Abraham Lincoln and Indiana
Abraham Lincoln grew up in Indiana. Indiana was the state of his formation as an adolescent and it was a state that helped form his political future in 1860 when Indiana Republicans teamed with Republicans from Illinois to engineer his nomination for President.
“We reached our new home about the time the State came into the Union,” wrote Abraham Lincoln in describing his move to Indiana in 1816. His father “removed from Kentucky to what is now Spencer county, Indiana, in my eighth year. It was a wild region, with many bears and other wild animals still in the woods. There I grew up. There were some schools, so called; but no qualification ever required of a teacher, beyond “readin, writin, and cipherin, to the Rule of Three. If a straggler supposed to understand latin, happened to sojourn in the neighborhood, he was looked upon as a wizard. There was absolutely nothing to excite ambition for education. Of course when I came of age I did not know much. Still somehow, I could read, write, and cipher to the Rule of Three; but that was all. I have not been to school since. The little advance I now have upon this store of education, I have picked up from time to time under the pressure of necessity,” wrote Abraham Lincoln in a draft autobiography in 1859. “I was raised to farm work, which I continued till I was twenty two.” 1
In another autobiography written six months later, Mr. Lincoln observed that his father “This removal was partly on account of slavery; but chiefly on account of the difficulty in land titles in Ky. He settled in an unbroken forest; and the clearing away of surplus wood was the great task a head. A. though very young, was large of his age, and had an axe put into his hands at once; and from that till within his twenty third year, he was almost constantly handling that most useful instrument–less, of course, in plowing and harvesting seasons. At this place A. took an early start as a hunter, which was never much improved afterwards. (A few days before the completion of his eighth year, in the absence of his father, a flock of wild turkeys approached the new log-cabin, and A. with a rifle gun, standing inside, shot through a crack, and killed one of them. He has never since pulled a trigger on any larger game.) In the autumn of 1818 his mother died; and a year afterwards his father married Mrs. Sally Johnston, at Elizabeth-Town, Ky — a widow, with three children of her first marriage. She proved a good and kind mother to A. and is still living in Coles Co. Illinois. There were no children of this second marriage. His father’s residence continued at the same place in Indiana, till 1830. While here A. went to A.B.C. schools by littles, kept successively by Andrew Crawford, Sweeney, and Azel W. Dorsey. He does not remember any other. The family of Mr. Dorsey now reside in Schuyler Co. Illinois. A. now thinks that the agregate of all his schooling did not amount to one year. He was never in a college or Academy as a student; and never inside of a college or academy building till since he had a law-license. What he has in the way of education, he has picked up.” 2
Mr. Lincoln stayed away from the state for a dozen years until he returned to Indiana in late October 1844. As a Whig politician he gave campaign speeches in Bruceville, Vincennes, and Washington and reconnected with his childhood roots. As a member of Congress from 1847 to 1848, Mr. Lincoln undoubtedly traveled through Indiana on his way to and from Washington. Thomas H. Nelson lost his race for an Indiana congressional seat in 1860 but was appointed as Minister to Chile by President Lincoln. Nelson recalled: “Judge Abram Hammond, afterwards Governor of Indiana, and myself arranged to go from Terre Haute to Indianapolis in a stage-coach. As we stepped in we discovered that the entire back seat was occupied by a long, lank individual, whose head seemed to protrude from one end of the coach and his feet from the other. He was the sole occupant, and was sleeping soundly. Hammond slapped him familiarly on the shoulder, and asked him if he had chartered the coach that day. “Certainly not,” and he at once took the front seat, politely giving us the place of honor and comfort. An odd-looking fellow he was, with a twenty-five cent hat, without vest or cravat. Regarding him as a good subject for merriment, we perpetrated several jokes. He took them all with utmost innocence and good nature, and joined in the laugh, although at his own expense.
After an astounding display of wordy pyrotechnics, the dazed and bewildered stranger asked, “What will be the upshot of this comet business?” Late in the evening we reached Indianapolis, and hurried to Browning’s hotel, losing sight of the stranger altogether. We retired to our room to brush our clothes. In a few minutes I descended to the portico, and there descried our long, gloomy fellow traveler in the center of an admiring group of lawyers, among whom were Judges McLean and Huntington, Albert S. White, and Richard W. Thompson, who seemed to be amused and interested in a story he was telling. I inquired of Browning, the landlord, who he was. “Abraham Lincoln, of Illinois, a member of Congress,” was his response. I was thunderstruck at the announcement. I hastened upstairs and told Hammond the startling news, and together we emerged from the hotel by a back door, and went down an alley to another house, thus avoiding further contact with our distinguished fellow traveler. Years afterward, when the President-elect was on his way to Washington, I was in the same hotel looking over the distinguished party, when a long arm reached to my shoulder, and a shrill voice exclaimed, “Hello, Nelson! Do you think, after all, the whole world is going to follow the darned thing off?” The words were my own in answer to his question in the stage-coach. The speaker was Abraham Lincoln. 3
Mr. Lincoln’s memory was remarkable. It was one of the political assets. More than a decade later, Mr. Lincoln’s political interest in Indiana grew more serious. Mr. Lincoln began to reach out to Republicans in nearby states regarding the coming presidential election — especially to avoid too radical a tinge to Republican platforms and positions that might alienate potential voters. In July 1859, Mr. Lincoln wrote Indiana Congressman Schuyler Colfax:
I much regret not seeing you while you were here among us. Before learning that you were to be at Jacksonville on the 4th I had given my word to be at another place. Besides a strong desire to make your personal acquaintance, I was anxious to speak with you on politics, a little more fully than I can well do in a letter. My main object in such conversation would be to hedge against divisions in the Republican ranks generally, and particularly for the contest of 1860. The point of danger is the temptation in different localities to ‘platform’ for something which will be popular just there, but which, nevertheless, will be a firebrand elsewhere, and especially in a National convention. As instances, the movement against foreigners in Massachusetts; in New-Hampshire, to make obedience to the Fugitive Slave law, punishable as a crime; in Ohio, to repeal the Fugitive Slave law; and squatter sovereignty in Kansas. In these things there is explosive matter enough to blow up half dozen national conventions, if it gets into them; and what gets very rife outside of conventions is very likely to find its way into them. What is desirable, if possible, is that in every local convocation of Republicans, a point should be made to avoid everything which will distract republicans elsewhere. Massachusetts republicans should have looked beyond their noses; and then they could not have failed to see that tilting against foreigners would ruin us in the whole North-West, New-Hampshire and Ohio should forbear tilting against the Fugitive Slave law in such way as [to] utterly overwhelm us in Illinois with the charge of enmity to the constitution itself. Kansas, in her confidence that she can be saved to freedom on ‘squatter sovereignty’ — ought not to forget that to prevent the spread and nationalization of slavery is a national concern, and must be attended to by the nation. In a word, in every locality we should look beyond our noses; and at least say nothing on points where it is probably we shall disagree.
I write this for your eye only; hoping however that if you see danger as I think I do, you will do what you can to avert it. Could not suggestions be made to the leading men in the State and congressional conventions; and so avoid, to some extent at least, these apples of discord? 4
Colfax wrote back a letter agreeing to Mr. Lincoln’s on arresting to the extension of slavery: “Our friends too often, I think, overlook the fact that much of our apparent strength is due to the specific wickedness of our opponents — not all of it to cordial adhesion to our own exact Confession of Faith — and that after all, there is considerable Conservative sentiment in our own ranks, which rises in strength, as in 1856, when Democracy preaches moderation, and yields to bolder counsels when Democracy more openly transgresses, as in 1854 and 1858. Next year, we must either win this Conservative sentiment, with its kindred sympathizers, represented under the title of North Americans, Old Line Whigs, to our banners, or by repelling them must go into the contest looking for defeat unless we can trample over our natural enemy, aided by a third party diversion, thus making two opposing tickets instead of one; and with our divided forces conquer our united foe.”
Two months later, on the morning of Monday, September 19, the Lincolns boarded a train in Cincinnati, Ohio for Indianapolis. There, they checked into the American House and prepared for Mr. Lincoln to delivered a speech at the Masonic Hall that night. According to the report in the Indianapolis Atlas, which reported his speech in the third person, Mr. Lincoln spoke movingly of his Indiana roots: “Away back in the fall of 1816, when he was in his eighth year, his father brought him over from the neighboring state of Kentucky, and settled in the State of Indiana, and he grew up to his present enormous height on our own good soil of Indiana. The scenes he passed through today are wonderfully different from the first scenes he witnessed in the State of Indiana, where he was raised in Spencer County on the Ohio River. There he was an unbroken wilderness there then, and an axe was put in his hand; and with the trees and logs and grubs he fought until he reached his twentieth year.” 5 After his comments about his Indiana youth, Mr. Lincoln moved on to more weighty matters concerning the politics of slavery:
“He expected the people came to hear something about politics. It was almost impossible for him to speak of politics without associating Judge Douglas with it. He hoped he would be permitted to take, among the range of political topics, the same that Judge Douglas took, if he spoke here while stopping on his way to Chicago, or the one he would have chosen. He knew his Democratic friends thought a Republican speaker could not speak of anything but the Negro. He would ask if they ever heard their leader talk of anything in the past few years of his political career. He did not hesitate to enter upon this subject. There were so many points arising out of that single topic, in the range that it has taken, that he could give but a very small portion of it.”
“Some time during the last canvass, he had expressed the opinion that this government of ours cannot ‘endure permanently, half slave, and half free; that a house divided against itself cannot stand;’ that some time after, Governor Seward, of New York, in a speech of his, expressed the same opinion in different language. These expressions of opinion had given very great offense to Judge Douglas. He had denounced them as heresy, a fatal heresy. How it is fatal, or in what way fatality is to come out of it, the Judge had not said. Still he had denounced it as a heresy, and rung a great many changes on it. Among other things, he asked, ‘why cannot this government endure forever, part free, part slave, as the original framers of the constitution made it?’ He would take this as one of the topics on which to speak to his audience.”
“There was no falsehood absolutely in that question. Perhaps it was hardly to be said that a man can very well utter a falsehood in putting an interrogatory. But he insisted in the first place, that there was couched in that interrogatory the assumption of a falsehood. It was true that our fathers made this government, and that when it was made it was part slave and part free. But the assumption of the interrogatory is, that our fathers made the government part free and part slave from choice — that they had chosen to make it so because they thought a government thus made, was the best that could be made. Of choice they made it part free and part slave. That was the assumption of the interrogatory, and he would try to prove it untrue. It was not the judgment of the framers of the Constitution, that it was best that the States should be part free and part slave. There was no provision made for people one portion of the States with slaves. There was no place spoken of where slaves could be got. There was no provision made in the Constitution, that the African slave trade should ever be suppressed — that it should be repealed. There was a total silence on that question. There is a misunderstanding with some people on this subject.”
