Congressmen Protest Cameron

Monday January 21, 1861

George Sumner, brother of Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner, reports on his visit with President-elect Lincoln: “I have just had a long interview with L. He is firm as a rock. ‘Give them Personal Liberty bills & they will pull in the slack, hold on & insist on the border state compromises — give them that, they’ll again pull in the slack & demand Crit’s Comp. — that pulled in they will want all that So Carolina asks.”
Maine Congressman Israel Washburn, brother of Illinois Congressman Elihu B. Washburne (who spelled his name with an “e”) forwards a protest signed by 20 congressman opposing the appointment of Simon Cameron to the Cabinet.

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To Compromise or Not

Sunday, January 20, 1861

President-elect Lincoln meets with Illinois Congressman William Kellogg, an advocate of compromise to avoid secession. Kellogg had visited Lincoln the previous night and will do so again on Monday.

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Chase Gets Treasury

Saturday, January 19, 1861

Georgia secedes.
The Virginia Legislature calls for Peace Conference in Washington.

Salmon P. Chase

President Lincoln writes to Ohio’s Salmon P. Chase to offer him the post of secretary of the Treasury: “…our new Administration, under the peculiar circumstances which now surround us, will be called to deal directly with great questions of principle. It will be for a while in the place of Congress, & it may have the duty cast upon it to save a great cause even at the expense of the Republic. Such a responsibility can be adequately met only be firmness, courage and inflexible principle.
“More than any thing else, I fear ‘surrender…There I trust that you will accept the post of Secretary of the Treasury….I deplore William H. S[eward]‘s speech…I supplicated him with all the ardor of my soul, to change it tone & especially to abandon every proposition of concession, — ending his speech with the declaration that Mr Lincoln would be inaugurated 4th March President of the United States, & with a rally to sustain him. He did not hearken to me.”

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Lincoln Makes Two Cabinet Appointments

Thursday, January 17, 1861

President-elect Lincoln announces the selection of Secretary of State William H. Seward and Attorney General Edward Bates.
Mary Todd Lincoln writes Illinois Judge David Davis, long a Lincoln intimate to oppose the nomination of Chicago attorney Norman B. Judd to the Cabinet. “Doubtless you will be surprised, to receive a note from me, when I explain the cause, of my writing, I believe your honest, noble heart, will sympathise with me, otherwise I am assured, you will not mention it. Perhaps you will think it is no affair of mine, yet I see it, almost daily mentioned in the Herald, that Judd & some few Northern friends, are urging the former’s claims to a cabinet appointment. Judd would cause trouble & dissatisfaction, & if Wall Street testifies correctly, his business transactions, have not always borne inspection. I heard the report, discussed at the table this morning, by persons who did not know, who was near, a party of gentlemen, evidently strong Republicans, they were laughing at the idea of Judd, being any way, connected with the Cabinet in these times, when honesty in high places is so important. Mr. Lincoln’s great attachment for you, is my present reason for writing. I know, a word from you, will have much effect, for the good of the country, and Mr Lincoln’s future reputation, I believe you will speak to him on this subject & urge him not to give him so responsible a place. It is strange, how little delicacy those Chicago men have. I know, I can rely on what I have written to you, to be kept private. If you consider me intrusive, please excuse me, our country, just now, is above all.”
Chicago Tribune editor Charles H. Ray writes to Massachusetts Gov. John A. Andrew that the nomination of Simon Cameron has been “arrested” but he admits little other knowledge: “I have told you all I know about what is in the line of Mr. Lincoln’s intentions, but let me say that this little does not come directly from Mr. Lincoln himself. I have hardly changed a dozen words with him about his appointments; and I am sure that no friend in Illinois was consulted about the invitation to Cameron. Of late, he is most communicative; and now that his eyes are opened to the fatal character of the mistake that he was about to make, I hope that he will more frequently call to his aid the men who have not his responsibilities and anxieties.
Ray continued: “Every day the man’s purity of intention shines out with new lustre. He has only one desire; and that to so govern the country that its prosperity and happiness may be secured which our great cause is advancing. If he fails, his dislike to say no to friends upon whose judgment he would like to rely and of whose affection, he feels sure will be chargeable with the misfortune. That he is patriotic and honest, and that he will bravely carry forward our flag, I cannot doubt; but more now would do him no harm.”

