JAMES GUTHRIE - MANUSCRIPT LETTER SIGNED 08/22/1861 - HFSID 14170
Sale Price $1,487.50
Writing personally to President Lincoln from "neutral" Kentucky in August 1861, the pro-slavery, pro-Union Democrat Guthrie recommends Virginia-born Colonel E. B. Alexander, who "owes his first allegiance to the Government whose colours his regiment bears & will lead with good will where ever ordered."
Manuscript LS: "James Guthrie," 1 page, 5x8. Louisville, 1861 August 22.Pierce's Secretary of the Treasury writes "To His Excellency Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States." In full: "Allow me to call your attention to my friend Col. E.B. Alexander of the 10th regiment of Infantry now at Fort Laramor. He is a most excellent officer-has done meritorious service in Mexico & desires active employment. I hope you will be able to employ his services in Missouri & thence in Arkansas. Col. Alexander is a native of Virginia & feels that he owes his first allegiance to the Government whose colours his regiment bears & will lead with good will where ever ordered." James Guthrie (1792-1869), a Kentucky financier, served many years in the State's legislature and on the City Council of Louisville, seeking to have Kentucky's capital moved to that city. As Secretary of the Treasury under President Pierce (1853-1857), his vigorous administration and money-saving measures were widely praised. He drastically reduced the national debt. At the 1860 Democratic Party Conventions in Charleston and Baltimore, Guthrie was a candidate for the presidential nomination receiving 35 votes on the first ballot at Charleston (third, behind S.A. Douglas and R.M.T. Hunter) and 9 votes at Baltimore (second to the nominee, Douglas). A strong supporter of slavery, he nevertheless opposed secession, and was offered a Cabinet post by President Lincoln. He was elected as a Democrat to the US Senate in 1865, supporting President Johnson and opposing Reconstruction measures. Ill health forced his resignation in 1868. This document is a remarkable demonstration of the issues of allegiance raised by the secession of the Confederate states following the election of Abraham Lincoln to the Presidency. Here was Guthrie, a staunch Democrat and advocate of slavery, who had been considered as a Presidential nominee to run against Lincoln at both Democratic Conventions of 1860 and who had actively participated in the Peace Conference of early 1861 which sought a to preserve the Union through compromise, writing personally to President Lincoln to vouch for the loyalty of a Virginia-born regimental commander in the Union Army. This confidence proved justified. Colonel Alexander remained in command of the 10th Regiment until 1869, and the unit fought valiantly for the Union in most of the key battles of the Civil War's Eastern Theatre, including Antietam, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, the Wilderness and Cold Harbor. Kentucky had declared its neutrality at the outset of the Civil War, leading Lincoln - a native of that State - to declare, "I hope to have God on my side, but I must have Kentucky." As this letter was written, Kentucky was beginning to tilt toward the Union. The state elections of August 5 produced strong pro-Union majorities in the state legislature, able to override vetoes by the South-leaning Governor. Confederate and Union armies both entered the state in September, with Union forces soon in control of most of it. Light show-through from docket on verso, else in fine condition.
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