“It was his opinion that our fathers did expect Congress to prohibit the slave trade in 20 years. They made a provision in the constitution by which they prohibited them from doing so prior to the expiration of twenty years. The language is the migration or importation of such persons as the States shall see fit to admit shall not be prohibited, but a certain tax might be levied on such importation. None of the States then existing should be prohibited for twenty years. But what was to be done after that time? The Constitution is silent about that. There is absolutely nothing said about it — the framers of the Constitution expected that the slave trade would be abolished before that time, owing to public sentiment — nothing was said about new States — it had reference to the then existing States. All the States had slavery, with one exception — some, so small an amount as not to feel it, and others quite a large amount. All the States of the South had a considerable amount of slavery in them. The trade of importing slaves was carried on by the commerce of those States where the small amount of slavery existed. It was so carried on that the whole government had an interest invested in some way or other. The Southern people were cultivating their soil with slaves, and it was in deference to that state of things that the framers of the Constitution put in the provision, that Congress should not prohibit that trade until after the expiration of twenty years.”
“The ordinance of 1787 was passed simultaneously with the making of the Constitution of the United States. It prohibited the taking of slavery into the North-western Territory, consisting of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin. There was nothing said in the Constitution relative to the spread of slavery in the Territories, but the same generation of men said something about it in this ordinance of ’87, through the influence of which you of Indiana, and your neighbors in Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan, are prosperous, free men. That generation of men, though not to the full extent members of the Convention that framed the Constitution, were to some extent members of that Convention, holding seats, at the same time in one body and the other, so that if there was any compromise in either of these subjects, the strong evidence is, that that compromise was in favor of the restrictions of slavery from the new Territories. Our fathers who made the government, made the ordinance of 1787.”
“Under the control of this same generation of men, in 1802, the first portion of this North-Western Territory sought admission into the Union. An enabling act was passed by Congress to enable Ohio to make a Constitution and come into the Union in accordance with the ordinance of 1787. Congress composed of the same generation of men that framed the Constitution, enabled Ohio to make a State Constitution, provided it was not repugnant to this ordinance. The same process was gone through when Indiana applied for admission. Then followed Illinois and Wisconsin. In the case of Michigan there was no enabling act. Indiana, in her territorial condition, more than once petitioned Congress to abrogate the ordinance entirely, or at least to so far suspend its operation for a time, in order that they should exercise the ‘popular sovereignty’ of having slaves if they wanted them. The men then controlling the government refused Indiana that privilege — so, had it not been for the ordinance of ’87, Indiana would have been a State, and all the other States included in the North-Western Territory. Thus, down through a period of sixty years, until the last inch of that Territory came into the Union, the prohibition of slavery was religiously adhered to.”
“That the fathers of this government did not make it part slave and part free to remain permanently so, he would bring forward a few facts tending to show a reasonable and unbiased mind, that it was expected at that time that the institution of slavery would gradually come to an end. If they intended it to endure forever, why did they hedge it into its then existent limits. There is nothing said about it in the Constitution. The word slave or slavery is not mentioned in it. This was very singular if it was the intention that slavery should become a permanent institution. It was his opinion that the whole subject was left out by design — it was not done by accident but by design — as every one could see the framers of the Constitution expected that the institution would die. Some of them declared it as their desire that it should. Nothing should be left on the face of the Constitution to tell that there had ever been slavery in the land. If this were so, then we had the fact established, that our fathers made the government contrary to the manner in which Judge Douglas said it was done. The assumption of his interrogatory was false in truth and in fact.”
“No one of Judge Douglas’s propositions was with the ordinance of ’87. He had repeatedly asserted that Congressional interference never did make any State a free State, and that if Ohio was a free State, it was made free on his great principle of ‘Popular Sovereignty.’ While a Territory, a portion of the people of Indiana asked Congress to suspend the ordinance of 1787, but Congress refused to do so. The people wanted to exercise the principle of popular sovereignty, and chafed at the barrier of the ordinance of ’87, but that ordinance kept slavery out of their limits and made Indiana a free State. There was no difficulty in introducing slaves into Kentucky if the people wished, but it is a hard job to get them out of it. When the Kentuckians came to form the Constitution, they had the embarrassing circumstances of slavery among them — they were not a free people to make their Constitution. The people of Indiana had no such embarrassment, but would have had, had not slavery been kept away by the ordinance of ’87.”
“The general course of the river Ohio, from the eastern boundary of the State of Ohio, was very nearly south-west — perhaps a little more west than south. The North-eastern part of Kentucky, and the western part of Virginia, are considered north of that portion of Ohio where Cincinnati is, and still father north of the southern portions of this state and Illinois. Now, it so happened that the country south of the Ohio is slave, and the country north, free. What caused this. Judge Douglas says that the ordinance of ’87 did not do it. If not, what did? There is no difference in soil nor in climate. He never heard that the left bank of the Ohio was more favorable to slavery than the right. It could not be because the people had worse hearts. They were as good as we of the North-the same people. There was some other reason. You could light upon nothing in the whole range of conjecture, save and except that the ordinance of ’87, in the incipient stages, kept it out of Kentucky and the South. It was not the great principle of popular sovereignty.”
“In 1810 there was a little slavery in Illinois and a little in Missouri. The two States ran along together, getting ready to form a State Constitution until 1820. Each one of them had a few slaves. When they were ready to come into the Union, they had not kept parallel on the subject of slavery. In Illinois it had decreased, while in Missouri the number of slaves had increased to 10,000. Missouri came in as a slave State and Illinois as a free State. The two States are to a certain extent in the same parallel of latitude, at least the northern half of Missouri and the southern half of Illinois are in the same latitude, so that the climate would have the same effect on one as the other, and in the soil there is no material difference or the other. There were no natural causes to make a difference in the filling up of the two States, yet there was — what was the cause of that difference?”
“It is most natural to say, that in Missouri there was no law to keep that country from filling up with slaves, while in Illinois there was the ordinance of 1787. The ordinance being there, slavery decreased during that ten years –not being in the other, it increased from a few top ten thousand. The proposition of Judge Douglas, that the ordinance of ’87, or the national restriction of slavery never had a tendency to make a Free State, was not true — it had not the semblance of truth about it. Douglas had sometimes said, that all the States that have become free, have become so on his great principle. There was not a single free State in the Union but what had a national prohibition of slavery in it when it came into the Union. He wanted to know where the ‘great principle of popular sovereignty’ had made a free State? Several free States had come into the Union since the original thirteen — and they had all come in with the national prohibition of slavery over them during their existence as Territories. All the States south of the Ohio and Missouri compromise had come into the Union as slave States. The ordinance of ’87 did not apply to them. They could make use of the ‘great principle of popular sovereignty.’ Kansas will come in as a free State, not because of popular sovereignty, but because the people of the North are making a strong effort in her behalf. But Kansas is not in yet. Popular sovereignty has not made a single free State in a run of seventy or eighty years.”
“He said it was agreed, on every hand, that labor was the great source from whence all our comforts and necessaries were derived. There is a difference of opinion among political economists, about the elements of labor in society. Some men say that there is a necessary connection between labor and capital, and this connection draws within it the whole of the labor of community. They assume that nobody works unless capital excites them to work. They say there are but two ways: the one is to hire men, and to allow them to labor by their own consent; the other is to buy the men and drive them to it, and that is slavery. Assuming that, they proceed to discuss the question of whether the laborers themselves are better off in the condition of slaves or of hired laborers. They generally decide that they are better off as slaves. They have no responsibility on them then, and when they get old, they are taken care of. In the State of Indiana, of all that is produced, seven-eighths of it is produced by the hands of men who work upon their own ground; and no more than one-eighth is produced by hired men. The condition of the hired man was not worse that that of the slave.”
“The speaker himself had been a hired man twenty-eight years ago. He didn’t he was worse off than a slave. He might not be doing as much good as good as he could, but he was now working for himself. He thought the whole thing was a mistake. There was a certain relation between capital and labor, and it was proper that it existed. Men who were industrious and sober, and honest in the pursuit of their own interests, should after a while accumulate capital, and after that should be allowed to enjoy it in peace, and if they chose, when they had accumulated capital, to use it to save themselves from actual labor and hire other people to labor for them, it was right. They did not wrong the man they employed, for they found men who have not their own land to work upon or shops to work in, and who were benefited by working for them as hired laborers, receiving their capital for it.”
“If a hired laborer worked as a true man, he saved means to buy land of his own, a shop of his own, and to increase his property. For a new beginner, this was the true, genuine principle of free labor. A few men that own capital, hire others, and thus establish the relation of capital and labor rightfully. The hired laborer, with his ability to become an employer, must have every precedence over him who labors under the inducement of force.”
“Judge Douglas’s popular sovereignty, as a principle, was simply this: If one man chooses to make a slave of another man, neither that other man or anybody else has a right to object. Applied in government, as he seeks to apply it, and it was this — if, in a new Territory, into which a few people are beginning to enter, they choose to either exclude or to establish it there, however one or the other may affect the persons to be enslaved, or the greater number of persons who are to inhabit that Territory, there is no power or right to interfere. This is the application of Douglas’s popular sovereignty. Douglas thinks slavery so insignificant that the people must decide that question for themselves, though they are not fit to decide who shall be their officers. Planting slavery is a small matter, in his estimation, and nobody ought to be allowed to say anything about it.”
“He thought that there was a feature in connection with Judge Douglas’s Popular Sovereignty, that was more dangerous than anything else, that was not generally observed. That was the debauching of public sentiment. The maxims he taught in regard to institution of slavery, and by relative operation upon the principle of liberty itself, were more pernicious than anything else. The Judge said he did not care whether slavery was voted up or voted down. That was as much as to say, that he does not believe it to be wrong. This was not the opinion held by the good men of the Revolution of it. It was not the expressed opinion of Mr. Jefferson. Douglas doesn’t care whether slavery goes up or down. He tells us that the Declaration of Independence never meant Negroes, and no only does he tell us so, but every follower joins in and says that the Declaration does not apply to Negroes. The speaker asked any Democrat present, if he would have the boldness to say that the Declaration did not include Negroes as well as whites. [Here Mr. Lincoln looked hard at Gov. [Ashbel P.] Willard, who was sitting in front of him.] He never heard any one say so, and he had asked thousands. No President had ever said so — no head of any department, nor a member of Congress.”
“And yet you allow this man to debauch public sentiment among you. You have taken the Negro out of the catalogue of man, when you had not thought of such a thing five years ago. Five years ago no living man expressed the opinion that the Negro had no share in the Declaration of Independence. But within that space Douglas had got his entire party, almost without exception, to join in saying that the Negro has no share in the Declaration. The tendency of that change, that debauchery in public sentiment is to bring the public mind to the conclusion that when white men are spoken of, the Negro is not meant, and when Negroes are spoken of, brutes alone are contemplated. That change had already depressed the black man in the estimation of Douglas himself, and Negro was thus being debased from the condition of a man of some sort to that of a brute.”
