whom he was personally and intimately acquainted, and, with all of them, the testimony had been uniform. The memento which was presented him by Senator Conness was of that class of things, the highest honor that could be conferred upon him. If, in the position he had been placed, he had done anything that entitled him to the honor the Senator had assigned him, it was a proud reflection that his acts were of such a character as to merit the affiliation of the friends of a man like David C. Broderick. Whether remaining in this world or looking down upon the earth from the spirit land, to be remembered by such a man as David C. Broderick was a fact he would remember through all the years of his life. The proudest ambition he could desire was to do something for the elevation of the condition of his fellow-man. In conclusion, he returned his sincere thanks for the part the Senator bore in this presentation, and to the memory of his great friend.”21

The influence of California congressmen was limited by the fact that all three incumbents decided not to seek reelection in 1862. Frederick F. Low had elected to Congress in 1860 but was barred from taking his seat. A special act was required to allow him to represent his district in 1862. In 1863 Mr. Lincoln appointed Low as collector of the port of San Francisco, a position where he served until he took office as Governor.

One of the new congressmen elected in 1862, Republican Cornelius Cole, was jealous of his prerogatives concerning patronage. He wrote to the White House in an undated letter: “Will you please say to the President that I hope no changes will be made in office in that part of California (San Francisco and below) where I may be – properly, improperly held responsible without notice to me[.]22 Cole’s first impression of President Lincoln at a White House reception before he was elected had not been favorable, writing back to California: “It is strange that our President and others have so little perception of character. Lincoln is a good natured Westerner. Most of the timber in our political fabric is softwood. I expected much more of Washington; am surprised by everything.”23

Cole wrote in his memoirs: “Receptions in Washington in those times, whether at the White House or in some private residence, were always attended by distinguished personages, of our own country or from abroad. Members of the diplomatic corps usually came in court dress, decorated profusely with gold lace; and much more so than our army and navy officers, who were expected to appear at such entertainments in full dress uniform. Civilians of all classes, whether officials or otherwise, were expected to come clad in the conventional evening costume. White kid-gloves were uniformly in demand, and Mr. Lincoln as well as everybody else, must be pictured as wearing them while the reception lasted, and hardly anyone required a larger pair than he. He ladies were, of course, arrayed in their gayest attire, with profuse adornments of jewels and laces.”24

Cole wrote: “Mr. Lincoln was remarkably genial and agreeable on these occasions and his good wife was not much behind him in this regard.” 25 Cole recalled attending a White House reception with his wife Olive: “As the evening drew to a close and we were about to say goodnight to the President, Mrs. Cole discovered she had lost one of her gloves and asked me to look about the room for it. As I started to do so, President Lincoln detained me with his kindly hand and said with a smile: “Never mind hunting for the glove, Mr. Cole. I’ll look for it myself after the others are gone, and I’ll keep it as a souvenir.'” Noted Cole: These are not the awkward words of an uncouth clown. No. He was courteous always, even polished at times.” Mrs. Cole recalled that President Lincoln “was courteous to everyone who approached him and most gallant to women. To his little wife he was devotion itself, always looking down upon her with an indulgent smile as if she were a child.” 26

A third California congressman, Thomas Shannon, was a conservative Democrat who became a Radical Republican. Cole recalled that when he and Shannon pressed President Lincoln on a patronage request: Mr. Lincoln replied with a story: “That in early times there were only three churches in Springfield, the Methodist, Presbyterian and Baptist, all orthodox, when suddenly there came along a smart young Universalist minister and began to preach with a view to establish a church of his own. This alarmed the orthodox preachers, and they consulted together to see what should be done about it. Their conclusion was to take turns and preach the intruder down. It fell to the lot of the Presbyterian dominie to preach the first sermon, and he began by reminding his hearers how happily they were getting along in Springfield, spiritually and otherwise, ‘And now,’ he said, ‘there comes among us a stranger, to establish a church on the belief that all men are to be saved, but my brethren let us hope for better things.'”27

Artist Francis B. Carpenter wrote that “Among the numerous visitors on one of the President’s reception days, were a party of Congressmen, among whom as the Hon. Thomas Shannon, of California. Soon after the customary greeting, Mr. Shannon said:

