The history detectives at the Papers of Abraham Lincoln, a project housed at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield, have put together a story that sheds light on Abe Lincoln, political animal.
The account from project director Daniel Stowell is that Lincoln wrote to political friend Leonard Swett of Bloomington, apparently regarding Thurlow Weed, a newspaper editor and Republican “kingmaker” in Albany, N.Y. It seems Weed was a real operator, and someone whose information Lincoln valued – but at a distance, so as not to sully his own reputation. Stowell says Lincoln used Swett as a go-between.
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Weed was pulling for William Seward to win the Republican nomination. Stowell believes the letter in question – with the apparent reference to Weed redacted – was part of an exchange between Lincoln and Swett in the weeks following Lincoln’s surprise nomination in Chicago.
“Weed wanted to, for example, suggest to Lincoln who should receive federal appointments in the state of New York,” Stowell says in summing up Weed’s role as a behind-the-scenes manipulator and favor collector, someone who has counterparts in every era.
Stowell says the project is never-ending – it’s estimated 4,000 to 6,000 people possess Lincoln documents, and Stowell has collected them from only about 200.