“Douglas had declared that in all contests between the Negro and the white man, he was for the white man, but that in all contests between the Negro and crocodile, he was for the Negro [laughter.] He (Douglas) had made the remark a great many times in the canvass in Illinois. It was a deliberate way of expressing himself on that subject. The first inference from this remark seemed to the speaker to be that you are wronging the white man in some way or other, and that whoever is opposed to the Negro being enslaved is in some way opposed to the white man. That was not true. If there were any conflict between the white man as much as Douglas. There was no such conflict. The mass of white men were injured by the effect of slave labor in the neighborhood of their own labor.”
“The next inference is, that there is a conflict between the Negro and the crocodile. The speaker did not think there was any such struggle. He supposed that if a crocodile (or alligator, as the broad horn men on the Ohio River used to term it), came across a white man, he would kill him if he could! And so he would a Negro. The proposition amounted to something like this — as the Negro is to the white man, so is the crocodile to the Negro and as the Negro may treat the crocodile as a beast or reptile, so the white man may treat the Negro as a beast or reptile. [Laughter and applause.] That was what it amounted to.” 6
The next morning, the Lincolns went home to Springfield. Hugh McCulloch, a Hoosier who would serve as President Lincoln’s third and last Treasury Secretary recalled hearing what was undoubtedly this speech: “The first time I saw and heard him was at Indianapolis, shortly after the conclusion of his debate with Mr. Douglas. Careless of his attire, ungraceful in his movements, I thought as he came forward to address the audience that his was the most ungainly figure I had ever seen upon a platform. Could this be Abraham Lincoln whose speeches I had read with so much interest and admiration — this plain, dull-looking man the one of the most gifted speakers of his time? The question was speedily answered by the speech. The subject was slavery — its character, its incompatibility with Republican institutions, its demoralizing influences upon society, its aggressiveness, its rights as limited by the Constitution; all of which were discussed with such clearness, simplicity, earnestness, and force as to carry me with him to the conclusion that the country could not long continue part slave and part free — that freedom must prevail throughout the length and breadth of the land, or that the great Republic, instead of being the home of the free and the hope of the oppressed, would become a by-word and a reproach among the nations.” 7
Mr. Lincoln’s visit to Indianapolis, though short, helped set the stage for collaboration between Indiana and Illinois at the Republican National Convention in Chicago in May 1860. Indiana would play an instrumental role in the nomination of Mr. Lincoln in 1680. Illinois’s delegation was relatively small. Although the entire slate was pledged to back Mr. Lincoln, the Illinois delegation included some delegates who actually favored other candidates. Neighboring Indiana had a larger delegation. Together with Illinois, Indiana would cast a block of 48 votes. Together, Mr. Lincoln’s backers chipped away at delegates in New England that William H. Seward’s supporters thought would go to the New York Senator.
It was not foreordained that Indiana would support Mr. Lincoln. Historian Emma Lou Thornbrough wrote: “A majority of the delegates, included [John] Defrees and [Schuyler] Colfax, probably favored the nomination of Edwards Bates because he was regarded as more acceptable to former Whigs than any other candidate.” 8 But Bates was not strong enough to defeat Seward, so Indiana’s focus shifted to the candidate from neighboring Illinois. The Lincoln leaders on the delegation were Henry S. Lane and Caleb Smith. Although Mr. Lincoln ordered that no bargains be struck in his name, bargains were struck with Indiana Republicans, who were determined to win the gubernatorial election that fall and concerned that Seward’s nomination would doom the chances of candidate Lane. Ohio journalist Murat Halstead wrote: “It was reported, and with a well-understood purpose, that the Republican candidates for Governor in Indiana, Illinois and Pennsylvania would resign, if Seward were nominated. Whether they really meant it or not, the rumor was well circulated, and the effect produced was as if they had been earnest. Henry S. Lane, candidate in Indiana, did say something of the kind. He asserted hundreds of times that the nomination of Seward would be death to him, and that he might in that case just as well give up the canvass. He did not feel like expending his time and money in carrying on a hopeless campaign, and would be disposed to abandon the contest.” 9
Journalist Halstead wrote that on the eve of the balloting: “There were hundreds of Pennsylvanians, Indianians and Illinoisans, who never closed their eyes that night. I saw Henry S. Lane at one o’clock, pale and haggard, with cane under his arm, walking as if for a wager, from one caucus-room to another, at the Tremont House. He had been toiling with desperation to bring the Indiana delegation to go as a unit for Lincoln. And then in connection with others, he had been operating to bring the Vermonters and Virginians to the point of deserting Seward. Vermont would certainly cast her electoral vote for any candidate who could be nominated, and Virginia as certainly against any candidate. The object was to bring the delegates of those States to consider success rather than Seward, and join with the battle-ground States — as Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Indiana, and Illinois insisted upon calling themselves.” 10
Lane’s wife recalled that “Thurlow Weed in his anxiety for the success of Seward, took Mr. Lane out one evening and pleaded with him to lead the Indiana delegation over to Seward, saying they would send enough money from New York to ensure his election for Governor, and carry the State later for the New York candidate.” She wrote: “His proposal was indignantly rejected, as there was neither money nor influence enough in their State to change my husband’s opinion in regard to the fitness and availability of Mr. Lincoln for the nomination…” 11
Pennsylvania Republican leader Alexander K. McClure maintained that Abraham Lincoln owed his nomination to Lane and Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Andrew Curtin: “Both of the candidates [for governor] presented in these two pivotal States were men of peculiar fitness for the arduous task they had assumed. Both were admittedly the strongest men that could have been nominated by the opposition to the Democracy, and both were experienced and consummate politicians. Their general knowledge of politics and of the bearing of all political questions likely to be felt in the contest made them not only wise counselors but all appreciated the fact that they were of all men the most certain to advise solely with reference to success. Neither of them cared whether Seward, Lincoln Bates, or any of the other men named for President should be nominated, if the man chose was certain to be the most available. They were looking solely to their own success in October, and their success meant the success of the Republican party in the nation. With Lane was John D. Defrees, chairman of his State committee, who had been called to that position because he was regarded as best fitted to lead in the desperate contest before him. I was with Curtin and interested as he was only in his individual success, as he had summoned me to take charge of his October battle in Pennsylvania. The one thing that Curtin, Lane, and their respective lieutenants agreed upon was that the nomination of Seward meant hopeless defeat in their respective States. Lane and Defrees were positive in the assertion that the nomination of Seward would lose the Governorship in Indiana. Curtin and I were equally positive in declaring the nomination of Seward would defeat Curtin in Pennsylvania.”
McClure wrote: “There was no personal hostility to Seward in the efforts made by Curtin and Lane to defeat him. They had no reason whatever to hinder his nomination, excepting the settled conviction that the nomination of Seward meant their own inevitable defeat. It is not true, as has been assumed by many, that the objection to Seward was because of his radical or advanced position in Republican faith. It was not Seward’s ‘irrepressible conflict’ or his ‘higher-law’ declarations which made Curtin and Lane oppose him as the Republican candidate. On the contrary, both of them were thoroughly anti-slavery men, and they finally accepted Lincoln with the full knowledge that he was even in advance of Seward in forecasting the ‘irrepressible conflict.’” 12
McClure maintained: “It was Curtin and Lane also who decided that Lincoln should be the candidate after Seward had been practically overthrown. When it became known that Seward’s nomination would defeat the party in Pennsylvania and Indiana, the natural inquiry was, Who can best aid these candidates for Governor in their State contests? Indiana decided in favor of Lincoln at an early stage of the struggle, and her action had much to do in deciding Pennsylvania’s support of Lincoln. The Pennsylvania delegation had much less knowledge of Lincoln than the men of Indiana, and there were very few original supporters of Lincoln among them….The battle came then between Bates and Lincoln, and but for the facts that Indiana had previously declared for Lincoln, and that Curtin and Lane were acting in concert, there is little reason to doubt that Bates would have been preferred. Much feeling was exhibited in decided the third choice of the State, and Lincoln finally won over Bates by four majority. When it became known that Pennsylvania had indicated Lincoln was her third choice, it gave a wonderful impetus to the Lincoln cause.” 13
Indiana’s efforts were successful. The Springfield, Massachusetts Daily Republican reported that after Mr. Lincoln was nominated, bedlam broke out in the Wigwam. “Henry S. Lane, Republican candidate for Governor of Indiana, teetered up and down on a chair, not saying a word, but grinning all over his expressive countenance, while he waved in a huge circumference a tile, damaged somewhat from its frequent contact with the head of a fellow delegate.” 14
Indiana was a swing state. It was politically as well as psychologically important to Republican strategy. Republican National Committee Secretary George G. Fogg reported to Mr. Lincoln in August that “Our Committee has made pretty liberal outlays for Indiana…” 15 After the Indiana state ticket triumphed in October, President Lincoln went on in November to defeat Democrat Stephen A. Douglas, 63-34%. Historian Emma Lou Thornbrough wrote: “During the last stages of the campaign the Democrats had adopted alarmist tactics, warning that a victory by the sectional Republican party would inaugurate ‘a strife which must end either in civil war for the mastery or a peaceful division of the Union’ — and ruin for the economic interests of the Northwest.” 16
Indiana Republicans expected to be rewarded with a Cabinet position — the first for the state in American history. So as President-elect Lincoln assembled his Cabinet, the claims of Indiana trumped even those of Illinois Republican State Chairman Norman B. Judd, who expected to be named Secretary of the Interior. Instead, Mr. Lincoln’s options for that spot narrowed to attorney Caleb Smith and Congressman Schuyler Colfax. Smith had seconded the nomination of Lincoln, while Schuyler Colfax had supported Edward Bates before the 1860 Republican National Convention and sought unsuccessfully to deliver Indiana’s delegates to Bates.
