Monday, September 5, 2016

Joseph J. Lewis to Abraham Lincoln, January 9, 1861

West Chester Pa: Jany: 9. 1861
Dear Sir

Nothing short of considerations of imperative duty could induce me to trouble you with a letter at this time knowing as I do the anxieties which must necessarily be crowding upon you.

Let me beg you to reconsider your offer to Simon Cameron of a seat in your cabinet. I have known him for twenty years. He is not qualified for the position by talent or information. He is a mere politician and of the lowest sort. He has not a single idea of statesman. But that is not the most formidable objection. What his reputation for integrity is you can learn from the protest of the 28 members of the Pennsylvania legislature which accompanies this. Since 1854 when that protest was signed his reputation has not improved. It has been openly charged that he bought his present position by money. I do not verify the charge for I have no personal knowledge on the subject; but I trust it is enough for you to know that his character is subject to the most serious suspicions of the want of political integrity. I have some knowledge of the efforts that were made by him to obtain the nomination at Chicago, and you I think cannot be entirely ignorant of some of them. In my opinion they were such as no honourable man would stoop to. But they do not make a drop in the bucket in comparison with what is gravely alleged against him in a long political career, in which he was never elected to the people to any thing and has succeeded in making himself most odious to the most worthy and high minded of every political party to which he has become attached.

I voted for him on the first ballot at Chicago but that vote involves me in no inconsistency. His supporters earnestly desired a large complimentary vote for their chief, and in order to obtain that vote promised that after the first ballot they would cast their votes as a majority of the delegation would determine. Having ascertained how that majority would be, and that if the proposition was not acceded to, a large proportion of the Cameron men would vote for Seward I consented to cast a complimentary vote for Cameron on the distinct understanding that it should not be used as a lever to put him into the cabinet. It was said there that he would not accept a cabinet office, and the declaration was but a repetition of what he had said at Harrisburg, openly, and often, during the session of the state convention. It was under these circumstances I voted, and induced others to vote for Cameron, on the first ballot. But for this movement we should have nominated a candidate at Chicago whom the country wd not have sustained. For the Cameron men would certainly have executed their threats.

Mr Cameron is not popular in Penna. He has no strength with the people. He could not be elected on the state ticket to any office. Had he been nominated for the presidency he could not have received the vote of his own state. There are men and a good many of them that clamor for him, but divest him of his factious influence as a suposed dispenser of political favour, and there are not two them that would not deny all association with him and repel the imputation of it as disparaging and disreputable.

I beg leave to assure you that I feel no concern as to Mr Cameron's adverse influence in the distribution of the federal patronage. My sole object in writing is to warn you of the danger to your administration in making the proposed appointment.

with the highest respect
very truly yours
Joseph J Lewis.

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