November 10, 1860

“So All is Over and Lincoln Elected”, John Tyler Writes, as “Confidence Between Man and Man is Giving Way”

Autograph Letter Signed
3 pages
SMC 586
As far as Tyler was concerned, the election of Abraham Lincoln was his worst nightmare come to true.  During the campaign, he had pledged on the graves of his Virginia ancestors to protect the South against abolitionists, live or die, he said, survive or perish. Now the “abolitionist” was elected and doom, he was sure, awaited. Lincoln would do away with slavery: a race war could result. South Carolina would secede, the South would take up arms, and in the end, the North’s wealth, resources and numerical strength would triumph. Here, just six days after Lincoln won the presidency with a scant 40% of the vote, Tyler laments the election:

So all is over and Lincoln elected. S. Carolina will secede. What other States will do, remains to be seen. Virginia will abide developments. The Bellites
[the Constitutional Unionists] will seek to divide parties into unionists and the reverse. We shall see the result. It is said that Rives [Virginia politician William C. Rives] is offered the Premiership. He will only take it upon satisfactory assurances being given, I am sure. For myself I rest in quiet, and shall do so unless I see that my poor opinions will have due weight. In the mean time confidence between man and man is giving way and soon gold and silver will be hoarded by those who are fortunate enough to have them.
However much he dreaded Lincoln’s election, however, Tyler tried, in the waning days of the Buchanan administration, to avoid bloodshed and preserve the Union.  He was instrumental in the convening of a peace conference (see Tyler documents dated February 4, 1861), and he and his fellow delegates even met with the President-Elect; but both efforts failed abysmally. Before the Washington Peace Conference had ended, Tyler was urging the cause of Secession. He would eventually hold Lincoln responsible, in fact, for starting the Civil War: if only the President hadn’t reinforced Fort Sumter – valuing a mere local fort above the value of the Union itself – then the second “Battle of Marathon,” reprising the freedom-loving Greeks against the tyrannical Persians,  never would have had to be fought…
Autograph Letter Signed (“J. Tyler”), 2 pages, recto and verso, quarto, Sherwood Forest, November 10, 1860. To Robert Tyler in Philadelphia. With Free Franked (“J. Tyler”) integral address leaf.
View American Civil War Manuscripts.
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