Colfax had his friends lobby on his behalf but they were not as well placed as Smith’s friends. Colfax’s congressional colleague, Galusha Grow from Pennsylvania, wrote to suggest that Colfax be named postmaster general. In early March 1861 after Colfax knew his Cabinet chances were dead, he wrote President Lincoln after meeting him that the “very kindly remarks you made to me this morning were specially gratifying, and I shall await the note you promised with more than usual interest. To be entirely frank, what has pained me more than any thing else was the rumor that your action was governed by “prejudice on account of alleged Douglas proclivities in 1858″ — a suspicion unjust to me in the extreme, and which, though I heard it at the time, I thought had been disproved by my Illinois speeches in Oct. 1858, till I saw it revived by the Springfield correspondents of the N. Y. Herald and Cincinnati Commercial.” 17 President Lincoln replied:
“When I said to you the other day that I wished to write you a letter, I had reference, of course, to my not having offered you a cabinet appointment — I meant to say, and now do say, you were most honorably and amply recommended; and a tender of the appointment was not withheld, in any part, because of any thing happening in 1858 — indeed I should have decided as I did easier than I did, had that matter never existed — I had partly made up my mind in favor of Mr. Smith — not conclusively of course — before your name was mentioned in that connection — When you were brought forward I said “Colfax ‘is a young man — is already in position — is running a brilliant career, and is sure of a bright future in any event’ — ‘With Smith, it is now or never’ — I considered either abundantly competent, and decided on the ground I have stated — I now have to beg that you will not do me the injustice to suppose, for a moment, that I remember any thing against you in malice.” 18
Besides the friends of Colfax, there had been significant opposition to Smith from Indiana Congressman George W. Julian, who thought Smith too conservative and wrote President-elect Lincoln in late December about the possibility of visiting him in Springfield: “I expect to be a zealous supporter of your administration — and it would be pleasant to have some personal acquaintance with you in advance. Some local appointments in my district will have to be made & I would like to confer with ‘the powers that be’ at the proper time on the subject. As a member of the lower branch of the next Congress, fresh from the people, and acquainted with their wishes, I hope I may be as safely consulted as the out-going member, or any outside men who may assume to advise.” 19
Julian hoped that Smith would accept a foreign mission in place of a Cabinet post. He wrote in January 1863: “Probably no man knows Mr. S. better than Governor Chase, & his opinions agree with mine & rest upon the same grounds. Whatever the politicians of our state may do in urging his claims & procuring others to sign recommendations in his favor, there is, I know, a very general & decided opposition to his appointment among the great body of the people of Indiana. No man’s record as a business man & financier for the past twenty years & more is so uniformly & consistently bad, & this is too well known to allow his appointment to the post in question to be regarded as even tolerable by the country. But I need not repeat what I said to you. 20
Historian Harry E. Pratt wrote: “Caleb B. Smith very much wanted the cabinet position promised him at the Chicago Convention. He wrote two long letters to [David] Davis, refuting charges of double-dealing, dishonesty and want of business capacity made against him by the Schuyler Colfax followers and by Murat Halstead in the Cincinnati Commercial. Davis wrote him to get the members of the Ohio legislature to sign an endorsement and send it to Lincoln.” 21 Historians Carman and Luthin wrote: “Aside from the honor and patronage enjoyed from his elevated position, Smith had little taste or liking for administering a vast governmental department whose jurisdiction stretched from ocean to ocean. Moreover, he was handicapped, being essentially a jobbing politician and party spellbinder of Indiana. Smith had squeezed himself into the cabinet by intriguing with Thurlow Weed, [Simon] Cameron and Judge David Davis.” 22
Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin wrote of Smith: “Despite a lisp, his power on the stump was celebrated far and wide. It was said that he could make you ‘feel the blood tingling through your veins to your finger ends and all the way up your spine.’ Indeed, one contemporary observer considered Smith a more compelling public speaker than Lincoln.” 23 As President-elect Lincoln drove south from Springfield to visit his step-mother in late January, 1861, he reminisced about the past, according to Augustus H. Chapman, “dwelling especially on the eloquence and ability of Caleb B. Smith, of Indiana, who had, in his opinion, rendered him more effective service than any other public speaker.” 24
Indiana was the first state stop on President Lincoln’s 12-day trip to Washington for his inauguration. At Thorntown Indiana, President-elect Lincoln set the tone for his pre-inaugural trip to Washington: “He had heard of a man who was a candidate for a county office, who owned a horse that he set great store by, but he was a slow animal and sure footed. He had canvassed extensively with a good chance for the nomination. On the morning of the day of the convention, he mounted his favorite to go to the county seat, but in spite of whip and spur, his horse lagged on the road, biting at every bush, and when he arrived late in the evening, the convention was over and he was defeated. So of him, if he stopped at every station to make a stump speech he would not arrive at Washington until the inauguration was over.” 25 The entourage overnighted in Indianapolis.
The Lincoln train stopped short of Union Station on West Washington Street about 5 P.M. where Governor Oliver P Morton and Mayor Samuel B. Maxwell awaited Mr. Lincoln in a carriage. Morton said to the president-elect: “You are about to enter upon your official duties under circumstances at once novel and full of difficulty, and it will be the duty of all good citizens, without distinction of party, to yield a cordial and earnest support to every measure of your administration calculated to maintain the Union, promote the national prosperity and restore peace to our unhappy and distracted country.” 26
The parade to the hotel included militia, firemen, state and local officials. There were 20,000 Hoosiers on the streets as Mr. Lincoln was taken by carriage to Bates House. “Through the largest winter crowd ever assembled in the capital city, the presidential parade moved down Washington Street to Pennsylvania Street, circled the business district, back to the Bates House, where the Claypool Hotel now stands. The barouche halted at the entrance. Lincoln stood up. Turning to each side, he bowed to the solid mass of people that engulfed him. Leaning over to the driver, Elijah Hedges, he complimented him on the beautifully matched team of four horses adorned with head plumes and miniatures flags.” 27 Historian William E. Baringer wrote; that “the presidential party found the hotel so jammed that entrance was gained only by a determined wedging operation. Making his way at length to an outside balcony, Lincoln addressed the crowd with the speech prepared for the Indiana legislature. Expecting only to appear, he found the assembled citizens in a gratifying speech-demanding mood.” 28 Mr. Lincoln said:
“While I do not expect, upon this occasion, or on any occasion, till after I get to Washington, to attempt any lengthy speech, I will only say that to the salvation of this Union there needs but one single thing — the hearts of a people like yours. [Applause.] When the people rise in masses in behalf of the Union and the liberties of their country, truly may it be said, ‘The gates of hell shall not prevail against them.”
“In all the trying positions in which I shall be placed, and doubtless I shall be placed in many trying ones, my reliance will be placed upon you to remember now and forever, that it is your business, and not mine; that if the union of these States, and the liberties of this people, shall be lost, it is but little to any one man of fifty-two years of age, but a great deal to the thirty millions of people who inhabit these United States, and to their posterity in all coming time. It is your businessMr. Lincoln said: “Solomon has said, that there is a time to keep silence…We know certain that they mean the same thing while using the same words now, and it perhaps would be as well if they would keep silence.” He continued:
“But, if the Government, for instance, but simply insists upon holding its own forts, or retaking those forts which belong to it, — [cheers,] — or the enforcement of the laws of the United States in the collection of duties upon foreign importation,– [renewed cheers,] — or even the withdrawal of the mails from those portions of the country where the mails themselves are habitually violated; would any or all of these things be coercion? Do the lovers of the Union contend that they will resist coercion or invasion of any State, understanding that any or all of these would be coercing or invading a State? If they do, then it occurs to me that the means for the preservation of the Union they so greatly love, in their own estimation, is of a very thin and airy character. [Applause.] If sick, they would consider the little pills of the homeopathist as already too large for them to swallow. In their view, the Union, as a family relation, would not be anything like a regular marriage at all, but only as a sort of free-love arrangement, — [laughter,] — to be maintained on what that sect calls passionate attraction. [Continued laughter.] But, my friends, enough of this.”
“What is the particular sacredness of a State? I speak not of that position which is given to a State in and by the Constitution of the United States, for that all of us agree to — we abide by; but that position assumed, that a State can carry with it out of the Union that which it holds in sacredness by virtue of its connection with the Union. I am speaking of that assumed right of a State, as a primary principle, that the Constitution should rule all that is less than itself, and ruin all that is bigger than itself. [Laughter.] But, I ask, wherein does consist that right? If a State, in one instance, and a county in another, should be equal in extent of territory, and equal in the number of people, wherein is that State any better than the county? Can a change in name change the right? By what principle of original right is it that one-fiftieth or one-ninetieth of a great nation, by calling themselves a State, have the right to break up and ruin that nation as a matter of original principle? Now, I ask the question — I am not deciding anything — [laughter,] — and with the request that you will think somewhat upon that subject and decide for yourselves, if you choose, when you get ready, — where is the mysterious, original right, from principle, for a certain district of country with inhabitants, by merely being called a State, to play tyrant over all its own citizens, and deny the authority of everything greater than itself. [Laughter.] I say I am deciding nothing, but simply giving something for you to reflect upon; and, with having said this much, and having declared, in the start that I will make no long speeches, I thank you again for this magnificent welcome, and bid you an affectionate farewell.” 30
Mr. Lincoln’s first night on the road to Washington demonstrated that better planning and tighter security would be needed. More people than expected wanted to hear and touch the President elect. Journalist Henry Villard wrote “So little attention was paid in the supper room to the President elect that he was obliged to wait nearly half an hour for his slender share of the repast….” 31 That night, several thousand Indianans stood in line to shake Mr. Lincoln’s hand. The whole day and night were exhausting.
Scholar Winfred A. Harbison wrote: “Although the Democrats condemned his declaration, that the Union must be defended at all costs, as provocative of war, the Republican papers defended his position as nothing less than his duty and expressed ‘the utmost confidence in Mr. Lincoln’s ability and patriotism.” 32 Mr. Lincoln finished his in a reception back at Bates House, where several thousand people sought to meet him. On the morning of his birthday the next day, Mr. Lincoln met with state legislators at the State Capitol before leaving Indianapolis for Cincinnati.
