Thursday, January 31, 2008

They've Done it Again

October 22, 1864

The folks at the Papers of Abraham Lincoln Project in Springfield have done it again.

The State Journal-Register is reporting that the project has located a four-page letter written by President Lincoln just before the election of 1864.

In the letter, Lincoln explains why he is refusing to interfere in a political dispute between his vice presidential running mate, Andrew Johnson, and prominent Democrats.

By late October 1864, Lincoln’s reelection seemed probable, yet Johnson, who was also the acting military governor of Tennessee, required voters in his state to pledge Union loyalty oaths before entering the voting booth. Democrats were outraged. These tactics, they argued, gave the president an unfair advantage over their candidate, Gen. George B. McClellan.

Lincoln’s letter was addressed to his outraged opponents. The president declined to interfere with Johnson’s loyalty oaths. In effect, Lincoln cited the Democrats’ familiar states rights argument and declined to intervene with the power of the federal government.

Researchers have known about this letter for quite some time. In fact, the letter is included in the Collected Works, but the location of the original has been a mystery for quite some time.

Researchers found the document in the National Archives’ vaults in College Park, Maryland, but the letter was tucked away in an obscure location.

The hiding place?

A large folder labeled “Records of Boundary and Claims Commissions and Arbitrations” contained a smaller folder labeled “Records Relating to International Claims.” Lincoln’s letter was tucked inside. No one knows how the letter found its way into such an obscure file.

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