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293. J. M. Howard to William H. Herndon.

Detroit Nov. 18. 66

Dear Sir:

I see by the papers you are engaged in writing a life of Mr Lincoln your former law partner

There is one incident in his life to which pardon me for calling your attention. I allude to his interview with John B. Baldwin of Va early in Apl. 1861, & beg you to peruse B's testimony before the Committee on Reconstruction, & also that of John M Botts & of a Mr Lewis of Va. Mr Botts asserts that a few days after the interview bet. Mr. Lincoln & Mr. Baldwin the former told him (Mr. Botts) that he had assured Baldwin that in case the Va. convention, then in session, would adjourn & go home he would [recal?] the troops from Ft. Sumter &c. Mr Baldwin denies that Mr Lincoln ever told him any such thing or that he (Bald.) ever said he did. When I exd. Bald. on the Com. I was careful to go into this subject fully in order that Mr. Botts who was to be examined might be fully informed of the former's views; and allowed him to read Baldwin's deposition before he testified. I did this because I thought it impossible Mr Lincoln could have given any such opinion, — in short because I thought Mr. Botts' statement — or rather the proposal of such terms by Mr. Lincoln, incredible, as it would have produced an outcry throughout the north. I must assure you I think so still, and that Mr. Botts must be mistaken — innocently of course.

Now, that conversation with Mr. Baldwin was of high importance and it would be strange if Mr. Lincoln, so careful, so truthful, so sensible how easy it was for Mr Baldwin to misstate or misrecollect it, should not have left some written memorandum of it. Such a memo. especially if in his handwriting would forever end the dispute bet. Botts & Baldwin, who have both written pamphlets on the subject. It would also undoubtedly vindicate the reputation of Mr. Lincoln himself from what the world may call an act of timidity or at least irresolution. &, Is it not worth while to make a particular & thorough search among his private papers, for such a memo? I have written, once, to Mrs. L. about it, but she answered


that all such papers were in the possession of Judge Davis the Exr. & that she had none such. — The fact is — and you are entirely at liberty to smile — a medium of her own accord & without the slightest suggestion from me or any one, in answer to my question, What were the real facts about that interview, said, or rather Mr. Lincoln said through her — "Senator, I never offered a bribe to treason in my life"; and went on to say that he made a memo. of the conversation in his own hand writing at the time & placed it in a leather pocket or memorandum book & that it was in a trunk, and requested me to write his wife for it. This took place at Washington last spring.

But whatever may be the truth as to the memo. I have felt it a duty to call your attention to the conflicting stories of Messrs Botts & Baldwin.

Very respectfully Yours
J. M. Howard

Library of Congress: Herndon-Weik Collection. Manuscript Division. Library of Congress. Washington, D.C. 2748 — 49



1. In Howard's hand in the top margin: (Private).

2. John B. Baldwin, Interview between President Lincoln and Col. John B. Baldwin, April 4th, 1861: Statements and Evidence (Staunton, Va., 1866). No pamphlet by Botts on this incident has been discovered, but see John M. Botts, The Great Rebellion: Its Secret History, Rise, Progress, and Disastrous Failure (New York, 1866), 194 — 203.