Once in Washington and inaugurated, Mr. Lincoln duly appointed Caleb Smith as Interior Secretary. Smith turned out to be one of the least effective Cabinet choices that President Lincoln made — and he was clearly out of sympathy with the President’s policy on emancipation. He “had initially been a political asset for the incoming Republicans, but he had proved to be unsuited for the clerical drudgery of administrative work. His effectiveness was sapped by interest in outside affairs as well as by declining health,” wrote historians Elmo R. Richardson and Alan W. Farley. 33 Although he did not object publicly to the Emancipation Proclamation, he did make clear his objections to Postmaster General Montgomery Blair. “Smith had high hopes at this time that Lincoln would elevate him to the United States Supreme Court bench,” wrote historians Carman and Luthin. “Upon reflection, however, Smith, much to Lincoln’s relief, decided to accept a more modest judgeship. The death in October, 1862, of Judge Elisha M. Huntington had created a vacancy in the United States District Court for Indiana. John P. Usher…was anxious for the vacant Indiana judgeship. Smith was aware of this fact, but when Usher, absent on a mission to Minnesota, reminded him by wire of an earlier promise to use his influence in Usher’s behalf, he responded that he had concluded to resign from the Cabinet in favor of Usher and to take the judgeship himself. Lincoln readily agreed to this arrangement and appointed Smith to the court vacancy and nominated Usher as Secretary of the Interior.” 34
Usher had been appointed to be assistant secretary of the Interior. He had been briefly Attorney General of Indiana and had served on the Eighth Circuit with Abraham Lincoln. Usher was named in March 1862 although what he really wanted was appointment as a U.S. District Court judge in Indiana. Smith’s resignation was effective on January 1, 1863 — ironically the same day that the Emancipation Proclamation, which Smith opposed, became effective. He took office as a U. S District Court judge and served until his death a year later. In the meantime, a successor had to be chosen — but the President delayed making the nomination until January 5. The failure of Union offensive at the Battle of Fredericksburg in December had precipitated a cabinet crisis that complicated the transition. Usher biographers Elmo R. Richardson and Alan W. Farley wrote: “While many newspapers clamored for a sweeping reform of the Cabinet, Indianians were divided into various cliques on the matter of a proper candidate for the Interior post. A group of moderates led by Senator Lane urged the appointment of Usher as one who was most familiar with the duties of the office. Moreover, Lane and several state editors boldly presumed to warn Lincoln that if the post were not given to an Indianian, it would be considered as an ‘imputation either upon the intelligence or political importance’ of the state and would be detrimental to support of the administration there. This faction may have convinced Smith that he should use his personal influence to secure their aim. About this same time, the Secretary promised his office to Usher, who had returned to Washington. Depressed by the chaotic conditions of living in the Capital, and worried about the decline of his law practice, he was anxious to rejoin his family in Terre Haute. Even with the assistance of Smith’s support, he faced formidable competition in the persons were also being mentioned for the post: Lincoln’s friends Orville Browning of Illinois and Joseph Holt of Kentucky. Usher personally felt that the President was inclined to favor Holt, but had encountered the objections of several Congressmen who strenuously opposed the appointment of a ‘border state’ man.” 35
Two weeks before Smith left office, Mr. Lincoln chose Usher to replace him. There was Senate opposition to Usher’s nomination which the state’s two senators did their best to overcome. Usher had already been doing much of Smith’s work so his appointment was logical. Presidential aide William O. Stoddard, moonlighting as a journalist, wrote: “The appointment of Mr. Usher, as Secretary of the Interior, seems to meet with pretty general approval, at least among those who known him, but he has never had anything like a national reputation, and there are those who blame the President for passing by so many who have. The fact that he has never been a politician, however, ought certainly not to be counted against him. The fact is, by the way, if this nation is really dying, it is dying of its politicians, and nothing else. Dying of the consequences of their mismanagement, past and present, and of the sad results of their insane ambition.” 36 Stoddard added: “There are several minor, but still important posts, in connection with the Cabinet, yet to be filled. The Assistant-Secretary of the Interior, in place of the present incumbent, who is a son of ex-Secretary Smith will probably be first attended to. This office, though a new creation, is fast growing into one of great importance, and if the proposed policy with reference to our armies is to be carried out, will require a man of talent and industry. 37 Another Republican Hoosier attorney and friend of President Lincoln, Judge William T. Otto, was named to the assistant secretary post. He had chaired the Indiana delegation to the 1860 Republican National Convention and strongly advocated Smith’s nomination to the Cabinet.
Once in office, Usher clashed with Commissioner of Buildings Benjamin Brown French over control of expansion of the Capitol building. French wrote in his diary: “He is the meanest and most contemptible man I have ever had anything to do with Let him rest for the present. Through my influence he was confirmed. He has broken every solemn pledge he made to obtain influence, and is a Liar.” 38
Schuyler Colfax, meanwhile, was a rising star in the Republican Party. A Whig and a Know-Nothing before he joined the Republicans, Colfax became more radical on slavery and reconstruction as he grew older. Colfax, a South Bend newspaper editor was a great stump speaker but a lackluster intellect. “He had a youthful face and manner, and was somewhat under the medium height,” wrote journalist Noah Brooks. “Colfax was versatile, indefatigably industrious, and was one of the readiest debaters on the Union side. He was light-haired and blue-eyed, and usually wore an expression so engaging and genial that unpleasant people sometimes called him ‘Smiler’ Colfax. Before he was elected Speaker, he was chairman of the House Committee on Post Offices, and in that place he exercised a great influence in the readjustment of the mail service of the country after the secession of the Southern States.” 39
When House Speaker Galusha Grow of Pennsylvania was defeated for reelection in 1862, Colfax entered the race to succeed him. Colfax himself had barely survived his Democratic challenge and urgently requested that President Lincoln appoint one of his chief political allies to office: “If you can do this you would enable me to pay a heavy debt of gratitude — promote a worthy man — and place under life long obligations to you,” wrote Colfax to the President. 40 The smiling Colfax was a good politician but not necessarily a reliable one. In the Speaker contest, Colfax defeated a Missouri Republican, General Frank Blair Jr., a more conservative option.
The attitude of the Lincoln White House toward Colfax’s elevation to the speakership may have been suggested by an August 1863 article which John Hay submitted to the Washington Chronicle. Hay wrote that “Mr. Colfax is very generally spoken of as the Union candidate for the Speakership of the next House of Representatives. Of course we do not wish to announce any special preference in this matter, choosing rather to leave it to the decision of the Union members of Congress, as a nomination by them, it now appears, will be equivalent to an election. But no one can be insensible to the fact that the long and brilliant parliamentary career of Mr. Colfax, his unstained political record, his spotless personal character, over which a suspicion of wrong has never hovered, his industry and sagacity, and his intimate connection with the struggles and triumphs of the West in the war, form a combination of rare qualifications for the important position for which his friends are preparing to present him.” 41 Hay added in a note to Colfax: “I did not make it so strong as the truth or my own feelings would prompt because I wished it to seem impartial & judicial. We will say more from time to time.” 42 Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles also had a good first impression of the new house speaker, but soon recorded his disappointment in Colfax in his diary, adding, that President Lincoln “has, I see, a right appreciation of Colfax.” 43
Like Grow, Stevens’ leadership of the House had its critics — partly because the real power in the House was Pennsylvania’s Thaddeus Stevens. Biographer Willard H. Smith wrote “As a rule Speaker Colfax was not the kind of man who displayed a bold, precedent-breaking leadership. He rather preferred to follow well-beaten paths. This was characteristic of his presiding over the House.” 44 Noah Brooks wrote that Colfax’s “manner as a presiding officer left something to be desired. He was too rapid to be dignified, and his devotion to the public business often betrayed him into neglect of the proprieties. Ben Perley Poor [a journalist], the cynical observer of Congress, said that Colfax presided over the House ‘like an auctioneer’; and it was a cause of mortification to some that when the President’s private secretary appeared at the door of the House with a message, he was invariably address by the Speaker as ‘Mr. Sekkertary.’” 45 Nevertheless, fellow Indiana Congressman George Julian remembered that Colfax “discharged the duties of his great office with marked ability and fairness, and was personally very popular….” 46
Historian Richard N. Current wrote: “One winter night an Indiana congressman, Schuyler Colfax, left his business at the Capitol and went to the White House to plead for the, , , , son of one of his constituents. The boy, convicted of , desertion, had been sentenced to die before a firing squad at Davenport Barracks, Iowa, Colfax told the story to President Lincoln, who listened patiently, then replied: ‘Some of my generals complain that I impair discipline by my frequent pardons and reprieves; but it rests me, after a day’s hard work, that I can find some excuse for saving some poor fellow’s life, and I shall go to bed happy tonight as I think how joyous the signing of this name will make himself, his family and friends.’” 47
Iowa politician Josiah B Grinnell wrote that Colfax was “urbane, high-toned and exemplary in life…” 48 Historian George H. Mayer wrote that “Colfax was a soft-spoken intriguer who professed good will toward the President while obstructing his program.” 49 More charitably, journalist Noah Brooks wrote that Colfax was “young, almost boyish-looking, under medium size, versatile, indefatigably industrious, quick as lightning, and the readiest and most rapid debater in the Republican ranks. He is light-haired, blued-eyed, has a light complexion, has a wide mouth, which is almost always laughing, thereby showing a very poor display of teeth, and is quick in all his motions almost to nervousness. He is good-humored, lively, and full of his jokes and pleasantries in private, though in debate he is straightforward and plain, never jesting except in repartee when interrupted and then he is always readier than the readiest. Colfax is said to be the best parliamentarian in the House and is ‘smart as lightning.” 50
Historian Richard N. Current wrote: “One winter night an Indiana congressman, Schuyler Colfax, left his business at the Capitol and went to the White House to plead for the son of one of his constituents. The boy, convicted of desertion, had been sentenced to die before a firing squad at Davenport Barracks, Iowa, Colfax told the story to President Lincoln, who listened patiently, then replied: ‘Some of my generals complain that I impair discipline by my frequent pardons and reprieves; but it rests me, after a day’s hard work, that I can find some excuse for saving some poor fellow’s life, and I shall go to bed happy tonight as I think how joyous the signing of this name will make himself, his family and friends.’” 51
“Colfax was a frequent visitor at the White House — up until the evening when President Lincoln left for Ford’s theater and was assassinated. He recalled going to the White House “one morning in the winter of 1863, I found him looking more than usually pale and careworn, and inquired the reason. He replied, with the bad news he had received at a late hour the previous night, which had not yet been communicated to the press, — he had not closed his eyes or breakfasted; and, with an expression I shall never forget, he exclaimed, ‘How willingly would I exchange places to-day with the soldier who sleeps on the ground of the Army of the Potomac.” 52
“More radical than Colfax was Congressman George W. Julian who became the leading House member of Committee on the Conduct of the War. He was a strong abolitionist and Radical Republican, who started his political life as a member of the Whig, Free Soil and People’s Parties. He was the 1852 Free Soil candidate for Vice President. His wife was the daughter of abolitionist Ohio Congressman Joshua R. Giddings. “Fiery, sincere, intellectual, a crusader for unpopular causes, he moved intimately in abolitionist circles…He acted as the political representative of the abolitionists, presenting their demands in Congress,” wrote historian T. Harry Williams. “Julian cared little for political expediency and usually took a more advanced stand on controversial issues than his more circumspect colleagues [on the Congressional Committee on the Conduct of the War]. He hated slavery with a burning, consuming emotion.” 53
“My first meeting with Mr. Lincoln was in January 1861 when I visited him at his home in Springfield,” recalled Julian. “On meeting him, I found him better looking that the campaign pictures had represented. These, as a general rule, were wretched caricatures. His face, when lighted up in conversation, was not unhandsome, and the kindly and winning tones of his voice pleaded for him, as did the smile which played about his rugged features. He was full of anecdote and humor, and readily found his way to the hearts of those who enjoyed a welcome to his fireside. His face, however, was sometimes marked by that touching expression of sadness which became so generally noticeable in the following years. I was much pleased with our first Republican executive, and returned home more fully inspired than ever with the purpose to sustain him to the utmost in facing the duties of his great office.”
