Following the American Civil War Sesquicentennial with day by day writings of the time, currently 1863.

Uncollected Letters of Abraham Lincoln © 1917

PENSACOLA, April 13, 1861.

Hon. L. P. WALKER, Secretary of War:

Re-enforcements thrown into Fort Pickens last night by small boats from the outside. The movement could not even be seen from our side, but was discovered by a small reconnoitering boat.


Brigadier General.

To Lyman Trumbull

SPRINGFIELD, ILLS. Dec. 24, 1860

Hon. Lyman Trumbull—

My dear Sir. I expect to be able to offer Mr. Blair a place in the cabinet; but I can not, as yet, be committed on the matter, to any extent whatever.

Despatches have come here two days in succession, that the Forts in South Carolina will be surrendered by the order, or consent at least, of the President.

I can scarcely believe this; but if it prove true, I will, if our friends at Washington concur, announce publicly at once that they are to be retaken after the inauguration. This will give the Union Men a rallying cry, and preparation will proceed somewhat on their side, as well as on the other.

Yours as ever


Private & Confidential

SPRINGFIELD, ILLS. Dec. 10. 1860

Hon. L. Trumbull.

My Dear Sir: Let there be no compromise on the question of extending slavery. If there be, all our labor is lost, and, ere long, must be done again. The dangerous ground — that into which some of our friends have a hankering to run — is Pop. Sov. Have none of it. Stand firm. The tug has to come, & better now than any time hereafter.

Yours as ever




Dec 8, 1860.

Hon. Lyman Trumbull,

My Dear Sir: Yours of the 2nd is received. I regret exceedingly the anxiety of our friends in New York, of whom you write; but it seems to me the sentiment in that state which sent a united delegation to Chicago in favor of Gov. Seward ought not and must not be snubbed, as it would be, by the omission to offer Gov. S. a place in the Cabinet. I will myself take care of the question of “corrupt jobs” and see that justice is done to all our friends of whom you wrote as well as others.

I have written Mr. Hamlin on this very subject of Gov. S. and requested him to consult fully with you.

He will show you my note and enclosures to him; and then please act as therein requested.

Yours as ever,


SPRINGFIELD, ILLS. Sep 22, 1860.


My dear Madam: Your kind congratulatory letter, of August, was received in due course, and should have been answered sooner. The truth is I have never corresponded much with ladies; and hence I postpone writing letters to them, as a business which I do not understand. I can only say now I thank you for the good opinion you express of me, fearing, at the same time, I may not be able to maintain it through life.

Yours very truly,


To Leonard Swett
Springfield, Ills. May 30, 1860.

Hon. L. Swett.

My dear Sir: Your letter written to go to New York is long, but substantially right I believe.  You heard Weed conversed with me, and you now have Putnam’s letters.  It can not have failed to strike you that these men ask for just the same thing—fairness and fairness only.  This so far as in my power, they and all others shall have.  If this suggests any modification of or addition to your letter make it accordingly.  Burn this; not that there is anything wrong in it, but because it is best not to be known that I wrote at all.

Yours as ever

A. Lincoln
Springfield, Illinois, May 28, 1860.

Hon. George Ashmun, President of the Republican National Convention:

SIR—I accept the nomination tendered me by the Convention over which you presided, and of which I am formally apprised in the letter of yourself and others, acting as a Committee of the Convention for that purpose.

The declaration of principles and sentiments which accompanies your letter, meets my approval; and it shall be my care not to violate or disregard it, in any part.

Imploring the assistance of Divine Providence, and with due regard to the views and feelings of all who were represented in the Convention—to the rights of all the States and Territories, and the people of the nation—to the inviolability of the Constitution, and the perpetual Union, harmony and prosperity of all—I am most happy to co-operate for the practical success of the principles declared by the Convention.

………………Your obliged friend and fellow-citizen,

Abraham Lincoln.

To William C. Baker
Springfield, May 28, 1860.
Wm. C. Baker,

You request an autograph and here it is.

A. Lincoln

To O. P. Hall AND I (or J.) H. Fullininder

SPRINGFIELD Feb. 4, 1860.

Messrs. O. P. Hall &
…………I OR J. H. Fullininder.