“Mr. President, I met an old friend of yours in California last summer, Thompson Campbell, who had a good deal to say of your Springfield life. ‘AH!’ returned Mr. Lincoln, ‘I am glad to hear of him. Campbell used to be a dry fellow,’ he continued. ‘For a time he was Secretary of State. One day, during the legislative vacation, a meek, cadaverous-looking man, with a white neck-cloth introduced himself to him at his office, and, stating that he had been informed that Mr. C. Had the letting of the Assembly Chamber, said that he wished to secure it, if possible, for a course of lectures he desired to deliver in Springfield. ‘May I ask,’ said the Secretary, ‘what is to be the subject of your lectures?’ ‘Certainly,’ was the reply, with a very solemn expression of countenance. ‘The course I wish to deliver, is on the Second Coming of our Lord.’ ‘It is of no use,’ said C. ‘If you will take my advice, you will not waste your time in this city. It is my private opinion that if the Lord has been in Springfield once, He will not come a second time!'”28

President Lincoln was bedeviled by a number of problems in California in which his old Illinois friends played a part. One involved James Short, who had lent money to the near penniless Lincoln back in New Salem three decades earlier. Illinois Congressman Elihu B. Washburne wrote President Lincoln on October 12, 1863: “I have a recent letter from Hon. Thompson Campbell…one of the most effective and vigorous champions of our cause in California, before the late election, and is a member of the Legislature from San Francisco. Speaking of the Presidential candidate, he says: ‘If he wishes the nomination, I am clearly for your friend, Mr. Lincoln.’ He says he consented to go into the Legislature for the purpose of being better able to shape things in regard to the delegates to the National Convention next year. He says further, and it is well to heed it, that if he be not greatly mistaken, the whole patronage of the Government in California, will be wielded against you next summer. Campbell has done more to sustain your administration for the last six months, than all the office-holders in the State put together, and if he only knew your wishes and views I think he can be relied upon for an equally efficient service hereafter.”

“Should you deem it best to make any suggestions to me in regard to these things, you know me well enough to be assured they will be openly and discreetly used.”

President Lincoln wrote Washburne on October 26th: “Thanks to both you and our friend Campbell, for your kind words and intentions. A second term would be a great honor and a great labor, which together, perhaps I would not decline, if tendered.29

Noah Brooks, who wrote for the Sacramento Daily Union, came back East to Washington in 1862 and quickly became a confident of President Lincoln. “It was my good fortune to make his acquaintance years ago, during the early days of Republicanism, in Illinois, and since my sojourn in Washington that early acquaintance has ripened into intimacy near and confiding,” Brooks later wrote According to Congressman Cornelius Cole, “Noah Brooks was one of the few men about the President who never asked anything for himself, and Lincoln rewarded him by giving the best gift he had to offer – his friendship.”30 But, shortly before he was assassinated, President Lincoln had decided to make Brooks his personal secretary.

Journalist Brooks’ free intercourse with Mr. Lincoln was reflected in his newspaper dispatches, e.g. one in 1864: “When I had succeeded in showing the President the other day how a California politician had been coerced into telling the truth without knowing it, he said it reminded him of a black barber in Illinois, notorious for lying, who once heard some of his customers admiring the planet Jupiter rising in the evening sky. ‘Sho! I’ve seen dat star afore. I seen him way down in Georgy!’ Said the President, ‘like your friend, he told the truth, but he thought he was lying.'”31

Less pleasant for President Lincoln was a complicated incident in which a longtime Illinois friend, Leonard Swett, who was appointed a government agent for the New Almaden mine in California in 1863. “In March 1863, the United States Supreme Court affirmed a judgment that the claim of the occupants of the New Almaden Quicksilver Mine in Santa Clara County, California, was fraudulent and that no clear private, California, was fraudulent and that no clear private title existed. Since the mine was one of the richest producers of the mercury with which most of the state’s vital amalgamation gold mining was carried on, the case was more important than most of the hundreds of pending mining claim cases. Settlement of this title would not only affect the material prosperity of California but would set a precedent for the legal status of mineral land ownership everywhere,” according to historians Elmo R. Richardson and Alan W. Farley. “In order to restrain several companies anxious to assert their claims, Attorney General Bates decided to have the government hold the property until a satisfactory legal working arrangement could be concluded.”32

Unfortunately, agent Swett had difficulty separating the government’s financial interests from his own clear financial interests in seeking another firm take over the mine. Swett tried to bamboozle U.S. officials in California to do what he wanted rather than what his orders authorized. He got into conflict with California officials as well as two important officials back in Washington, army chief of staff Henry W. Halleck and Attorney General Edward Bates. Historian John F. Marszalek wrote: “Swett did not arrive in San Francisco until July, and it was not until the ninth that he and the Federal marshal served the writ on the mine’s superintendent. Matters then quickly escalated. Fear spread that no mining company was safe from government takeover if the wealthy and important New Almaden Company lost its land and quicksilver operation. The gold and silver mining companies in both California and Nevada were particularly frightened, and talk circulated of violent opposition to a government occupation of New Almaden. At the mine, officials refused to honor the writ, and 170 armed men backed up their refusal. Violence seemed imminent.”33

