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President Lincoln's "Blind Memorandum"
06-10-2022, 11:26 AM
Post: #1
President Lincoln's "Blind Memorandum"
Chair Bennie Thompson Opening statement as prepared for delivery June 9, 2022 to The Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol reads as follows:

“I am Bennie Thompson, Chairman of the January 6th, 2021 Committee. I was born, raised and still live in Bolton, Mississippi, a town with a population of 521, which is midway between Jackson and Vicksburg, MS, and the Mississippi River. I am from a part of the country where people justified the actions of slavery, the Ku Klux Klan and lynching.

A precedent [has] stood for 220 years, even as our democracy [] faced its most difficult tests.

In the summer of 1864, the President of the United States was staring down what he believed would be a doomed bid for reelection. He believed his opponent, General George McClellan, would wave the white flag when it came to preserving the Union. But even with that grim fate hanging in the balance, President Lincoln was ready to accept the will of the voters, come what may.

He made a quiet pledge. He wrote down the words:

“This morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probable that this Administration will not be re-elected. Then it will be my duty to so co-operate with the President elect….”

Lincoln sealed that memo and asked his cabinet secretaries to sign it, sight unseen. He asked them to make the same commitment he did. To accept defeat if indeed defeat was the will of the people. To uphold the rule of law. To do what every other President who came before him did… and what every President who followed him would do.”

Professor Michael Burlingame explained these same events in more precise detail in his book Abraham Life: A Life, Vol. Two, pages 674-676, as follows:

Reaching the Nadir: The Blind Memorandum

On August 23, 1864, the despairing Lincoln wrote one of his most curious documents, a memorandum revealing his belief that a Democratic victory was likely: “This morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probable that this Administration will not be re-elected. Then it will be my duty to so co-operate with the President elect, as to save the Union between the election and the inauguration; as he will have secured his election on such ground that he can not possibly save it afterwards. (Complete Works Lincoln 7:514) He folded and sealed this document and then, inexplicably, asked his cabinet to sign it without knowing its contents. It became known as the “blind memorandum.” Lincoln may have feared that its contents would be leaked to the press if the cabinet had been allowed to read it.

Several weeks later, Lincoln read the “blind memorandum” to the cabinet and explained its genesis.
“[Y]ou will remember that this was written at a time (6 days before the Chicago nominating convention) when as yet we had no adversary, and seemed to have no friends,” he said. “I then solemnly resolved on the course of action indicated above. I resolved, in case of the election of General McClellan[,] being certain that he be the Candidate, that I would see him and talk matters over with him. I would say, ‘General, the election has demonstrated that you are stronger, have more influence with the American people than I. Now let us together, you with your influence and I with all the executive power of the Government, try to save the country. You raise as many troops as you possibly can for this final trial, and I will devote all my energies to assisting and finishing the war.”

Seward remarked, “And the General would answer you ‘Yes, Yes’; and the next day when you saw him again & pressed these views upon him he would say, ‘Yes—yes’ & so on forever and would have done nothing at all.”

“At least,” Lincoln replied, “I should have done my duty and have stood clear before my own conscience.”

[Burlingame and Ettlinger, eds., Hay Diary, 248 (entry for 11 Nov. 1864)]

"So very difficult a matter is it to trace and find out the truth of anything by history." -- Plutarch
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06-10-2022, 02:43 PM
Post: #2
RE: President Lincoln's "Blind Memorandum"
The following story was printed in the New York Times on Thursday, November 10, 1864 (the election took place on Tuesday, November 8, 1864):

At a late hour last night, President Lincoln was serenaded by a club of Pennsylvanians, headed by Captain Thomas, of that State. Being loudly called for, the President appeared at a window, and spoke as follows:

Friends and Fellow-Citizens: Even before I had been informed by you that this compliment was paid me by loyal citizens of Pennsylvania friendly to me, I had inferred that you were of that portion of my countrymen who think that the best interests of the nation are to be subserved by the support of the present Administration. I do not pretend to say that you who think so embrace all the patriotism and loyalty of the country. But I do believe, and I trust, without personal interest, that the welfare of the country does require such support and indorsement be given. I earnestly believe that the consequences of this day’s work, if it be as you assure me and as now seems probable, will be to the lasting advantage, if not to the very salvation, of the country. I cannot say at this hour what has been the result of the election; but, whatever it may be, I have no desire to modify this opinion – that all who have labored today in behalf of the Union organization, have wrought for the best interests of their country and the world, not only for the present, but for all future ages. I am thankful to God for this approval of the people. But while deeply grateful for this mark of confidence in me, if I know my heart, my gratitude is free of any taint of personal triumph. I do not impugn the motives of anyone opposed to me. It is no pleasure to me to triumph over anyone; but I give thanks to the Almighty for this evidence of the people’s resolution to stand by free government and the rights of humanity.