Gentlemen: Your letter in which, among other things, you ask what I meant when I said this “Union could not stand half slave and half free “; and also what I meant when I said “a house divided against itself could not stand” is received and I very cheerfully answer it as plainly as I may be able. You misquote, to some material extent, what I did say, which induces me to think you have not very carefully read the speech in which the expressions occur which puzzle you to understand. For this reason and because the language I used is as plain as I can make it, I now quote at length the whole paragraph in which the expressions which puzzle you occur. It is as follows: “We are now far into the fifth year since a policy was initiated with the avowed object and confident promise of putting an end to slavery agitation. Under the operation of that policy that agitation has not only not ceased, but constantly augmented. I believe it will not cease until a crisis shall have been reached, and passed. A house divided against itself can not stand. I believe this government can not endure permanently, half slave, and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved: I do not expect the house to fall; but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will avert the further spread of it and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward till it will become alike lawful in all the states, old as well as new, North as well as South.”

That is the whole paragraph; and it puzzles me to make my meaning plainer. Look over it carefully, and conclude I meant all I said, and did not mean any thing I did not say, and you will have my meaning. Douglas attacked me upon this, saying it was a declaration of war between the slave and the free states. You will perceive, I said no such thing, and I assure you I thought of no such thing. If I had said I believe the Government cannot last always half slave and half free, would you understand it any better than you do? Endure permanently and last always have exactly the same meaning. If you, or if you will state to me some meaning which you suppose I had, I can and will instantly tell you whether that was my meaning.

Your very truly,


To Alexander H. Stephens

SPRINGFIELD, ILLINOIS, 19 January, 1860.

Duplicated for Senator Jno. J. Crittenden

Honorable A. H. Stephens [1]