“The chief purpose of this visit, however, related to another matter. The rumor was then current and generally credited, that Simon Cameron and Caleb B. Smith were to be made Cabinet ministers, and I desired to enter my protest against such a movement. Mr. Lincoln heard me patiently, but made no committal: and the subsequent selection of these representatives of Pennsylvania and Indiana Republicanism, along with Seward and Chase, illustrated the natural tendency of his mind to mediate between opposing forces. This was further illustrated a little later when some of his old Whig friends pressed the appointment of an incompetent and unfit man for an important position. When I remonstrated against it, Mr. Lincoln replied: ‘There is much force in what you say, but, in the balancing of matters, I guess I shall have to appoint him.’ This ‘balancing of matters’ was a source of infinite vexation during his administration, as it has been to his successors; but it was then easier to criticise this policy than to point the way to any practicable method of avoiding it.” 54
Julian wrote: “Upon the whole, however, I was much pleased with our first Republican Executive, and I returned home more fully inspired than ever with the purpose to sustain him to the utmost in facing the duties of his great office.” 55 Julian was an attorney, ascetic, intellectual, idealist, proponent of black suffrage and strict moralist who opposed corruption. He was a strong advocate of emancipation opposed the “conservative war policy of the Administration. The action of the President in promptly revoking the order of General [David] Hunter, of the ninth of May,  declaring free the slaves of the States of Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina, aggravated the growing impatience of the people. On the ninth day of June I submitted a resolution instructing the judiciary committee to report a bill repealing the Fugitive Slave act…” 56
Although he differed with the President on the speed of his anti-slavery measures, Julian was usually relatively circumspect in his criticism. Nevertheless, Lincoln biographer Carl Sandburg wrote that “the February 7  speech of Representative George W. Julian set the frame and laid the scene for a possible impeachment of Lincoln. In case the radicals should find that his report on Hampton Roads was considered by them a betrayal of their cause, Julian had opened the course with a first blast. In some ten thousand words Julian reviewed the war as a procession of mistakes, chiefly by the Administration and its head. A mediocre speech in phrase, in direct utterance, in perspective or proportion, it lacked the passion of [Benjamin] Wade, wanted the incisive color of [Thaddeus] Stevens. Nevertheless Julian gave it in a tone as though he hoped to be taken for a Domesday Book scribe.” 57
“The Rebellion was the work of chance; a stupendous accident, leaping into life full-grown, without father or mother,” said Julian. “Hence it was that the President, instead of striking at slavery as a military necessity, and while rebuking that policy in his dealings with Hunter and Fremont, was at the same time so earnestly espousing chimerical projects for the colonization of negroes, coupled with the policy of gradual and compensated emancipated, which should take place sometime before the year 1900, if the slaveholders should be willing.” 58
Julian had a particular dislike for the Indiana Republican David P. Holloway, who had been appointed as Commissioner of Patents. In 1863, he sought to have Holloway removed, writing President Lincoln: “As I told you over two years ago I know Mr. Holloway intimately and thoroughly, and have known him over twenty five years, haveing [sic] resided all that time near him, with the amplest means of knowledge. In the matter of native talents and breadth of thought he is below mediocrity. His education is entirely superficial. His scientific attainments are an unknown quantity. He is notoriously wanting in industry. He had I think but a single claim to the position when appointed, namely, the active help of Hon C. B. Smith, who knew him to be unworthy and unfit. Certain political associations and influences, governed Mr. Smith, very similar to those which prompt Senator Lane, Gov. Morton, and others, in now taking the side of Mr. Holloway. My knowledge of Mr. Holloway is much more intimate and thorough than that of these gentlemen can be; and when these gentlemen, or any of them, tell you that I have a personal quarrel with Mr. Holloway, and am actuated by personal feeling, I simply say to you that this is wholly untrue. I have never, at any time, had any personal difficulty with him; and if my word is questioned I say to you what I said in writing to you two years ago, that I am ready to make good my assertions by the testimony of the best men in Indiana.” 59
President Lincoln’s leading supporter from Indiana was probably Senator Henry Lane, a former Whig with moderate views on slavery who was matched with more radical Oliver P. Morton for lieutenant governor in the 1860 gubernatorial race. Lane was an easy-going man who threw himself into the 1860 election. Lane’s opening line at rallies was “I am the next Governor of Indiana, and I see you are glad to see me, and the feeling is heartily mutual.” 60 Historian William B. Hesseltine wrote that Lane was “an actor with a keen sense of distinction between comedy and buffoonery. After introducing himself to his delighted audiences with ‘Ladies and gentlemen, the next governor of Indiana,’ he would instantly transform himself into a powerful crusader against the evils of the day. Abandoning his initial humor for biting sarcasm, he would launch into an exposÃ© of Democratic corruption and ineptitude.” 61
Lane biographer Robert F. Wernle that “Lane had a happy facility for extemporaneous humor. That day that he was giving one of his stump speeches, an item appeared in the newspaper stating that the house of Stephen A. Douglas had been hit by lightning, but fortunately the judge was not at home. Lane [quipped] that ‘the lightning was feeling for him, but did not find him.” 62 Indiana was a swing state and Republicans concentrated on swinging German-Americans to the Republican ticket. Lane’s victory in October when the state held its non-presidential elections was a positive harbinger of Mr. Lincoln’s presidential victory in November. He defeated Thomas A. Hendricks, an attorney and former congressman who had headed the General Land Office, a federal post Mr. Lincoln himself had sought in 1849. Republicans continued their 7-4 control of the state’s congressional delegation.
At the beginning of the Civil War, Indiana’s Senate seats were held by Jesse W. Bright and Graham N. Fitch. Fitch did not seek reelection in early 1861 and newly-elected Governor Lane, who had been in office just two days, was elected to succeed him — leaving the Governor’s position opened to Lieutenant Governor Morton. It was a scenario that had been devised by a Morton friend, according to Morton biographer William Dudley Foulke: “Morton having been the candidate for Governor four years before, it was natural that the first thought of the party should [have been directed] toward him. A number of county conventions had instructed their delegates to vote for him. Morton undoubtedly expected the nomination. But certain supposed considerations of expediency finally turned the sentiment in favor of Lane. Friends of both candidates proposed the following arrangement; if the Republicans carried the legislature, Lane should go to the Senate, and Morton would then succeed to the office of Governor. But this plan was not satisfactory to Morton. He would rather go to the Senate himself than become Governor, and if he took the lower place on the ticket, ought he not to have the choice?” One of Morton’s Quaker friends convinced him he had to accept the deal, saying “Oliver, we can’t let thee go to the Senate.” When Morton asked why, the friend replied: “Because thee is a good man for either of these places, and Henry Lane would make a good Senator but he would not make a good Governor. So he must go to the Senate and thee must stay and be Governor.” 63
Indiana Congressman George W. Julian wrote in his memoirs that Senator Lane “was full of patriotic ardor.” 64 Julian’s Democratic colleague, Daniel W. Voorhees described Lane’s relationship with President Lincoln as “excellent.” 65 Wernle wrote that “On matters of administration policy, Lane was a Lincoln man almost all down the line.” But Lane’s views on slavery radicalized with time. He said to slavery’s defenders “that although the abolition of slavery is not an object of the war, they may in their madness and folly treason, make the abolition of slavery one of the results of this war.”66
Nevertheless, wrote biographer Wernle, “Lane had a great facility of not allowing his political views to interfere with his personal and business relationships.” 67 Voorhees wrote that Lane had studied law in his office and entertained for him a war and enduring friendship. He was, indeed, a charming man to me, and upon finding myself his colleague in Congress, he in the Senate and I in the House, I had always gone to him for assistance, and never in vain, in all matters not of a political character.” 68
The state’s other senator for most of 1861-1862 was War Democrat Joseph Wright. He was a “former governor of Indiana, U.S. minister to Prussia when the Civil War broke out and was skeptical of the Lincoln Administration,” wrote historian Bruce Tap. “In February 1862, [Senator] Jesse Bright’s views and behavior led to his expulsion from the Senate. Bright had long ruled the Indiana Democratic Party as the state agent of President Buchanan. One piece of evidence was a letter from Bright to “His Excellency, Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederation of States”. 69 Bright had been strongly anti-Douglas so he was a polarizing figure. Historian Bruce Tap wrote that Wright “was appointed to fill Bright’s seat until the legislature could meet to decide on a permanent candidate. Shortly after he arrived in Washington, Wright was appointed to the Committee on the Conduct of the War to replace Andrew Johnson, whom Lincoln had recently named military governor of Tennessee.” 70 With the Republican defeat in the 1862 legislative elections, Wright was out of a job. Thomas A. Hendricks was chosen by Indiana Democrats to fill that Senate seat once the Democrats regained control of the state legislature in 1863. Hendricks was described by a reporter for the Cincinnati Commercial as “The man who as least to say” in the Senate but he was an effective politician back in Indiana. 71
Historian John D. Barnhart wrote: “The war affected all of the citizens of the state, penetrated their vital social relations, and threatened their necessary and cherished organizations.” 72 But the war quickly shifted sentiment war from peace to war. Scholar Winfred A. Harbison wrote: “When the execution of the new policy led to the Confederate attack upon Fort Sumter and to Lincoln’s call for troops, Indiana responded with such enthusiasm that political considerations were practically obliterated. Republicans almost to a man defended the President’s course and supported his war policy.” 73
A few days after the surrender of Fort Sumter, Usher wrote Marshal Lamon: “Sufficient companies have been formed in Indiana or nearly so to fill the six Regiments of our state. They of course contain all classes of persons, but many of them are our best and dearest youths with whom it has cost many a sigh and burning tear to part. Thousands more will soon be made ready to join. We are now of course intensely anxious about the Commandants and suppose that the President will have the appointment of those officers, and my object in writing this is to request you without fail to see the President and General Cameron and say to them that we are all sensitive upon the appointments of the Brigadier General of this state, and say to them that the appointment of a mere civilian will give extreme dissatisfaction not only to the troops but to their friends.” 74
Two weeks later, Usher wrote Lamon again : “I have been at Indianapolis endeavoring to aid the Governor in such way as I could. My desire has been to prevent rash counsels from being followed and from incurring unnecessary expense, and I think I have had some influence in keeping down extravagance. We are appalled every day by some new development of the dreadful conspiracy which has been formed for the entire overthrow of the Government… Of one thing the President may rest perfectly satisfied, that the entire voice of Indiana is for the most vigorous prosecution of the War. I have no doubt but that 50,000 men could be raised in a month. All business has been suspended and the people do not expect to do anything until the war is ended.” 75
Governor Oliver P. Morton expected a lot. He was a humorless and fanatical bulldog of man who had been defeated in the 1856 gubernatorial race. An attorney, he started in politics as a Democratic judge, but later he helped form the Indiana Republican Party Historian William B. Hesseltine called him “handsome, intellectually gifted, and magnetic” but “an opportunist who adapted his principles to the demands of politics.” 76 Morton and one-time friend George W. Julian carried on their own civil war, which Julian dated to his own election in 1848 to Congress as a Free Soil Democrat. “For years we were intimate and attached friends, and I believe no man was before me in appreciating his talents and predicting for him a career of political distinction and usefulness….If I had been willing to subordinate my political convictions and sense of duty to his ambition, peace could at once have been restored; but as this was impossible, I was obliged to accept the warfare which continued and increased, and which I always regretted and deplored.” 77
Governor Morton was a strong supporter of President Lincoln’s War policies and vigorous recruiter of Union soldiers. An attorney and political opportunist, he found political advantage in becoming an abolitionist convert. Previously a moderate on slavery questions, he quickly became radical in his opposition to the South. He was obsessed with the possibility that Kentucky might fall to the Confederates and threaten Indiana. He was vigorous both in defense of the Union and the welfare of Indiana’s soldiers. Historian Emma Lou Thornbrough wrote: “In relations with the Federal government Morton clearly regarded himself as spokesman for Indiana and the most zealous champion of her interests…” 78
Historian Allan Nevins called him “[t]he most hot-tempered of all the governors….No governor hated slavery more than this explosive man who had walked angrily out of the Indiana Democratic convention the moment it endorsed the Kansas-Nebraska Act, and none stood up more sturdily for his State.” 79 And probably no governor complained more. In September 1861, Mr. Lincoln responded to a letter hand-delivered to the White House by an army surgeon. from Morton:
“Your letter by the hand of Mr. Prunk was received yesterday. I write this letter because I wish you to believe of us (as we certainly believe of you) that we are doing the very best we can. You do not receive arms from us as fast as you need them; but it is because we have not near enough to meet all the pressing demands; and we are obliged to share around what we have, sending the larger share to the points which appear to need them most. We have great hope that our own supply will be ample before long, so that you and all others can have as many as you need. I see an article in an Indianapolis newspaper messenger two or three weeks ago. I did not make what I thought the best answer I could to that letter. As I remember, it asked for ten heavy guns to be distributed, with some troops, at Lawrenceburgh, Madison, New-Albany and Evansville; and I ordered the guns, and directed you to send the troops if you had them.”
