Former President Millard Fillmore: Abraham Lincoln's Election Caused the War

March 12, 1862

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Former President Millard Fillmore: Abraham Lincoln's Election Caused the War
Autograph Letter Signed
4 pages | SMC 1061

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      Background

      It was Lincoln’s election, Fillmore says, that caused the war. Even New York’s Republican uber-boss, Thurlow Weed, knew it. “W [Weed]… was the first among his friends to see and admit the danger to the country from Lincoln's election and had... courage and honesty enough to make an effort to settle matters by some compromise after Lincoln's election and before his inauguration.” But Weed was Fillmore’s longtime nemesis, and that is all the good he can bring himself to say of him. He has heard, and believes, that the reason Weed went to Europe was not so much to try and prevent foreign recognition of the Confederacy, as to avoid Charles Van Wyck’s House Committee investigating war-time profiteering.
       
      Fillmore also brings up the “suppressed” section of his last State of the Union Address, in which he predicted eventual race war if the slaves were not re-colonized to Africa or the West Indies. Deemed too controversial in 1852, Fillmore had recently considered publishing it – only to be told again (by Edward Everett) to put it away.

      Although Fillmore supported, fitfully, the Union cause, he could never rid himself of the notion that the war was, somehow, unnecessary.


      Autograph Letter Signed, 4 pages, octavo, Buffalo, March 12, 1862. To Ivory Chamberlain in New York.
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      Buffalo, March 12. 1862.
       
      My Dear Sir,
       
      I have your favor of the 10th for which I am greatly obliged. It is a gratification to know the Secret Springs by which certain public results are worked out. I have always suspected that there might be some truth in the report that T.W. found it convenient to show his patriotism by visiting Europe ostensibly to prevent a recognition of Confederate Independence but really to avoid being called as a witness before Van Wyck's investigating committee. May not this have suddenly terminated the negotiation to take charge of the Editorial 

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      department of the World? Still you might do much worse than to have W. He is a sagacious, cunning politician, and was the first among his friends to see and admit the danger to the country from Lincoln's election, and he had moral courage and honesty enough to make an effort to settle matters by some compromise after Lincoln's election and before his inauguration.  But unfortunately he was powerless for good, though he had been omnipotent for evil. His position was that of the leader of a mob, who controlls [sic] its actions while he leads, but the moment he hesitates or turns back he is trodden down and crushed.  But enough of this.

      I cordially approve of your idea of writing the history of this country from the annexation of Texas 

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      to the close of the present war, God grant that it may close soon and that your life and strength may be spared to accomplish so great a work, and that you may be abundantly rewarded for your labors, in money and fame.

      You expressed a desire to see again the Suppressed portion of my annual Message in December 1852.  I had only the copy preserved in my scrap book, and concluded to have a few copies printed in Confidence as well to prevent its accidental loss, as to consult some friends about the propriety of publishing it.--  I have submitted it to Mr. Everett only, and he advises against ^its publication, for the same reasons that he advised to strike it out of the message, viz. for fear the [...] of the question of Slavery might do more harm than good.

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      I have therefore concluded for the present to withhold it, but I enclose you a copy as a friend, and would like to know ^how it strikes you now on a more deliberate perusal.

      I hope and trust that I shall have the pleasure of seeing you when you come to Buffalo & am happy to hear that that may be soon.

      I write in haste, but am as ever, sincerely 

      Your friend

      MILLARD FILLMORE


      I. Chamberlain Esq.
      N. York