Abraham Lincoln Endorses the Appointment of a Jewish Sutler, Henry Rice

December 6, 1861

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Abraham Lincoln Endorses the Appointment of a Jewish Sutler, Henry Rice
Autograph Note Signed
1 page | SMC 193

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      Background

      When Lincoln appointed John Alexander McClernand a general, he had in mind his political, rather than martial, expertise. McClernand was a local power in southern Illinois, and his appointment was intended to hold the democrats there to the Union cause. Given a command of a brigade of Illinois regiments and stationed at Cairo, Illinois, then, it is not surprising that he was given too the power of patronage. Here Lincoln endorses McClernand’s pick for the lucrative position of sutler at Cairo (a sutler being a civilian storekeeper who sold provisions to soldiers in the field or garrison) - one Henry Rice, a Jewish merchant from Jacksonville.

      Rice, as it happened, knew Lincoln well, having occasionally recommended him as a lawyer. He is credited, in fact - along with Abraham Jonas - with helping Lincoln realize that Jews, despite the widespread prejudice against them, were just the same as everyone else.

      Autograph Note Signed (“A. Lincoln”), as president, 1 page, octavo, no place (Washington, D.C.), December 6, 1861. Seemingly to Secretary of War Cameron.
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      General McClernand wishes Henry Rice to be Sutler at Cairo. I do not distinctly understand how Sutlers are appointed, and hence will be obliged if the War Department will make, or cause to be made, the one above mentioned.

      A. Lincoln

      Dec. 6, 1861.

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      Henry Rice