“As to Kentucky, you do not estimate that state as more important than I do; but I am compelled to watch all points. While I write this I am, if not in range, at least in hearing of cannon-shot, from an army of enemies more than a hundred thousand strong. I do not expect them to capture this city; but I know they would, if I were to send the men and arms from here, to defend Louisville, of which there is not a single hostile armed soldier within forty miles, nor any force known to be moving upon it from any distance.”
“It is true, the Army in our front may make a half circle around Southward, and move on Louisville, but when they do, we will make a half circle around Northward, and meet them; and in the mean time we will get up what forces we can from other sources to also meet them.” 80
President Lincoln was probably referring to Morton when he told Adjutant General James B. Fry about “one of the Northern governors who was earnest, able, and untiring in keeping up the war spirit of his State, but was at times overbearing and exacting in his intercourse with the general government. Upon one occasion he complained and protested more bitterly than usual, and warned those in authority that the execution of their orders in his State would be beset by difficulties and dangers. The tone of his dispatches gave rise to an apprehension that he might not co-operate fully in the enterprise in hand. The Secretary of War, therefore, laid the dispatches before the President for advice or instructions. They did not disturb Mr. Lincoln in the least. In fact, they rather amused him. After reading all the papers, he said in a cheerful and reassuring tone: ‘Never mind, those dispatches don’t mean anything. Just go right ahead. The governor is like the boy I saw once at the launching of a ship. When everything was ready, they picked out a boy and sent him under the ship to knock away the trigger and let her go. At the critical moment everything depended on the boy. He had to do the job well by a direct, vigorous blow, and then lie flat and keep still while the ship slid over him. The boy did everything right; but he yelled as if he were being murdered, from the time he got under the keel until he got out. I thought the skin was all scraped off his back; but he wasn’t hurt at all. The master of the yard told me that this boy was always chosen for that job, that he did his work well, that he never had been hurt, but that he always squealed in that way. That’s just the way with Governor. Make up your minds that he is not hurt, and that he is doing his work right, and pay no attention to his squealing. He only wants to make you understand how hard his task is, and that he is on hand performing it.’” 81
Historian Winfred A. Harbison wrote that there was considerable skepticism in Indiana regarding the Emancipation Proclamation: “…most of the journalists were lukewarm and careful to explain that the purpose of the war had not changed from the preservation of the Union since the Proclamation was designed to weaken the Confederacy. In fact, some Republicans expressed serious doubts of the effectiveness of the measure, and even energetic Governor Morton admitted in his message to the Legislature that ‘it remains to be seen what effect this proclamation will have in suppressing the rebellion.” 82 Historian Emma Lou Thornbrough wrote that “negrophobia, always a potent force in Hoosier political psychology, was aroused as never before by the Emancipation Proclamation…Democrats saw in the Proclamation a betrayal of past pledges by Lincoln and the Republicans and an invitation to servile insurrection.”
The October 1862 elections were devastating for Indiana Republicans, whose accusations of Democratic disloyalty didn’t stick with voters. “Whatever the allegations of excited Republicans, the Indiana Democracy of 1862 was eminently loyal,” wrote historian Kenneth Stampp. 83 State Democrats reversed the Republicans 7-4 domination of the congressional delegation. At the state level, the Democrats swept Indiana by a 9,000 vote margin and recaptured the State Legislature. Harbison wrote: “Many supporters of the Administration wanted to believe that the political defeat was due to the great number of Republicans than Democrats in the army — that if the soldiers had been permitted to vote the results would have been more favorable. Other factors contributing to the Republican defeat included dissatisfaction with arbitrary arrests and imprisonments, the lack of harmony among the different elements of the Union Party, the threat of the draft, the fear of increased taxation and higher prices, the corruption in regard to military contracts, and opposition to the high protective tariff. But by far the most important cause of this vote was want of confidence in the Lincoln Administration was the failure of the army to accomplish decisive results in the field.” 84
According to Morton biographer William Dudley Fouke, the Democratic legislators “would make no appropriations except at the price of a military bill depriving Morton of all control of the forces of the state. Under no circumstances would he consider this alternative …When the legislature adjourned the Democrats did not doubt that they could force him into submission. They did not believe he could carry on the government for ten days without an appropriation …But Morton had resources upon which they had not reckoned. In the first place, a large sum had been made by the profitable management of the state arsenal.” 85 Over Democratic opposition, Morton dedicated these funds to state expenditures and gathered other private and governmental funds to supplement it. Democrats threatened prosecution under state laws against embezzlement of state funds. They took him into court to force him to call the Legislature into special session.
In February 1863, Governor Morton wired the President “It is important that I should see you a few hours, but I cannot leave long enough to go to Washington. Can you meet me at Harrisburg,” Mr. Lincoln replied: “I think it would not do for me to meet you at Harrisburg. It would be known, and would be misconstrued a thousand ways. Of course if the whole truth could be told and accepted as the truth, it would do no harm, but that is impossible. 86
Governor Oliver Morton was determined to continue to exercise all his powers without Democratic cooperation. Effectively ignoring the Democratic lawmakers and courts for nearly two years in 1863 and 1864, he exercised dictatorial control of the state with the help of financing from the War Department. Biographer Foulke wrote that Morton went “to Washington to get money to provide for the Indiana soldiers and to pay the interest on the state debt. He first had an interview with the President. Lincoln wanted to help him, but saw no way of doing it. ‘I know of no law,’ he said, ‘under which I can give you the money. Finally, he referred Morton to [Secretary of War Edwin M.] Stanton, and the Governor betook himself to the War Secretary.” 87
Stanton gave him the help he needed — $250,000. Admitted Morton to Edwin Stanton: “If the cause fails, we shall both be covered with prosecutions.” 88 For Morton, destruction was always threatening. Historian William B. Hesseltine wrote: “…Morton spent the war demanding aid from the federal government. He worked as hard as Governor Andrew, and with even greater efficiency, and he was as anxious as his Massachusetts colleague that the federal government equal his efficiency and rival his effort. Two fears obsessed him: one was that Kentuckians would invade the state; and the other was that the Democrats would rise in violent revolution. Both dangers, of course, were conceivable, but they never assumed the magnitude that Morton’s fevered imagination gave them. Lincoln thought Morton the ‘skeeredest’ man he had ever known.” 89
Despite this help, Governor Morton was not necessarily friendly to the reelection of the President. Historian Winfred A. Harbison wrote: “In Indiana the Republicans or Unionists were divided roughly into three classes in respect to their attitude towards the question of renomination. By far the largest class comprised those who believed that ‘Old Abe’ was, all things considered, the best man to complete ‘the great task remaining before us’. Soon after the elections of 1863 it became evident that the popular confidence in the President was increasingly rapidly, and that many people were coming to believe that he must be continued for another term.” 90 Many Indiana editors began to endorse President Lincoln for reelection.
Some Indiana Republicans took a wait and see attitude. A third group including Indiana Congressmen George W. Julian and Schuyler, were privately hostile to renomination. Julian was a member of the organizing committee for Salmon P. Chase’s presidential ambitions. Chase and his agents had been active in courting Indiana politicians. Julian wrote in his memoirs that “I was a decided friend of Mr. Chase, and as decidedly displeased with the hesitating military policy of the Administration; but on reflection I determined to withdraw from the committee and let the presidential matter drift. I had not time to devote to the business, and I found the committee inharmonious, and composed, in part, of men utterly unfit and unworthy to lead in such a movement.” 91
Presidential patronage appointees took a strong role in assuring President Lincoln’s endorsement for reelection in 1864. John G. Nicolay wrote in mid-February: “Things have been drifting along chaotically for two or three weeks, but active work must begin soon[.] Defrees has gone to Indiana to look after matters there, and we shall probably have a good endorsement there. Corruption and malice are doing their worst, but I do no think it is in the cards to beat the Tycoon.” 92 Provost Marshal Richard W. Thompson, an erstwhile colleague of Congressman Lincoln, and John Defrees, the Superintendent of Public Printing, were among several Republican patronage appointees to help organize the convention on President Lincoln’s behalf.