"So very difficult a matter is it to trace and find out the truth of anything by history." -- Plutarch
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06-15-2022, 05:15 PM (This post was last modified: 06-17-2022 07:40 PM by David Lockmiller.)
Post: #3
RE: President Lincoln's "Blind Memorandum"
President Lincoln said to Pennsylvania supporters on the night of November 10, 1864 (two days after the election and with his confirmation of reelection practically assured):

"I earnestly believe that the consequences of this day’s work, if it be as you assure me and as now seems probable, will be to the lasting advantage, if not to the very salvation, of the country. . . . [A]ll who have labored today in behalf of the Union organization, have wrought for the best interests of their country and the world, not only for the present, but for all future ages. . . . I give thanks to the Almighty for this evidence of the people’s resolution to stand by free government and the rights of humanity."

President Lincoln's oath of office was to the Constitution of the United States, including the provisions by which the will of the people is expressed in the choice of presidential leadership in national elections held every four years, even in time of war, and even a Civil War.

In President Lincoln's mind, there was no thought in the nature of personal self-interest that "the ends justify the means." The "blind memorandum" provides absolute and irrefutable proof of this fact. Professor Michael Burlingame wrote:

On August 23, 1864, the despairing Lincoln wrote one of his most curious documents, a memorandum revealing his belief that a Democratic victory was likely: “This morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probable that this Administration will not be re-elected. Then it will be my duty to so co-operate with the President elect, as to save the Union between the election and the inauguration; as he will have secured his election on such ground that he can not possibly save it afterwards. (Complete Works Lincoln 7:514) He folded and sealed this document and then, inexplicably, asked his cabinet to sign it without knowing its contents. It became known as the “blind memorandum.” Lincoln may have feared that its contents would be leaked to the press if the cabinet had been allowed to read it.

Several weeks later, Lincoln read the “blind memorandum” to the cabinet and explained its genesis:

“[Y]ou will remember that this was written at a time (6 days before the Chicago nominating convention) when as yet we had no adversary, and seemed to have no friends,” he said. “I then solemnly resolved on the course of action indicated above. I resolved, in case of the election of General McClellan[,] being certain that he be the Candidate, that I would see him and talk matters over with him. I would say, ‘General, the election has demonstrated that you are stronger, have more influence with the American people than I. Now let us together, you with your influence and I with all the executive power of the Government, try to save the country. You raise as many troops as you possibly can for this final trial, and I will devote all my energies to assisting and finishing the war.”

Seward remarked at the time, “And the General would answer you ‘Yes, Yes’; and the next day when you saw him again & pressed these views upon him he would say, ‘Yes—yes’ & so on forever and would have done nothing at all.”

“At least,” Lincoln replied, “I should have done my duty and have stood clear before my own conscience.”

President Lincoln's presidential oath of office to the United States Constitution was kept in accordance and compliance with national election provisions of the United States Constitution.

"So very difficult a matter is it to trace and find out the truth of anything by history." -- Plutarch
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06-16-2022, 05:01 AM
Post: #4
RE: President Lincoln's "Blind Memorandum"
Text of “Blind Memorandum,” August 23, 1864, Abraham Lincoln Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress:

[Image: Blind-memo-recto-al0204.jpg]
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06-16-2022, 10:34 AM (This post was last modified: 06-16-2022 10:37 AM by David Lockmiller.)
Post: #5
RE: President Lincoln's "Blind Memorandum"
Amazing, Roger!!!

Thanks for doing this.

Do you know if the signatures of the various cabinet members is available to complete the document?

