Lincoln Tries to Drop Cameron; Pulaski Captured

Thursday, January 3, 1860

Lincoln was now regretting that he had offered Pennsylvanian Simon Cameron a position on his cabinet. Having met with Cameron’s state rival, Alexander McClure1, who told him some rather unpleasant things about Mr. Cameron, Lincoln was looking for a way to change his mind.

McClure showed Lincoln several documents proving Cameron to be morally (and more importantly) fiscally unfit for the position offered to him – especially if it were Secretary of the Treasury.

Lincoln had known that Cameron had been accused of bribing legislatures to gain the Senate and even bribed an entire convention. McClure showed that these accusations were true.

Something had to be done and Lincoln, being the direct sort, wrote a letter to Cameron asking him to turn down the requested Cabinet appointment.

And now I suggest that you write me declining the appointment, in which case I do not object to its being known that it was tendered you. Better do this at once, before things so change, that you can not honorably decline, and I be compelled to openly recall the tender.

Unknown to Lincoln, the Washington Newspapers published that Cameron was offered the position of Secretary of the Treasury. Lincoln’s thinly-veiled threat to openly recall the tender was now practically impossible. This could cause problems.2

__________________

A Confluence of Deep South Governors

In other news. Fort Pulaski, a large fort near Savannah, Georigia, was occupied by an Orderly Sergeant. Georgia’s Governor Joseph Brown ordered it to be captured before it could be occupied by Federal troops. Colonel Alexander Lawton and a small force moved on the fort and bloodlessly captured it.

Governor Brown secretly telegraphed the Governors of Florida, Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana of what he had ordered and thought it a good idea that they do likewise.

All governors replied that they would take him up on the idea. It was one thing for a state claiming to have left the Union to occupy a Federal fort, but quite another for states still true (though admittedly wavering) to do the same.3

__________________

Mississippi Visits Delaware

In some slightly better Pro-Union news, the Delaware legislature met and rejected the idea of secession. Senator Bayard of Delaware not only wished for secession, but thought it likely. On this day, a Commissioner from Mississippi named Dickenson addressed the Delaware house, giving a rousing speech in favor of South Carolina and secession.

The legislature then resolved that, while they recognized Dickenson as being a representative from a sovereign state in the Confederacy, they also found “it proper and due to ourselves and the people of Delaware, to express our unqualified disapproval of the remedy for existing difficulties suggested by the resolutions of the Legislature of Mississippi.”

Delaware, a border state where slavery was legal (though rare), would remain in the Union.4



  1. The Pennsylvania town of McClure is named after him. They are famous for their Bean Soup, which actually has a Civil War connection. []
  2. From Lincoln President-Elect by Harold Holzer. []
  3. From The Road to Disunion: Secessionists Triumphant, 1854-1861 by William W. Freehling, Oxford University Press US, 2007. []
  4. From the Richmond Daily Dispatch, January 5, 1861. []
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