Israel Washburn Jr. to Abraham Lincoln, January 21, 1861

    Source citation
    Israel Washburn Jr. to Abraham Lincoln, January 21, 1861, Augusta, ME, Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress,
    Date Certainty
    Transcribed by the Lincoln Studies Center, Knox College, Galesburg, IL
    Adapted by Don Sailer, Dickinson College
    Transcription date
    The following transcript has been adapted from the Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress.

    Augusta Jan'y 21. 1861.

    Dear Sir,

    From the reports in the newspapers, I am led to fear that there is some reason to believe that Genl Cameron may be a member of your Cabinet. I have no feeling of personal unkindness towards Genl C. & never had cause or occasion for any; but it is my fixed belief -- & being so, I am constrained to say it -- that is is scarcely possible for a selection to be made that would be so badly received by the country as this would be. The world (of the U. S.) believes that Genl Cameron is a politician of the lower law school of tactics & practices, whose disciples hold that administration is chiefly desirable for its benefits to those who participate in it -- & it would be difficult to make it understood how any one could be ignorant of this reputation, or doubt its essential justice. The earnest, honest, vital men of the Republican party who desire & mean to give your administration their most sincere & effective support, & upon whom it must depend, will be embarassed more than I can tell, should one of its first acts be to place the Treasury of the U. S. in the keeping of one whose name has the burden of so great a prejudice as the Penna Senator's--

    I know that unbidden guests have no place for sitting, & that unsolicited advice generally deserves short commons. But I feel that you need no assurance that I have taken it upon me to write you on this subject from any motive or purpose that do not have the sanction of my honest judgment--

    I have strong convictions as to who, taking all things into account, would make the best Secretary of the Treasury, but my purpose in writing you covers no suggestions of that character.

    But what troubles me more than the Cabinet question, is the apprehension that many of the Republicans are unequal to the exigencies of the time. They are blind & cannot see -- weak & they cannot stand. If they would only be patient & have faith in what is true, & strong & eternal -- if they would be firm & act as men, all would come right; but if they will not all will be wrong, & the election of Breckenridge would have been a smaller calamity than these people will make yours. There are laws stronger than Representatives & Senators, than party leaders, nay than parties themselves, which make the permanent actual secession of one or more of the slave States a practical impossibility-- The Union is to remain: it may be the old Union for freedom & right, or a new one for Slavery & wrong. If the North does not back down & give the Union to Slavery, the South will & leave it to freedom-- I fear however that our weak & unbelieving men will not give slavery a chance to back down -- their facility for degradation is of fabulous proportions, & nothing but the clear, strong, reassuring tones of the brave men of principle -- & who are always the truly successful men -- can keep them from courses which would lead logically & certainly to the demoralization of the party which is the last hope of Liberty & Union-- These men seek all occasions & pretexts for concessions & humiliations -- they are playing the same endless role -- it played out the Whig party with Clay & Webster -- & if they can have their way it will play out the Republican party -- they profess to make Mr Sewards late speech, which was, truly read, a protest agt compromises -- for he shows in detail that there are no allowable & practical concessions to be made, & that only masterly inactivity coupled with fidelity are wanted -- the excuse for hurrying up concession after concession. I fear these men & their influence-- I know them -- some of them were the followers of Douglas two years ago-- They have hankered for popular sovereignty -- for any thing so it was not pure Republicanism-- One of them, I am told, is getting Congressmen to solicit his appointment to a place in your Cabinet, as if one fit for such a place should find it necessary to do this-- There is not in my poor judgment any fear but from the counsels of these men-- If we can only pass the 4' of March & yr inauguration & keep Sumter & the other forts, without having yielded our principles or or neglected our duties, but a few months will elapse before the country will be quiet, & all the States will be loyal. But excuse me this screed -- & believe me to be

    Very truly yours,

    I. Washburn Jr

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