Lincoln Letter Reveals Help for Appointee
Presidents routinely make political appointments, and most of the time they are little noticed unless your name is Abraham Lincoln and your every decision has been minutely examined in the past century and a half. A letter has just surfaced that he wrote Nov. 14, 1863, regarding the fate of the man he had appointed as chief of the U.S. Mint in San Francisco.
The very short Lincoln letter, stolen decades ago from a bound volume of presidential letters, was returned today during a formal ceremony at the National Archives. Private collector Thomas M. Cutler of Scottsdale, Ariz., who had purchased the letter in the last couple of years, presented it to Acting Archivist Adrienne Thomas.
The letter, written to Treasury Secretary Salmon P Chase, says, "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."
According to information supplied by the Archives, Lincoln did a favor for an old friend, Oregon Sen. Edward Baker, by appointing Baker's son-in-law to head the San Francisco Mint. Robert Stevens got the job in March, 1861, but was fired in April, 1863 by Chase after a report was made saying Stevens was arrogant, incompetent and corrupt.
Stevens protested the firing for months and then turned to Lincoln for help, asking him to at least let him see the report. Lincoln then wrote to Chase.
In a press release, the Archives said the significance of the letter is the indication that while, "Lincoln was not willing to override Chase's decision, he did feel that Stevens deserved to see the charges against him. It emphasizes the President's sense of fair-play and the moral authority which served as a guide throughout his Presidency."
Thomas called the letter an "important gift" and said the note, written just five days before Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address, "provides us with a window to look at a difficult personal crisis faced by Lincoln in the midst of the Civil War."
Cutler, who declined to say how much he paid for the letter, told Thomas and the gathered press: "It is both a great honor and a pleasure for me to give this very important Abraham Lincoln letter back to the citizens of the United States of America, especially during this bicentennial year of Lincoln's birth."
He said the mystery of how the letter was taken may never be solved, but what is more significant, "is that today I am returning this letter to its long lost home."
A full story on the letter is here.
Posted by: civilwarjustice | May 29, 2009 12:45 PM | Report abuse
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