Washington. January 26, 1861. pp. on a folded folio sheet. Old folds, top edge of leaf gilt. Very good plus. Item #WRCAM57853
An insightful letter from the well-informed Postmaster to the United States House of Representatives, Josiah M. Lucas, written in the midst of the “secession winter” of 1861, describing the mood in the U.S. House and the political pressures on his native state of Maryland. Lucas’ analysis and reportage are well-informed and opinionated, and he expresses a mixture of hope and pessimism about the future.
This letter was sent from Lucas to his old friend and Illinois Secretary of State Ozias Hatch. Josiah Lucas was born in Maryland, though he moved to Illinois as a young man in 1830. In Illinois he became a Whig (and later Republican) newspaper man, and became acquainted with other Illinois Republicans including Hatch and, of course, Abraham Lincoln. He held various local positions in Illinois and Washington D.C. before becoming Postmaster to the United States House of Representatives. At the outbreak of the Civil War, he entered military service and distinguished himself in the Subsistence Department, eventually becoming a breveted Major. In this letter, Lucas shares his considerable inside congressional knowledge, which he himself reckons as "better than any ten senators or representatives," with his old friend Hatch:
"Things political, as you must be aware, are altogether out of joint, and, as I view them, are becoming intensified every hour. Yet we have men amongst us, good Republicans too, who, like the man in the flood, when up to his chin in water, swore, as is said that he didn't think it was much of a shower....They are standing in the midst of a revolution with folded arms, upon a baseless punctilio, when the very ground beneath them is crumbling away. They talk learnedly about the unconstitutionality of secession &c. &c. when he sees the secession of state after state and the withdrawal of members. They talk about coercion when the rebels tell them ‘to come on’....I think this coercion business little better than gasconade, for how is it possible for one half the Union to coerce the other?...We have expostulated with the retiring members about the wounds they were inflicting upon the country, but it is like telling the Sun to reverse his course. There is no mistaking the fact - revolution rules the hour and is daily gathering strength, and even the noble Hicks, the hero Gov. of my native state, and by whose side and under whose eye I was raised, may give way under the terrible pressure now bearing upon him. Maryland is now the 'key to the arch,’ and, should her Governor give way, the first move in that state will be to declare martial law over all highways and by ways through the state. The conflict in Maryland between the Union and revolutionary sentiment is under the lead of Hicks on the one side and Locofocos as a general thing is about an even balance, both sides doing all they can. I am doing all I can with my relative friends. To change the subject.”
An important “inside the House” perspective on the roiling tensions of the Secession Winter, from a border state native with strong ties to Illinois, as well as an insider who was nonetheless not a politician.