"So very difficult a matter is it to trace and find out the truth of anything by history." -- Plutarch
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06-16-2022, 10:48 AM
Post: #6
RE: President Lincoln's "Blind Memorandum"
Yes - here they are:

[Image: Blind-memo-verso-al0204_p1.jpg]
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06-16-2022, 11:29 AM
Post: #7
RE: President Lincoln's "Blind Memorandum"
Thanks, Roger.

You can even see through on the reverse side what President Lincoln wrote (mirror image).

"So very difficult a matter is it to trace and find out the truth of anything by history." -- Plutarch
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06-17-2022, 07:37 PM
Post: #8
RE: President Lincoln's "Blind Memorandum"
According to Doris Kearns Goodwin, in her book Team of Rivals at pages 654-655, President Lincoln was correct in his reasoning:

"If McClellan's victory "was expected," George Templeton Strong confided to his diary, "the baseness of the platform on which he is to run was unexpected. Jefferson Davis might have drawn it. The word 'rebel' does not occur in it. It contemplates surrender and abasement." Pressed upon the party by the peace contingent, the platform declared that "after four years of failure to restore the Union by the experiment of war," the time had come to "demand that immediate efforts be made for a cessation of hostilities."

For Democrats, the capitulation called for in their platform proved to be exceedingly ill timed. Three days later came the stunning news that Atlanta had fallen. "Atlanta is ours, and fairly won," Sherman wired Washington on September 3. This joyous news, which followed on the heels of Admiral David Farragut's capture of Mobile Bay, Alabama, prompted Lincoln to order that one hundred guns be fired in Washington and a dozen other cities to celebrate the victories. Jubilant headlines filled Northern newspapers. "Atlanta is ours," the New York Times repeated. . . . George Templeton Strong instantly understood the importance of Atlanta's fall. "Glorious news this morning," he exulted, "it is (coming at this political crisis [Emphasis added]) the greatest event of the war."

"So very difficult a matter is it to trace and find out the truth of anything by history." -- Plutarch
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06-20-2022, 02:48 PM (This post was last modified: 06-22-2022 09:23 AM by David Lockmiller.)
Post: #9
RE: President Lincoln's "Blind Memorandum"
The following is from the unabbreviated portion of the chapter 33 of the same book that may be found on the Knox College website. If anyone is interested, I can provide instructions once again, as I did a long time ago, on how to do research on this more extensive scholarly work of Professor Burlingame.

Four days earlier, Lincoln had explained his pessimism to Commissioner of Indian Affairs William P. Dole and a pair Wisconsin Republican leaders, Judge Joseph T. Mills and Alexander W. Randall. He assured them that “there is no program intended by the democratic party but that will result in the dismemberment of the Union.” When his visitors objected that George McClellan would probably be the Democratic nominee and he was “in favor of crushing out the rebellion,” Lincoln replied that the “slightest acquaintance with arithmetic will prove to any man that the rebel armies cannot be destroyed with democratic strategy. It would sacrifice all the white men of the north to do it. There are now between 1 & 200 thousand black men now in the service of the Union. These men will be disbanded, returned to slavery & we will have to fight two nations instead of one. I have tried it. You cannot concilliate the South when the mastery & control of millions of blacks makes them sure of ultimate success. You cannot concilliate the South, when you place yourself in such a position that they see they can achieve their independence. The war democrat depends upon conciliation. He must confine himself to that policy entirely. If he fights at all in such a war as this he must economise life & use all the means which God & nature puts in his power. Abandon all the posts now possessed by black men, surrender all these advantages to the enemy, & we would be compelled to abandon the war in 3 weeks. We have to hold territory. Where are the war democrats to do it? The field was open to them to have enlisted & put down this rebellion by force of arms, by concilliation, long before the present policy was inaugurated. There have been men who have proposed to me to return to slavery the black warriors of Port Hudson & Olustee to their masters to conciliate the South. I should be damned in time & in eternity for so doing. The world shall know that I will keep my faith to friends & enemies, come what will. My enemies say I am now carrying on this war for the sole purpose of abolition. It is & will be carried on so long as I am President for the sole purpose of restoring the Union. But no human power can subdue this rebellion without using the Emancipation lever as I have done. Freedom has given us the control of 200,000 able bodied men, born & raised on southern soil. It will give us more yet. Just so much it has sub[t]racted from the strength of our enemies, & instead of alienating the south from us, there are evidences of a fraternal feeling growing up between our own & rebel soldiers. My enemies condemn my emancipation policy. Let them prove by the history of this war, that we can restore the Union without it.”


