President of the United States.
Autograph Letter Signed, A. Lincoln, one page, octavo, April 2, 1862.
“I would suggest that Hon. Stephen T. Logan of Springfield, Illinois, and Col. James Mitchell, of Freehob in the same state, be appointed a commissioner to examine into claims etc. at Cairo — the said commissioners to take the same power as the late commissioners at St. Louis. I would also suggest that John R. Shepley Esq. of St. Louis be selected as alternate to the said commission.”
The letter is to Edwin M. Stanton, who was newly appointed (as of mid-January) as Secretary of War, replacing Simon Cameron. The President was in the ninth month of the Civil War. He was troubled by tales of corruption and mismanagement in the War Department combined with a lack of progress on the battlefield to prevent Salmon Chase from raising the funds the Treasury needed to keep the war effort afloat.
In a decision that would prove significant to the course of the war, Abraham Lincoln selected Edwin Stanton, a gruff lawyer whose disparaging remarks about his presidency were well known in Washington circles. Stanton had the energy and force needed to galvanize the War Department; he was also believed to be a steadfast ally in the struggle against slavery.
This letter, in the Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Vol. V, speaks to the patronage pressures the President was under from his old Illinois friends. While Lincoln liked to help those who had befriended him along the way, patronage presented a keen test of friendship and politics. There were those who claimed he had forgotten his friends. Others felt the President knew too well the utility of patronage appointments and used them shrewdly.
Stephen Logan, recommended by the President, was a former law partner. He, Mitchell and Shepley were all appointed to the commission to investigate claims at Cairo, Illinois.
The War Claim Commission in Cairo was to look into claims of fraud and speculation at the military depot in Cairo, Illinois, the strategic point where the Ohio River runs into the Mississippi River and a critical junction during the Civil War. Ulysses S. Grant, a Colonel in the Twenty-first Illinois Voluntary Regiment, was given charge of the District of Cairo seven months earlier.
At issue was the official conduct of Captain Rueben B. Hatch, quartermaster at Cairo, and brother of Ozias M. Hatch, Illinois Secretary of State and a longtime Lincoln ally. Within six months of his appointment, Hatch was in trouble, charged with fraud and speculation, and was placed under arrest by Grant. He was released from arrest in July 1862 when the War Claims Commission allowed his claims, “the investigation not having established anything of fraud in them.” Hatch was restored to duty by Lincoln’s order on September 27, 1862.
Fortunes were made as well as lost by the Civil War and mismanagement was not confined to the War Department in Washington. Abraham Lincoln’s appointment of Stanton took the Union a long way towards competence but the war was far from over.
An interesting early interaction between Lincoln and Grant, the general who would help him win the Civil War. Lincoln might have left the Cairo investigation to Colonel Grant but chose to appoint his own commission.
Framed (with a cream inner mat and a taupe outer mat, with an engraving, in an articulated black frame) dimensions: 17 1/2 inches wide by 15 3/8 inches high.
This item is associated with these categories in our inventory:
- Civil War