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

From William L. Hodge to Thomas Corwin

October 18, 2010

The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress

Copy of letter advising Lincoln how to handle sectional crisis

Washington 18th Oct 1860

My dear Sir

I address you on what I consider a very important subject — and beg your careful attention, even at the expense of a little time and trouble in decyphering my hieroglyphics.

There is no shadow of a doubt but the Union is in a critical a very critical situation, owing to the excitement of general disunion feeling at the South, and particularly in South Carolina & Georgia where the disunionist are completely in full power, having the whole State government in their possession, & perfectly able and willing to precipitate matters by overt acts from which they will not indeed could not undo & which they will carry into effect in case Mr Lincoln is elected & which can only be prevented by some change in public opinion there & by showing to the people the utter absurdity, and injurious effects of such a proceeding

Mr Lincoln was nominated as a conservative man & because he was conservative, & Mr Seward was thrown overboard because he was too ultra Mr L is a perfectly safe man for the South & so they would find him if they would only remain quiet under him, & in three months he would be highly popular at the South. But even were it otherwise how ridiculous would are these pretended fears when it is recollected that the Senate will be in opposition, that the House is already anti-republican, under the recent State elections & will be more so from the elections yet to take place, which will probably give an anti-republican majority, — in the House, of from 20 to 30 The Supreme Court is in opposition to any anti-slavery movement — all the officers at the South — Marshalls — District Attornies, Collectors Post-masters &c will be southern men, & on the top of all, even if Mr Lincoln is elected, he will be chosen against the votes of 2 two thirds of the people of the United States — for two-fifths of the votes are of the South — all of which are against him &, of the three fifths in the free States, one half, or nearly so, are in opposition to him; but by our system of choosing by electoral colleges, with only one third of the votes in of the whole Union in his favor, he will still be elected, as in the case of Mr Fillmore who received 900,000 votes, & yet only had eight electoral votes

Now, even admitting Mr Lincoln was ultra in his slavery views, what harm could he do to the South, under the above state of the case, as he would be in irons & double irons, with the Legislature & Judiciary branches of & two-thirds of the entire population dead opposed to him, & checking every movement. If he was a Garrison or a Wendell Phillips, he could not do any harm, and it is therefore doubly absurd, when Mr L instead of being an ultra is highly conservative & would be a perfectly safe man for the South, even if he had both Houses of Congress and a majority of the whole people in his favor & support– The fact, however, is patent and cannot be denied, that a disunion movement is intended & will be essayed and it will require the utmost discretion & judgment on the part of Mr L in its management & suppression — for a false step on his part, or the shedding of one drop of blood & the whole South would be in flames & beyond all control

With this long preamble, let me now come to the gist of my letter, which is that you will make it a point, to visit Mr Lincoln in person, & without delay & urge upon him the necessity, the moment he ascertains that he is elected, which will be in 48 hours after the day of election, to issue an address to his Southern fellow-citizens, stating his intended course in conducting public affairs — & putting his conservative views in the strongest posible light, disavowing the ultra sentiments which some of his stump speakers & Republican Journals have put forward all of which are being constantly reproduced at the South, & announcing, as he has on former occasions done, that he will enforce the fugitive slave law, — is opposed to the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia — is not opposed to the sale & migration of slaves between the States — nor to the admission of more States with slavery in their constitutions — that he will, particularly in his Cabinet, give a full share of the appointments to the South & all of them, in Southern States, to Southern men, & put everything as regards slavery on a footing that will be — at least ought to be, satisfactory to the South — which I am convinced he is willing to do, & intends to do.

Now, my dear Sir, you cannot render a more valuable service to your Country, than by taking this matter in hand promptly & zealously, & going at once to Mr L, & urging it on him to prepare the address at once & in proper language. I neither know Mr L nor he me, & probably he has never heard my name. It would be useless therefore for me to address him, but he [armed?] that danger is imminent, & I hear & see more & from various quarters here than you possibly can. I know there is a good deal of the brag game in it at the South but there is also quite too much of the reality. It is beginning to be realized in our large cities, for in New York & Philadelphia it has already paralized real estate, of which no sales can be made, & here it is still worse, where the value of real estate is actually affected 25 to 33 per cent This Union once dissolved by the permanent secession of even one State could no more ever again be re-united — than could a glass vase which had been dashed to pieces on a stone pavement. To the South, a dissolution would be the knell of slavery; but you cannot persuade them to that. But I understand it is already affecting the value of slaves there, & if they only once realize that, it will do more to suppress disunion than the most labored arguments

The enclosed slip gives you a true view of the state of feeling at the South. I have seen similar letters & talked with cool Union loving men from that quarter, all using the same language & expressing their great regret at the state of feeling existing there

All, to whom I have suggested the plan of an address from Mr Lincoln, highly approve of it. It would greatly strengthen the hands of the Union men at the South, & would tend to check any precipitate movement — would calm the timid men there, who think Mr Lincoln intends to liberate all their slaves — & be a check & a curb on the reckless & fool-hardy.

I was recently in New York where I found the moderate & leading Republicans censuring Mr Seward for the ultra speeches he has recently been making, & in reply to my question to one of his personal friends & a very distinguished politician of the Republican party — what was Mr Seward’s motive, he promptly replied “to embarrass & injure Lincoln” — & expressed his high dissatisfaction at Mr Seward’s course. He has done great mischief at the South by those speeches & I have no doubt his friend truly appreciated his motive–

I am pleased to see that you have again consented to run & have been successful

Very truly

(signed) Wm L Hodge

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