LINCOLN, Abraham (1809-1865). Autograph letter signed ("A. Lincoln"), as President, to Montgomery Blair. Washington, D. C., September 23 1864.
1 page, 4to, bifolium, with integral leaf blank, Executive Mansion stationery; silked on both sides, short tears to center fold (not affecting any letters), minor toning, some minor ink burn. Provenance: Montgomery Blair (1813-1883), Maryland politician and lawyer, Postmaster General to President Lincoln; by descent to Montgomery Blair Jr.
LINCOLN REQUESTS MONTGOMERY BLAIR'S RESIGNATION
Lincoln writes to Blair, Postmaster General and member of his Cabinet: "You have generously said to me, more than once, that whenever your resignation could be a relief to me, it was at my disposal. The time has come." With one ink emendation in Lincoln's hand.
After Lincoln's 1860 election, Blair was appointed Postmaster General; he was the sole cabinet member who stood with Lincoln in support of resupplying Fort Sumter at the outset of the Civil War in 1861. Blair was a devout abolitionist, and prior to Lincoln's election, he served as counsel to Dred Scott in the 1856 Supreme Court case Dred Scott vs. Sanford. By 1863, when the Union began to plan for the end of the war (which would not come for another two years), Reconstruction was a topic of much debate in the Republican Party; Blair's views of reconstruction were at odds with the radical wing of the party.
The Republican Party was deeply divided by the 1864 election and the radical Republicans issued an ultimatum - they would not support Lincoln in his bid for reelection unless Blair was removed from his cabinet. Lincoln faced a challenge from third-party candidate John C. Frémont, the nominee of the Radical Democracy Party, which criticized Lincoln for being too moderate on the issue of racial inequality. In September 1864, Lincoln learned that Frémont would withdraw from the race if Montgomery Blair would resign from his cabinet. Frémont renounced his candidacy on September 22, 1864; the next day, Lincoln accepted Blair's resignation. Blair, in a letter to his wife, Elizabeth Woodley Blair, speculated, "I suppose, however, that he thinks it will help to appease the Frémonters' and Radicals, if I am dropped." In their biography of Lincoln, Nicolay and Hay note: "the opposition to Blair was not confined to the radical demonstrations in the Baltimore Convention and out of it… Some of the most judicious Republicans in the country, who were not personally unfriendly to Blair, urged upon the President the necessity of freeing himself from such a source of weakness and discord" (Abraham Lincoln: A History, Vol. IX, p.337). Lincoln's retained secretarial copy of this letter signed by the President is in the Robert Todd Lincoln papers at the Library of Congress.
Property from the Estate of Montgomery Blair Jr., Washington, DC