On July 8, Low forecast disaster in a telegraph to Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase: “Orders are here for taking possession of Almaden mine by military force the result of such a move will be terrible. The secessionists will seize upon it as a pretext for a general uprising I fear See the President at once & have Genl Wright instructed by telegraph to withdraw action a delay of one day in the order may be fatal.”34 On July 9, President Lincoln telegraphed Swett and Governor Low: “Consult together, and do not have a riot, or great difficulty about delivering possession.”35

Swett still wanted to use aggressive military or legal force to occupy the mine, wiring President Lincoln on July 13: “After full consultation with owner and attorney at mine, it was determined no actual resistance should be offered. In a short time I would have had peaceable possession, but when your dispatch came the marshal was telegraphed that you had ordered to wait. Your order can yet be executed. If you determine to do it, telegraph me giving discretion, and I will be responsible for consequences. If you do not think best to execute the order let the Attorney-General authorize me by telegraph to obtain an injunction and receiver. In my opinion the injunction had better be applied for. The Government owes it to its own dignity to do one of these things. I have offered the company the same terms proposed by the Quicksilver Company, and they positively refuse to do anything.”36

President Lincoln heard from other sources and telegraphed Swett on July 15: “Many persons are telegraphing me from California, begging me, for the peace, of the State, to suspend the military enforcement of the writ of possession, in the Almedan case, while you are the single one who urges the contrary. You know I would like to oblige you, but it seems to me my duty, in this case, is the other way.”37

On August 29, 1863, Swett telegraphed Lincoln, “Have compromised subject to approval, and under advice of Governor of this State and other leading men. The rights and interests of the Government have been respected. Shall return in September, and as the case is complicated would like to have opinion suspended until I can personally explain. You will then be satisfied with my action. I congratulate you on the great victories.” President Lincoln responded: “If the government’s rights are reserved, the government will be satisfied; and, at all events, it will consider.”38

Despite this unfortunate affair, according to biographer Carl Sandburg, California legislators early in 1864, “almost unanimously, declared that in Abraham Lincoln they recognized purity of life, singleness of purpose, a farseeing statesman whose wisdom, sleepless watchfulness, prompt action, determined will, had kept public confidence in him unshaken. ‘While we revere and honor other noble patriots who have performed their parts, the people will look to Abraham Lincoln as the instrument selected by Providence to lead their country in safety through its perils.”39

In September 1864, an old New Salem friend Charles Maltby sent President Lincoln a letter. Maltby first met Mr. Lincoln when they were soldiers in the Black Hawk War in 1832 and Mr. Lincoln had boarded with the Maltby family in Springfield. When Mr. Lincoln had been elected President, Maltby had first been appointed to as a collector of customs by President Lincoln. Later Maltby sought elevation to superintendent of the San Francisco Mint. Mr. Lincoln clearly thought that was overreaching: “Good gracious! Why didn’t he ask to be Secretary of the Treasury and have done with it….I never thought Maltby had anything more than average ability when we were young men together – now he wants to be Superintendent of the Mint!….But then I suppose he thought the same thing about me, and – here I am.”

On the recommendation of Senator Conness, Maltby was subsequently named California’s superintendent of Indian affairs. In the middle of the 1864 presidential campaign, Maltby wrote President Lincoln with more enthusiasm than careful spelling: “We were more than gratified at the unanimous nomination you received at the Baltimore Convention for reelection to the Presidency, and still more than gratified at the indications of your triumphant reelection. The Copper heads in this State are striving again to make a respectable fight in the coming contest and with McClellan they hope to increase their vote. But they will be disappointed. The Union men in this State are true and faithful, and will endorse the action of their delegates in the Baltimore Convention by at least Fifteen Thousand majority. You may consider the Electoral vote of California, Oregon and Nevada sure for Lincoln and Johnson.

