Peeping Tom Gets Paternal Advice from President

October 26, 1863

President Lincoln writes a paternal letter to Captain James M. Cutts, former brother-in-law of the deceased Senator Stephen Douglas.  Although he approves the sentence received by Cutts has been charged with “peeping tom” activities, Cutts will serve no sentence: “Although what I am now to say is to be, in form, a reprimand, it is not intended to add a pang to what you have already suffered upon the subject to which it relates.  You have too much of life yet before you, and have shown too much of promise as an officer, for your future to be lightly surrendered.  You were convicted of two offences.  One of them, not of great enormity, and yet greatly to be avoided, I feel sure you are no danger of repeating.  The other you are not so well assured against.  The advice of a father to his son ‘Beware of entrance to a quarrel, but being in, bear it that the opposed may beware of thee,’ is good, and yet not the best.  Quarrel not at all.  No man resolved to make the most of himself, can spare time for personal contention.  Still less can he afford to take all the consequences, including the vitiating of his temper, and the loss of self-control.  Yield larger things to which you can show no more than equal right; and yield lesser ones, though clearly your own.  Better give your path to a dog, than be bitten by him in contesting for the right.  Even killing the dog would not cure the bite.

In the mood indicated deal henceforth with your fellow men, and especially with your brother officers; and even the unpleasant even you are passing from will not have been profitness to you.

President Lincoln writes Illinois Congressman Elihu. B. Washburne, regarding his two influential brothers: “Yours of the 12th. has been in my hands several days.  Inclosed I send the leave of absence for your brother, in as good form as I think I can safely put it.  Without knowing whether he would accept it, I have tendered the Collectorship at Portland, Me, to your other brother, the Governor.”  He adds an intriguing note about his willingness to serve a second term: “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.”

On October 12, Washburne had written President Lincoln on October 12: “Not withstanding the troubles that surround us, the time has come when we must confront the question of our next presidential candidate.  I think you ought to let some of your confidential friends know your wishes…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 si 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.” Washburne added: “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 takes care of a little family business in a note to Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase: “The writer of the accompanying letter is one of Mrs. L[incoln]’s numerous cousins. He is a grandson of Millikin’s Bend, near Vicksburg—that is, a grandson of the man who gave name to Millikin’s Bend. His father was a brother to Mrs. L’s mother. I know not a thing about his loyalty beyond what he says. Supposing he is loyal, can any of his requests be granted? and, if any, which of them?”

White House aide William O. Stoddard writes in an anonymous newspaper dispatch: “We have had a somewhat stormy week, atmospherically, but it has cleared up gloriously this morning, and the new one begins with the good omen of a bright October.  The yellow leaves on the trees in the President’s grounds look golden in the radiance, and even the sombre evergreens in Lafayette Square appear more cheerful than usual.”

Stoddard adds: “We at the National Capital are waiting with feverish interest for the reutrns from your New-York elections.  It is impossible to regard otherwise than with the deepest anxiety the position assumed by the people of the most populous and powerful State in the Union.  It is not enough that all the rest are right, if New-York is wrong.”

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Published in: on October 26, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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