Lincoln Directs His “Loyal and Sensible” Jewish Friend, Abraham Jonas to Review a Case of Disloyalty

December 13, 1862

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Lincoln Directs His “Loyal and Sensible” Jewish Friend, Abraham Jonas to Review a Case of Disloyalty
Autograph Endorsement Signed
1 page | SMC 411

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      Charged with disloyalty, Thomas Thoroughman of St. Joseph, Missouri, had been held in jail for some time when formidable appeals for his release were made to the President. On the face of a large envelope holding the papers of the case, Lincoln wrote an order closing the matter: “Will the Secretary of War please direct that Mr. Thoroughman may be disposed of at the discretion of Abram Jonas and Henry Asbury of Quincy, Ill., both of whom I know to be loyal and sensible men?”

      Carl Sandburg, Abraham Lincoln: The War Years, (New York, 1939) III:485

      What Thoroughman, a lawyer, was thought to have done, Quincy law partners Abraham Jonas and Henry Asbury determined he did not, and so he was exonerated, and duly paroled. Most notable in this case is that President Lincoln entrusted its disposition entirely to the judgment of his friends Jonas and Asbury. Jonas, notably Jewish and a long-time friend, was to whom Lincoln pronounced, "you are one of my most valued friends."

      Lincoln and Jonas’ friendship began soon after Jonas settled in Quincy, Illinois, in 1838. Born in England, Jonas came from Kentucky where he had lived for ten years, served in the State Legislature for four terms, and became the Grand Master of the Kentucky Masons. Before that he lived in Cincinnati; to which he had come from England in 1819, to join his brother, Joseph, the first Jewish settler there. In Quincy, Jonas kept a store and studied law, which became his lifelong calling. From 1849 to 1851, he served as postmaster, and in 1861 was reappointed to that office by Lincoln. Jonas was also among the first to boost Lincoln for the presidency, telling the powerful Horace Greeley in 1858 that there may be more to a Lincoln candidacy “than any of us now think.”

      On June 2, 1864, Lincoln approved and wrote out a pass for Charles Jonas - a Confederate prisoner of war held by the Union - to visit his dying father Abraham Jonas, who died six days later.

      Three other sons fought for the South from Mississippi. One fought for the Union. Alas, a fitting expression of the Civil War credo, "Brother against Brother". Lincoln of course didn't let the Jonas' family Southern connection interfere in his decision to temporarily release Charles; Abraham being one of his oldest and dearest friends.

      Autograph Note Signed (“A. Lincoln”), being an incomplete fragment; 1 page, sextodecimo, no place, no date [December 13, 1862]. To Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton.
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      both of whom I know to be loyal and sen-
      sible men.

      A. LINCOLN

      Dec. 13, 1862.