“I have at this hour 11. P. M. returned from the larges and most enthusiastic Union meeting I ever attended. Indeed the larges meeting I ever attended at night. The recent news by telegraph of the cooperation of the rebels with the French on the Rio Grande, has created much excitement with the Mexican population in this State. And on our Speakers Stand this evening at our Union meeting, we had the Mexican, Peruvian, and Chilean Flags with the Stars and Stripes, with the leading men of those nations’ citizens here, who pledged the voters of all such for Lincoln and Johnson. They constitute a very considerable portion of our population[.]” 40


  1. Willard H. Smith, Schuyler Colfax: The Changing Fortunes of a Political Idol, pp. 207-208.
  2. William H. Shutes, Lincoln and California, pp.180-181.
  3. William H. Shutes, Lincoln and California, p. 223.
  4. Roy P. Basler, editor, Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (CWAL) , Volume VIII, p. 146 (Fourth Annual Message to Congress, December 6, 1864).
  5. Milton H. Shutes, Lincoln and California, p. 46.
  6. Harry C. Blair and Rebecca Tarshis, Colonel Edward D. Baker: Lincoln’s Constant Ally, pp. 126-127.
  7. Harry C. Blair and Rebecca Tarshis, Colonel Edward D. Baker: Lincoln’s Constant Ally, p.128.
  8. Allen Thorndike Rice, Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln by Distinguished Men of His Time, pp. 50-51.
  9. Isaac N. Arnold, Life of Abraham Lincoln, p. 240.
  10. Francis B. Carpenter, The Inner Life of Abraham Lincoln: Six Months at the White House, p. 228.
  11. Transcribed and Annotated by the Lincoln Studies Center, Knox College. Galesburg, Illinois, Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress, March 23, 1861,
  12. Allan G. Bogue, The Earnest Men: Republicans of the Civil War Senate, p. 45.
  13. Josiah B. Grinnell, Men and Events of Forty Years, p. 141. Isaac N. Arnold, The Life of Abraham Lincoln, p. 241.
  14. Stephen Sears, Controversies & Commanders, p. 45.
  15. Michael Burlingame, Lincoln’s Journalist: John Hay’s Anonymous Writings for the Press, 1860-1864, pp. 248-249 (April 21, 1862).
  16. CWAL, Volume VII, p. 323 (Endorsement concerning Julius Silversmith, April 30, 1864,
  17. Noah Brooks, Lincoln Observed, p. 126.
  18. Allen Thorndike Rice, Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln, pp. 569-570.
  19. Harry J. Carman and Reinhard H. Luthin, Lincoln and the Patronage, p. 112.
  20. Milton Shutes, Lincoln and California, p. 28.
  21. CWAL, Volume VII, p. 13 (Reply to John Conness upon Presentation of a Cane, November 13, 1864).
  22. Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. Transcribed and Annotated by the Lincoln Studies Center, Knox College. Galesburg, Illinois. (Letter from Cornelius Cole to Abraham Lincoln, undated).
  23. Cornelius Cole, Memoirs of Cornelius Cole, p. 158.
  24. Cornelius Cole, Memoirs of Cornelius Cole, p. 195.
  25. Cornelius Cole, Memoirs of Cornelius Cole, p. 196.
  26. Catherine Coffin Phillips, Cornelius Cole, pp. 254-255.
  27. Cornelius Cole, Memoirs of Cornelius Cole, p. 173.
  28. Francis B. Carpenter, Six Months at the White House, pp.146-147.
  29. CWAL, Volume VI, p. 540 (Letter from Abraham Lincoln to Elihu B. Washburne, October 26, 1863).
  30. Michael Burlingame, editor, Lincoln Observed: Civil War Dispatches of Noah Brooks, pp. 1-2.
  31. Noah Brooks, Lincoln Observed, October 24, 1864, p. 140.
  32. Elmo R. Richardson and Alan W. Farley, John Palmer Usher, Lincoln’s Secretary of the Interior, p. 41.
  33. John F. Marszalek, Commander of All Lincoln’s Armies: A Life of General Henry W. Halleck, p. 189.
  34. CWAL, Volume VI, p. 322 (Letter from Frederick F. Low to Salmon P. Chase, July 8, 1963).
  35. CWAL, Volume VI, p. 322 (Letter from Abraham Lincoln to Frederick F. Low and Leonard Swett, July 9, 1863).
  36. CWAL, Volume VI, p. 333 (Letter from Abraham Lincoln to Leonard Swett, July 15, 1863).
  37. CWAL, Volume VI, p. 333 (Letter from Leonard Swett to Abraham Lincoln, July 13, 1863).
  38. CWAL, Volume VI, p. 422 (Letter from Abraham Lincoln to Leonard Swett, August 29, 1863).
  39. Carl Sandburg, Abraham Lincoln, The War Years, Volume II, p. 645.
  40. em>Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. Transcribed and Annotated by the Lincoln Studies Center, Knox College. Galesburg, Illinois. (Letter from Charles Maltby to Abraham Lincoln, September 21, 1864).