Saturday, July 23, 2016

William Cullen Bryant to Abraham Lincoln, December 25, 1860

New York Dec. 25, 1860
My dear Sir,

The rumor having got abroad that you have been visited by a well known politician of New York who had a good deal to do with the stock market and who took with him a plan of compromise manufactured in Wall Street, it had occurred to me that you might like to be assured of the manner in which those Republicans who have no connection with Wall Street regard a compromise of the slavery question. The feeling of decided aversion to the least concession was never stronger than it is now. The people have given their verdict and they do not expect that either their representatives in Congress or their politicians out of Congress will attempt to change or modify it in any degree. The restoration of the Missouri Compromise would disband the Republican Party. Any other concession recognizing the right of slavery to protection or even existence in the territories would disgust and discourage the large majority of Republicans in the state and cool their interest in the incoming administration down to the freezing point. Whatever else be done the slavery question, so far as it is a federal question must remain as it is or the Republican party is annihilated. Nor will any concession of the sort proposed satisfy the South. South Carolina cannot be hired to return to the Union by any thing short of the removal of all restraints on the African slave trade. To do that would convert at once into friends of the Union, a class of the Southern politicians who are now doing a great deal to foment the discontents of the South and might effect what the Wall Street managers hope to bring about by restoring the Missouri line, and give protection to slavery South of it.

You will excuse me if I say a word concerning the formation of the Cabinet. I am glad to hear that it is decided to have regard to the in its composition, to that part of the Republican party which is derived from the old democratic party. It would be most unfortunate if the Cabinet were to be so constituted as to turn the policy of the administration into the old whig channels. To instance a single branch of that policy – the policy of restraints upon trade for the advantage of the manufacturers. We of the old democratic party who are the friends of free trade are perfectly willing that this should be regarded as an open question, but we shall be placed in immediate antagonism to the administration, the moment this is made a part of its governing policy. A bigot to protection placed at the head of the Treasury department would at once open a controversy on that question which would be carried on with zeal, perhaps with heat.

You will I know excuse these suggestions. If not vile they are at least disinterested. I have not, that I know of the remotest interest in politics except that our country should be governed with wisdom and justice, and with the allowance of the largest liberty in all things consistent with good order. You will receive perhaps from me letters in favor of persons desiring some office under the federal government or see my signature to recommendations got up by them or their friends. I pray you, in all these cases to believe, that no personal favor will be conferred on me, in any possible instance by bestowing the desired office on the person whom I may recommend. What I say for them should be taken as my opinion of their fitness and nothing more.

I am, dear Sir,
very truly yours

W. C. Bryant.

P. S. In regard to the slave trade, the zeal for its restoration arises from its profitableness. Large capitals are invested in it and it is the most lucrative of all branches of commerce.

W. C. B.

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