Rare Book Monthly

Articles - July - 2009 Issue

Long Missing Lincoln Letter Returns Home

Cutler-lincolnletter

Long lost Lincoln letter from shortly before his Gettysburg Address.


By Michael Stillman

An interesting Lincoln letter, missing from the National Archives for many decades, perhaps longer, made its way home recently, a gift from a collector who purchased it from an online auction in 2006, unaware of its history. The letter was written on November 14, 1863, just five days before the President delivered his Gettysburg Address. While this letter is not so momentous, and is even briefer still than the famed, brief address, it too must have elicited sad emotions for the President. It related to an unpleasant event concerning the son-in-law of a great friend and colleague of Lincoln who had died in battle during the Civil War. To see this relative of a deceased close friend under an ethical cloud could only have been painful to a president in the midst of the terrible burdens of a terrible war.

The letter was written to Secretary of the Treasury Salmon Chase, and it pertains to charges made against the Superintendent of the San Francisco Mint, Robert Stevens. A special agent had been sent to San Francisco to investigate corruption charges against Stevens. He came back with a series of claims, such as hiring unqualified individuals, overpaying some employees and paying others for no-show jobs, overpaying for inferior supplies, encouraging insubordination by workers, and being arrogant and discourteous to his managers. Chase responded by firing Stevens. Stevens protested, and demanded to see the evidence against him. Evidently, he was not satisfied with Chase's response, as several months later, he wrote Lincoln asking help in seeing the evidence. Lincoln thereby wrote this letter to Chase, which states:

My dear Sir

Mr. Stevens, late Superintendent of the Mint at San Francisco, asks to have a copy, or be permitted to examine, and take extracts, of the evidence upon which he was removed. Please oblige him in one way or the other.

Yours truly,
A. Lincoln

Lincoln had appointed Stevens in 1861, a patronage job undoubtedly offered as a result of Lincoln's friendship with his father-in-law, Edward Baker. Baker had emigrated to America from Britain as a young child, lived during his teens in the utopian community of New Harmony, Indiana, and then moved to Illinois, where, like Lincoln, he became a lawyer in the early 1830s. Their paths crossed as a result of their legal careers and interest in politics. In 1844, Baker opposed Lincoln for the Whig nomination for Congress from their local district, and defeated the future president. However, the contest did not have any adverse effect on their relationship, as two years later, Lincoln named his second son, Edward Baker Lincoln, after Baker (young Eddie Lincoln died shortly before his fourth birthday).

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Announcing a new Books for Sale platform hosted by Biblio</b>
    <b>List your books simultaneously on Rare Book Hub and Biblio</b>
  • <b>19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Exodus 10:10 to 16:15. Complete Biblical scroll sheet in Hebrew, a Torah scroll panel. Middle East, ca. 10th or 11th century.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Copernicus Refuted. (Astronomy.). Scientific manuscript of a course of studies at Collège de la Trinité, Lyon. 1660s.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Israel’s War of Independence and the Early Days of the IDF. 58 photographs presented to Israel Ber, IDF officer and later convicted spy.
    <b>19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Early Unpublished Darwin letter on the races of man. Autograph Letter Signed [to Henry Denny]. Down, Kent, June 1, [1844].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Classic Image of American Slavery. Kimball, M. H. <i>Emancipated Slaves</i>. New York: George Hanks, 1863.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> (Underground Railroad.) Scaggs, Isaac. Important Runaway Slave Poster: $500 Reward Ran away, or decoyed from the subscriber…
  • <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Newton. <i>Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica</i>. London, 1687.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Josephus. <i>De antiquitate Judaica.</i> Lubeck, 1475-76.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Carlerius. <i>Sporta fragmentorum, Sportula fragmentorum</i>. Brussels, 1478-79.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Fridolin. <i>Der Schatzbehalter</i>. Nuremberg, 1491.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Pinder. <i>Der beschlossen gart des rosenkrantz marie</i>. Nuremberg, 1505.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Isidorus Hispalensis. <i>Synonyma de Homine</i>. Nuremberg, 1470-71.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Durer. Sammelband including <i>Underweysung der messing</i>. Nuremberg, 1525-29.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 19: 19th & 20th Century Prints & Drawings</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 28: Printed & Manuscript Americana</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 5: African-American Fine Art</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 17: Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 19:<br>Art & Storytelling: Photographs & Photobooks</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 26: Rare & Important Travel Posters</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 2:<br>Old Master Through Modern Prints</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 7: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 14: 19th & 20th Century Literature</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 16: Contemporary Art</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 5:<br>Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 14: Illustration Art</b>

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions