New York January 4th 1861.
My dear Sir,
I wrote to you yesterday concerning the rumored intention to give Mr. Simon Cameron of Pennsylvania a place in the Cabinet which you are to form. I had then scarcely spoken to any body on the subject, but since that time I have heard the matter much discussed and I assure you that the general feeling is one of consternation.
Mr. Cameron has the reputation of being concerned in some of the worst intrigues of the democratic party a few years back. His name suggests to every honest Republican in this State no other than disgusting associations, and they will expect nothing from him when in office but repetition of such transactions. At present those who favor his appointment, in this State, are the men who last winter seduced our legislature into that shamefully corrupt course by which it was disgraced. If he is to form one of the Cabinet, the Treasury Department, which rumor assigns him, is the very last of the public interests which ought to be committed to his charge.
In the late election, the Republican party, throughout the Union, struggled not only to overthrow the party that sought the extension of slavery, but also to secure a pure and virtuous administration of the government. The first of these objects we have fully attained, but if such men as Mr. Cameron are to compose the Cabinet, however pure and upright the Chief Magistrate may himself be, and it is our pride and rejoicing that in the present instance we know him to be so, – we shall not have succeeded in the second.
There is no scarcity of able and upright men who would preside over the Treasury department with honor. I believe Mr. Gideon Welles of Hartford has been spoken of. There is no more truly honest man, and he is equally wise and enlightened. We have a man here in New York whom I should rejoice to see at the head of that department, Mr Opdyke, the late Republican candidate for Mayor of this city a man who had made finance the subject of long and profound study, and whom no possible temptation could move from his integrity. If a man from Pennsylvania is wanted, that State has such whose probity has never been questioned – so that there will be no need to take up with a man hackneyed in those practices which make politics a sordid game played for the promotion of personal interests.
I must again ask you to pardon this freedom for the sake of its motive. It has cost me some effort to break through my usual reserve on such matters, but I feel a greater interest in the success and honor of your administration than in that of any which have preceded it
I am dear sir, truly yours,
W C Bryant
Hon. A. Lincoln
[An extract from this letter, though misdated as February 5, 1861, may be found in Parke Godwin’s, A Biography of William Cullen Bryant, Volume 1, p. 152-3 included below:]
New York, February 5th, 1861
I wrote to you yesterday! in regard to the rumored intention of giving Mr. Simon Cameron, of Pennsylvania, a place in the Cabinet. I had not then spoken much with others of our party, but I have since heard the matter discussed, and the general feeling is one of consternation. Mr. Cameron has the reputation of being concerned in some of the worst intrigues of the Democratic party. His name suggests to every honest Republican in the State no other associations than these. At present, those who favor his appointment in this State are the men who last winter so shamefully corrupted our Legislature. If he is to have a place in the Cabinet at all, the Treasury department is the last of our public interests that ought to be committed to his hands.
In the last election, the Republican party did not strive simply for the control, but one of the great objects was to secure a pure and virtuous administration of the Government. In the first respect we have succeeded; but, if such men as Cameron are to form the Cabinet, we shall not have succeeded in the second. There are able men who would fill the place of Secretary of the Treasury whose integrity is tried and acknowledged. I believe Mr. Gideon Welles, of Hartford, has been spoken of. There is no more truly upright man, and few men in public life are so intelligent. If we look to New York, we have Mr. Opdyke, the late Republican candidate for Mayor of this city, a man also who has made finance a long study, and whom no temptation could cause to swerve in the least respect from the path of right. [Illegible.] . . .
SOURCES: Abraham Lincoln Papers in the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.; Parke Godwin, A Biography of William Cullen Bryant, Volume 1, p. 152-3