Lincoln supporters devised an ingenious tool. A joint resolution of endorsement for President Lincoln and Governor Morton was introduced by Cyrus M. Allen at the State Republican Convention on February 23. A counter resolution for Chase was ruled out of order and the Lincoln-Morton resolution rammed through. “Such a popular move naturally brought forth tremendous enthusiasm and applause from both delegates and spectators, and amidst this excitement the resolution was put to a vote and declared unanimously carried.” 93 Historians Harry J. Carman and Reinhard H. Luthin wrote that “The pro-Chase men were taken so suddenly by surprise that they were helpless to do anything to stem the Lincoln machine, thus permitting the convention, not even yet regularly organized, to bind the Hoosier State for Lincoln.” One Chase ally wrote the Treasury Secretary: “Cyrus Allen, who desires the favor of Mr. Lincoln, and who is a personal, as well as political enemy of Gov. Morton, presented the resolution in order to get it through, on the popularity of the Gov., which proved a success. The resolution could not have passed the convention without an overwhelming opposition but for the enthusiasm for, and popularity of Morton. The course they pursued was altogether without the knowledge, consent, or approval of the Gov.” 94
Harbison wrote: “Some of the Chase men maintained…that the Lincoln resolution was adopted merely by a popular assemblage and not by the official convention of delegates. The Indianapolis Gazette publicly made the same complaints and insisted that the decision was ‘snap judgment’ and not ‘a fair and honest expression of opinion.’ That a majority of people had come to ‘hurrah for Old Abe’ the editor admitted, but he contended that many of the delegates were opposed to the resolution instructing for Lincoln because they realized the ‘great impropriety in committing the State to him at this time.’” 95
Historian Kenneth Stampp wrote: “The work of the state convention satisfied most Republicans and ‘War Democrats,’ but a few were critical and there was some disaffection. The Indianapolis Journal condemned Lincoln’s friends for ‘rushing him into the field’ so early. It doubted the wisdom of binding the state to Lincoln ‘before we know whether that is the best thing to be done,’ and insisted that it would have been better to have left the delegates uninstructed. Nevertheless, it deplored the continued feud between the friends of Chase and Lincoln and the persistent opposition of the radical Germans.” 96
By the end of March, even Lincoln’s Republican opponents in the state were professing their support for his election but his support in the state waxed and waned with military developments. His popularity reached its nadir in August. “I am in active correspondence with your staunchest friends in every state and from them all I hear but one report,” Union-Republican National Chairman Henry J. Raymond wrote President Lincoln on August 18. “Gov. Morton writes that nothing but the most strenuous efforts can carry Indiana.” 97
Copperhead Democrats inadvertently helped turn the political tide. During the summer, Indiana Republicans professed to uncover a vast pro-Confederate conspiracy in the state. As one biographer of Morton summarized their actions, “Though the efforts of Governor Morton, and an officer whom he had employed to assist him, a full exposure was made of the secret organization known as the ‘Knights of the Golden Circle,’ or ‘Sons of Liberty.’ The exposure was complete — embracing the signs, grips, passwords, oaths, ceremonies, principles, and purposes of the order. The membership in the State at that time was about 50,000. Its officers had $200,000 in their hands for the purpose of buying arms. The leaders were in constant communication with the rebels. An outbreak had been planned to take place in August, 1864. The arsenal at Indianapolis was to be seized, railroad and telegraph lines to be cut, and the rebel prisoners confined here to be liberated. Governor Morton was to be captured, and if necessary, put out of the way. The combined force of released prisoners and Sons of Liberty were to join the rebel forces, who were to advance to meet them, in Kentucky.” 98
News from Indiana improved as summer turned to fall. State elections were held in Indiana on October 11 and Governor Morton was a candidate for a second term against Democrat Joseph E. McDonald. Morton wanted two things from the Lincoln Administration — postponement of the draft until after the election and the recall of Union soldiers so they could return to Indiana to vote. He pressed his case to President Lincoln, who reported said: “It is better that we should both be beaten than that the forces in front of the enemy should be weakened and perhaps defeated on account of the absence of these men.” President Lincoln agreed, however, to Morton’s request to send home any soldiers who were not combat-ready. 99 After further pressure from Republican officials, Mr. Lincoln telegraphed General William T. Sherman about Indiana’s soldiers: “The State election of Indiana occurs on the 11th of October, and the loss of it to the friends of the Government would go far towards losing the whole Union cause. The bad effect upon the November election, and especially the giving the State Government to those who will oppose the war in every possible way, are too much to risk, if it can possibly be avoided. The draft proceeds, notwithstanding its strong tendency to lose us the State. Indiana is the only important State, voting in October, whose soldiers cannot vote in the field. Any thing you can safely do to let her soldiers, or any part of them, go home and vote at the State election, will be greatly in point. They need not remain for the Presidential election, but may return to you at once. This is, in no sense, an order, but is merely intended to impress you with the importance, to the army itself, of your doing all you safely can, yourself being the judge of what you can safely do.” 100
Pennsylvania Republican Alexander K. McClure wrote: “While this was ‘in no sense an order,’ it was practically a command that Sherman promptly and generously obeyed, and the result was that Morton was elected Governor by some 22,000 majority. It was at Lincoln’s special request that General [John A.] Logan left his command and missed the march to the sea, to stump Indiana and Illinois in the contest of 1864. He was one of the ablest and most impressive of all the campaigners of the West, and it was regarded by Lincoln as more important that Logan should be on the hustings than in command of his corps.” 101
Historian Harbison wrote: “By the beginning of October the Republican campaigners had largely regained their confidence. They were attacking the ‘Copperheads’ with increasing vigor and defending the administrations of President Lincoln and Governor Morton with genuine enthusiasm.” 102 Enough soldiers returned to help assure Morton’s reelection by 20,000 votes. Lincoln aide John G. Nicolay wrote his fiance: “The political news from all directions is very encouraging In Indiana and Pennsylvania the contest has been very closely fought, and the result at the elections to be held on the 1th inst. is still in some doubt, though our friends are very hopeful of carrying both by a small majority. But whether we carry them or not, it is very generally conceded that the President will be re-elected in November unless the popular feeling should great change in the interim…” 103
With their triumph in the state elections, Indiana Republicans felt confident for the national election in November. Foulke wrote that “Morton felt so secure that he found time to go to other states to aid the Republicans. He visited New York New Jersey and Pennsylvania, speaking in many places at the solicitation of the Republican National Committee. On the 2th of October he delivered an address at the Cooper Institute, in which he considered the fatal consequences which would follow the policy recommended in the peace resolution of the Chicago convention.” 104 On election night at the White House, noted journalist Noah Brooks, “The first gun came from Indiana, Indianapolis sending word about half-past six in the evening that a gain of fifteen hundred in that city had been made for Lincoln.” 105 When the votes were counted in Indiana, President Lincoln received 54% of Indiana’s votes.
After the 1864 election, Mr. Lincoln needed to make a cabinet shakeup in order to accommodate pressure from Methodists who wanted a member of their denomination in the Executive branch. Former congressman William Mitchell wrote President Lincoln a note of caution: “Our state is a peculiar state and the Political Eliments [sic] are in rather a revolutionary state and it requires a ste[a]dy hand to carry us through and solidify our party in others words we want political piece [sic] and as our Best Politicians say let well a nough a lone as far as Indiana is conserned [sci] in the Cabinet– its no time now to swap horses.” 106 Nevertheless, Mr. Lincoln decided to replace Indiana’s John P. Usher with Iowa Senator John Harlan in the Interior Department — largely to make northern Methodists happy. But another vacancy opened up at Treasury when William Pitt Fessenden resigned to return to the Senate. In Fessenden’s place, President Lincoln put Indiana’s Hugh McCullough, who had served as Comptroller of the Currency, running the Currency Bureau and the bank system.
Usher remained temporarily in his job however, because Harlan was not scheduled to replace him until later in the spring. One day shortly before President Lincoln’s assassination, U.S. Marshal Ward Hill and Usher had a conversation with Mr. Lincoln just before Lamon prepared to leave for Richmond on a presidential mission. “I urged upon Mr. Usher…to persuade Mr. Lincoln to exercise extreme caution, and to go out as little as possible while I was absent. Mr Usher went with me to see Mr. Lincoln; and when about to leave, I asked him if he would make me a promise. He asked what it was, and said that he thought he could venture to say he would. I wanted him to promise me that he would not go out after night while I was gone, particularly to the theatre.” President Lincoln complained to Usher that Lamon was “a monomaniac on the subject of my safety.” Usher responded: “Mr. LIncoln, it well to listen and give heed to Lamon. He is thrown among people that give him opportunities to know more about such matters than we can know.” 107
Shortly before, longtime friend Joshua Speed asked President Lincoln what he thought should happen to Confederate leaders: “Well, Josh, when I was a boy in Indiana, I went to a neighbor’s house one morning and found a boy of my own size holding a coon by a string. I asked him what he had and what he was doing. He says, ‘It’s a coon. Dad catched six last night, and killed all but this poor little cuss. Dad told me to hold him until he came back, and I’m afraid he’s going to kill this one too; and oh, Abe, I do wish he would get away?’ ‘Well, why don’t you let him loose?’ ‘That wouldn’t be right; and if I let him go, Dad would give me hell. But if he would get away himself, it would be all right.’ Now, if Jeff Davis and those other fellows will only get away, it will be all right. But if we should catch them, and I should let them go, ‘Dad would give me hell.’”
Late in the afternoon of March 17, 1865 President Lincoln spoke to the 140th Indiana Regiment from the balcony of the National Hotel. He gave Governor Oliver Morton a Confederate flag which the regiment had captured which captured it at Fort Anderson, NC. Mr. Lincoln then said: “A few words only. I was born in Kentucky, raised in Indiana, reside in Illinois, and now here, it is my duty to care equally for the good people of all the States. I am to-day glad of seeing it in the power of an Indiana regiment to present this captured flag to the good governor of their State. And yet I would not wish to compliment Indiana above other states, remembering that all have done so well. There are but few aspects of this great war on which I have not already expressed my views by speaking or writing. There is one — the recent effort of our erring brethern, sometimes so-called, to employ the slaves in their armies. The great question with them has been; ‘will the negro fight for them?’ They ought to know better than we; and doubtless, do know better than we. I may incidentally remark, however, that having, in my life, heard many arguments, — or strings of words meant to pass for arguments, — intended to show that the negro ought to be a slave, that if he shall now really fight to keep himself a slave, it will be a far better argument why [he] should remain a slave than I have ever before heard. He, perhaps, ought to be a slave, if he desires it ardently enough to fight for it. Or, if one out of four will, for his own freedom, fight to keep the other three in slavery, he ought to be a slave for his selfish meanness. I have always thought that all men should be free; but if any should be slaves it should be first those who desire it for themselves, and secondly those who desire it for others. Whenever [I] hear any one, arguing for slavery I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.”
“There is one thing about the negroes fighting for the rebels which we can know as well [as] they can; and that is that they can not, at [the] same time fight in their armies, and stay at home and make bread for them. And this being known and remembered we can have but little concern whether they become soldiers or not. I am rather in favor of the measure; and would at any time if I could, have loaned them a vote to carry it. We have to reach the bottom of the insurgent resources; and that they employ, or seriously think of employing, the slaves as soldiers, gives us glimpses of the bottom. Therefore I am glad of what we learn on this subject.” 108
- Roy P. Basler, editor, Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Letter from Abraham Lincoln to Schuyler Colfax, July 6, 1859, Volume III, p. 390-391.
- Roy P. Basler, editor, Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Speech at Indianapolis, Indiana, September 19, 1859 – Indianapolis Atlas, September 20, 1859, Volume III, pp. 463-470.
- Allen Thorndike Rice, Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln, p. 414.
- Emma Lou Thornbrough, Indiana in the Civil War Era, 1850-1880, p. 87.
- Paul M. Angle and Earl Schenck Miers, editors, Fire the Salute: Murat Halstead Report the Republican National Convention in Chicago, May 16, 17, & 186, 1860, p. 34.
- Paul M. Angle and Earl Schenck Miers, editors, Fire the Salute: Murat Halstead Report the Republican National Convention in Chicago, p. 32-34.
- Alexander K. McClure, Lincoln and Men of War-Times, p. 35-36.
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- Transcribed and Annotated by the Lincoln Studies Center, Knox College. Galesburg, Illinois, Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress, December 26, 1861
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