Dear Sir: Your letter and one from Hon. J. J. Crittenden, reached me at the same time. He wants a new party on the platform of “The Union, the constitution and the enforcement of the Laws” — not construed. You from your retirement at Liberty Hall complain of the bad faith of many in the free states who refuse to return fugitives from labor, as agreed in the compromise of 1850, 1854: but I infer that you agree with Judge Douglas that the territories are to be left to “form and regulate their own domestic institutions subject only to the Constitution of the United States.” I remember the letter of the Whigs in Congress in 1852 which defeated Gen’l Winfield Scott on the ground that he did not present your view of States’ rights. Also that your letter destroyed the Whig party and it is said that you and Toombs voted for Webster after he was dead. You are still “harping” on “my daughter” and you supported Zach Taylor as a sound Kentuckian. If I understand you, here are two constructions: Crittenden being willing for the Henry Clay gradual emancipation, I think. The rights of local self-government as defined by Webster, also including state determination of citizenship, are clearly in the Constitution. When we were both Members of the Young-Indian Club in Washington you then argued for paramount state Sovereignty going very nearly to the extreme of state nullification of Federal laws with John C. Calhoun: and of secession at will with Robert Toombs. The Colonies were subject up to July 4, 1776, and had no recognized independence until they had won it in 1783: but the only time they ever had the shadows of separate sovereignty was in the two years before they were compelled to the articles of Confederation July 9, 1778. They fought England for seven years for the right to club together but when were they independent of each other? Let me say right here that only unanimous consent of all of the states can dissolve this Union. We will not secede and you shall not. Let me show you what I think of the reserved rights of the states as declared in the articles of Confederation and in the Constitution and so called Jeffersonian amendments; suppose that I sold a farm here in Illinois with all and singular the rights, members and appurtenances to the same in any wise belonging or appertaining, signed, sealed and delivered: I have now sold my land. Will it at all change the contract if I go to the clerk’s office and add a post script to the record; that all rights not therein conveyed I reserve to myself and my children? The colonies, by the Declaration of July 4, 1776, did not get nationality, for they were leagued to fight for it. By the articles of Confederation of July 9, 1778, under stress and peril of failure without union, a government was created to which the states ceded certain powers of nationality, especially in the command of the army and navy, as yet supported by the states. Geo. Washington was Commander in Chief and congress was advisory agent of the states, commending but not enacting laws for the thirteen, until empowered. This proved insufficient and the peril of failure was great as ever, at home and abroad. Alexander Hamilton and others of New York were first to urge that a government with no revenues, except state grants, could have no credit at home or abroad. Three years later Virginia led the states in urging concessions of power, and then by twelve states —Rhode Island objecting — was framed our original Constitution of 1787 fully three and a half years after the peace that sealed our United national Independence. The post-script erroneously all attributed to Thomas Jefferson, came in three installments. The first ten (10) proposed in the first session of the Congress of the United States 25th September 1789 were ratified by the constitutional number of states 15 December 1791, New Jersey 20 November 1789 and Virginia is December 1791, eleven states only, Georgia and Connecticut dissenting. The eleventh amendment, proposed 5 March 1794., Third Congress, was then declared duly adopted by a President’s message of 8 January, 1798, eleven states consenting & finally all consenting. The twelfth amendment was proposed in congress 12 December 1803 and declared ratified through the secretary of state 25 September 1804 by the constitutional quorum of states. The first ten articles are the Bill of Rights and each set of amendments had a preface. The eleventh limited the Federal Judiciary. The twelfth regulated general elections for President and Vice-President of the United States. Do any or all of these retract the fee-simple grant of great and permanent powers to the Federal Government? There are three great Departments: I, the President commanding the Army and Navy and with a veto upon a plurality of Congress. II, the Congress coining all moneys; collecting all imposts on imports, regulating all interstate as all external commerce; making all subordinate Federal Judiciary as appointed of the President with power to have a ten mile square seat and to take grants or to buy for Forts, Dock yards and Arsenals; having post offices and post roads under laws executed by the President, and to frame supreme constitutional laws and set up courts and Judges. III, The supreme court set as arbiter and expounder of the constitution and of all differences of states and with states or of them with the Federation; no loop hole left for nullification, and none for secession, — because the right of peaceable assembly and of petition and by article Fifth of the Constitution, the right of amendment, is the Constitutional substitute for revolution. Here is our Magna Carta not wrested by Barons from King John, but the free gift of states to the nation they create and in the very amendments harped upon by states rights men are proposed by the Federal congress and approved by Presidents, to make the liberties of the Republic of the West forever sure. All of the States’ Rights which they wished to retain are now and forever retained in the Union, including slavery; and so I have sworn loyalty to this constitutional Union, and for it let me live or let me die. But you say that slavery is the corner stone of the south and if separated, would be that of a new Republic; God forbid. When a boy I went to New Orleans on a flat boat and there I saw slavery and slave markets as I have never seen them in Kentucky, and I heard worse of the Red River plantations. I hoped and prayed that the gradual emancipation plan of Henry Clay or the Liberian colonization of John Q. Adams might lead to its extinction in the United States. Geo. Washington, the Massachusetts Adams, Presidents James Madison and Monroe, Benj. Franklin opposed its extension into the territories before I did. The ordinance of 1784, 1787 for the North West territory ceded by Virginia, was written by Thomas Jefferson and signed only by slave-holders and that prohibited forever slavery, or involuntary servitude not imposed for crime. Your grandfather, Captain Stephens, suffered at Valley Forge and bled at Brandywine for the principles of the men of 1776-1783. Your Uncle, Justice Grier of the Supreme Bench has recently expounded the Supreme Law as I honestly accept it. Senator Crittenden complains that by the device of party conventions and nominations of candidates for Presidents and Vice-Presidents the Federal plan of separate and unbiased Electoral Colleges is taken away and the popular feature of elections is restored to the people. I reckon they wanted it so. What are you agoing to do about it? To abolish conventions you must abolish candidates. In your Oxford College orations, you say “I love the Union and revere its memories; I rejoice in all its achievements in arts, in letters and in arms.”If it is a good thing, why not just keep it and say no more about it?

I am not in favor of a party of Union, constitution and law to suit Mr. Bell or Mr. Everett and be construed variously in as many sections as there are states.

This is the longest letter I ever dictated or wrote. But this is to only you alone, not to the public.

Your truly,


[1] From a pamphlet entitled Some Lincoln Correspondence with Southern Leaders before the Outbreak of the Civil War, from the Collection of Judd Stewart, 1909. The letter was there printed from a copy certified as correct by Mr. Stephens.