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Compromise Stalled

Thomas Corwin

Wednesday January 16, 1861

Ohio Congressman Thomas Corwin writes Lincoln about compromise efforts in the House of Representatives: “I have been for thirty days in a Committee of Thirty-Three. If the States are no more harmonious in their feelings and opinions than these thirty-three representative men, then, appalling as the idea is, we must dissolve, and a long and bloody civil war must follow. I cannot comprehend the madness of the times. Southern men are theoretically crazy. Extreme Northern men are practical fools. The latter are really quite as mad as the former. Treason is in the air around us everywhere. It goes by the name of patriotism. Men in Congress boldly avow it, and the public offices are full of acknowledged secessionists. God alone, I fear, can help us. Four or five States are gone, others are driving before the gale. I have looked on this horrid picture till I have been able to gaze on it with perfect calmness. I think, if you live, you may take the oath.”
New York delegation visits Lincoln in opposition to a Cabinet post for Pennsylvania’s Simon Cameron. As a result of this visit, Hiram Barney writes back to New York about Lincoln’s Cabinet appointments: “He wants to take [Norman] Judd; but this selection will offend some of his friends and he does not decide upon it. Wells [sic] of Connecticut is his preference for New England – Blair of Maryland is favorably considered….Caleb B. Smith of Indiana is urged upon him and he may have to take him instead of Judd. Caleb is almost as objectionable as Cameron, & for similar reasons……What he [Lincoln] will ultimately do after reaching Washington no one not even himself can tell. He wants to please & satisfy all his friends.”
Illinois Senator Lyman Trumbull writes Lincoln about Cameron’s annoyance with President-elect Lincoln. He concluded with a warning about potential security dangers for Lincoln: “A very prudent Friend, who is better posted in regard to matters here in the District than any other man, & knows more of the designs of the conspirators than anybody else, has suggested that you ought not to have it given out here, on when you were coming here but to let some of us here know the time & the route.”
Secretary of War Joseph Holt writes Fort Sumter commander Robert Anderson: “You rightly designate the firing into the Star of the West as an `act of war,’ and one which was actually committed without the slightest provocation. Your forbearance to return the fire is fully approved by the President. Unfortunately, the Government had not been able to make known to you that the Star of the West had sailed from New York for your relief.”

Fort Sumter, Cameron Stalemate

Monday, January 14, 1861

The South Carolina Legislature passes a resolution that “any attempt by the federal govt to reinforce Fort Sumter will be regarded as an act of open hostility and a declaration of war.”
Two representatives of Simon Cameron, including Pennsylvania Senator-elect Edgar Cowan, visit Springfield to press his case – as part of Cameron’s continuing efforts to insure that Lincoln did not withdraw his nomination. John Hay files a newspaper dispatch “It is thought, by those most entitled to speak, that Mr. Cameron will be appointed. The claim of so powerful a State, when concentrated upon one man, cannot be disregarded.
The New York Times reprints an item from the Missouri Democrat: “We found Mr. Lincoln in his parlor surrounded by some six or eight gentlemen, who all proved to be temporary visitors like ourselves. Mr. LINCOLN met us with a frank welcome, shaking hands with us, and at once by his words and his manner, making us feel that our call was no intrusion; and on his invitation, we were soon seated with the circle of gentlemen who occupied his parlor. “

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Lincoln Retreats on Cameron

Sunday, January 13, 1861

President-elect Lincoln’s dilemma regarding Simon Cameron continues. He writes Cameron: “I now think I will not definitely fix upon any appointment for Pennsylvania until I reach Washington.”

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Seward Speaks out on Secession

Saturday January 12, 1861

New York’s William H. Seward delivered a long-anticipated speech on secession and compromise in the Senate. On Sunday, Illinois Congressman Elihu B. Washburne writes Lincoln: “The great event of yesterday was Seward’s speech. I did not hear it, but there is a divided opinion in regard to it among our friends. Some say it was letting down, and others say it was a wise, judicious and timely speech, and on the whole, I think so. It gives great satisfaction to the border State men who are with us.”

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Chase Coy on Cabinet

Friday, January 11, 1861

Alabama secedes.
Ohio Senator-elect Salmon P. Chase writes Lincoln a long letter of cabinet advice: “I noticed yesterday in the correspondence from this city of the Cincinnati Commercial a statement that you had tendered me the post of Secry. of the Treasy.; and thought it best, since what actually transpired cannot properly be made public, to say to the correspondent, whom I happen to know, that his informant was mistaken, and requested him to correct his statement as ‘from the best authority.’ Having touched this subject I ought perhaps also to say that, on reflection, after leaving you, I concluded to wave my objection to communicating with our mutual friends in New York until after your final decision, and availed myself of your permission to consult with them. My letter was, of course, in strictest confidence & communicated nothing you would not have more freely communicated, if conversing with them. I have not yet recd. an answer.”

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Chase favored over Cameron

Thursday, January 10, 1861

Florida secedes.
Wisconsin Senator James Doolittle writes President-elect Lincoln to oppose the nomination of Simon Cameron as secretary of the Treasury: “While some object to Mr [William H.] Seward, the great majority will acquiesce and look with favor upon his being Secretary of State But the rumor that Mr Cameron was to go into the Cabinet also, from Mr [Thurlow] Weed’s relations to Gov Seward and his financial relations with Mr Cameron gave great and painful apprehensions lest a certain class of jobbers & speculators might come too near the Treasury, lest Albany & Harrisburg corruptions would be transferred to Washington We have overcome our political adversaries by showing up their corruptions. We must not be suspected. The name of Mr [Salmon P.] Chase in connexion with the Treasury gives much better satisfaction.”

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