Monday, December 30, 2013

Simon Cameron to Abraham Lincoln, January 11, 1862

January 11. 1862.

My dear Sir.

I have the honor to acknowledge your favor of this date, and to thank you, with profound respect, for its kind and generous tone. When you were elected President, a result to which I contributed my best exertions, I had no thought of leaving the Senate of the United States, or of accepting any position in your gift. But when you invited me to Springfield, Illinois, and presented me the choice of one, of two named places in the list of your Constitutional advisers, I could not, for grave public reasons, and after great reflection, refuse a trust so trying and laborious. My life had been one of constant labor and excitement; I looked to the Senate as the best field, after such a life, in which to serve my Country and my State. It was only when I realized that I might be of service to the general cause in the darkly foreshadowed future, that I ventured to undertake the manifold and various responsibilities of the War Department. I felt when I saw the traitors leaving their seats in Congress, and when the Star of the West was fired upon in Charleston Harbor, that a bloody conflict was inevitable.

I have devoted myself, without intermission, to my official duties; I have given to them all my energies; I have done my best. It is impossible, in the direction of operations so extensive, but that some mistakes happen and some complications and complaints arise. In view of these recollections, I thank you from a full heart, for the expression of your “confidence in my ability, patriotism, and fidelity to public trust.” Thus my own conscientious sense of doing my duty by the Executive and by my Country, is approved by the acknowledged head of the Government itself.

When I became a member of your Administration, I avowed my purpose to retire from the Cabinet, as soon as my duty to my country would allow me to do so. In your letter of this day's date, so illustrative of your just and upright character, you revive the fact that I sometime ago, expressed the same purpose to you, and in reminding me of this you proffer for my acceptance one of the highest diplomatic positions in your gift, as an additional mark of your confidence and esteem.

In retiring from the War Department, I feel that the mighty Army of the United States, is ready to do battle for the Constitution – that it is marshalled by gallant and experienced leaders – that it is fired with the greatest enthusiasm for the good cause: and also, that my successor, in this department, is my personal friend, who unites to wonderful intellect and vigor, the grand essential of being in earnest in the present struggle, and of being resolved upon a speedy and overwhelming triumph of our arms. I therefore, gratefully accept the new distinction you have conferred upon me, and as soon as important and long neglected private business has been arranged, I will enter upon the important duties of the mission to which you have called me.

I have the honor to be, my dear Sir,
Your obedient and humble Servant

Simon Cameron.
Abraham Lincoln.
President of the United States

SOURCE: Roy P. Basler, Editor, The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Vol. 5, p. 97; A copy of this letter can be found in the Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress.

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