These remarks were recorded in the diary of Judge Mills, who had expected to find Lincoln little more than a joker. Instead, the president impressed him as “a man of deep convictions,” the “great guiding intellect of the age,” whose “Atlantian shoulders were fit to bear the weight of [the] mightiest monarchies.” Lincoln’s “transparent honesty, his republican simplicity, his gushing sympathy for those who offered their lives for their country, his utter forgetfulness of self in his concern for his country” made him seem to the judge “Heaven[’]s instrument to conduct his people thro[ugh] this red sea of blood to a Canaan of peace & freedom.”

"So very difficult a matter is it to trace and find out the truth of anything by history." -- Plutarch
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06-23-2022, 11:03 PM (This post was last modified: 06-23-2022 11:07 PM by David Lockmiller.)
Post: #10
RE: President Lincoln's "Blind Memorandum"
Abraham Lincoln’s “Blind Memorandum”

The following information was provided by Michelle Krowl, a historian in the Library of Congress Manuscript Division, in a post a century and half later on the Library of Congress Blog on August 21, 2014:

Republican insider Thurlow Weed told Lincoln in mid-August 1864 that “his re-election was an impossibility.”

Republican party chairman Henry J. Raymond expressed much the same sentiment to Lincoln on Aug. 22, urging him to consider sending a commission to meet with Confederate President Jefferson Davis to offer peace terms “on the sole condition of acknowledging the supremacy of the Constitution,” leaving the question of slavery to be resolved later.

"Everything is darkness and doubt and discouragement,” wrote Lincoln’s secretary, John G. Nicolay, in August 1864.

The cabinet meeting in which President Lincoln requested that the members of his cabinet sign the "blind memorandum" was held on August 23, 1864.

"So very difficult a matter is it to trace and find out the truth of anything by history." -- Plutarch
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06-25-2022, 11:56 AM (This post was last modified: 06-27-2022 11:26 AM by David Lockmiller.)
Post: #11
RE: President Lincoln's "Blind Memorandum"
I checked out Vol. 2 of the Diary of Gideon Welles from the San Francisco Main Library Reference Desk to research for additional information on the August 23, 1864 "Blind Memorandum" meeting of President Lincoln's cabinet.

The lengthy entry (four and a half pages in the book) for August 23 [1864], Tuesday does not contain a single reference to this subject matter.

However, an entry in his diary by Secretary of the Navy Welles for August 25, Thursday provides a possible reference to the "Blind Memorandum." The reader must judge for oneself.

Calling on the President near eleven o'clock, I went in as usual unannounced, the waiter throwing open the door as I approached. I found Messrs. Seward, Fessenden, and Stanton with Raymond, Chairman of the Executive National Committee, in consultation with the President. The President was making some statement as to a document of his, and said he supposed his style was peculiar and had its earmarks, so that it could not be mistaken (emphasis added). He kept on talking as if there had been no addition to the company, and as if I had been expected and belonged there. But the topic was not pursued by the others when the President ceased."

I read additional entries from Secretary Welles' diary. And, I thought that I would share the entry made by Welles for Christmas Eve 1864, December 24, Saturday, because the it exemplifies President Abraham Lincoln's character and consideration for others:

"Called on the President to commute the punishment of a person condemned to be hung. He at once assented. Is always disposed to mitigate punishment, and grant favors. Sometimes this is a weakness. As a matter of duty and friendship I mentioned to him the case of Laura Jones, a young lady who was residing in Richmond and there engaged to be married but came up three years ago to attend her sick mother and had been unable to pass through the lines and return. I briefly stated her case and handed a letter from her to Mrs. Welles that he might read. It was a touching appeal from the poor girl, who says truly the years of her youth are passing away. I knew if the President read the letter, Laura would get the pass. I therefore only mentioned some of the general facts. He at once said he would give her a pass. I told him her sympathies were with the Secessionists, and it would be better he should read her own statement. But he declined and said he would let her go; the war had depopulated the country and prevented marriages enough, and if he could do a kindness of this sort he was disposed to, unless I advised otherwise. He wrote a pass and handed me."

"So very difficult a matter is it to trace and find out the truth of anything by history." -- Plutarch
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