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The Bixby Letter
01-13-2021, 10:00 AM
Post: #136
RE: The Bixby Letter
(01-13-2021 06:07 AM)Steve Wrote:  When I first read Emerson's article, I tended to agree with his interpretation that Lincoln meant that Hay told him that he had no knowledge of the letter when it was written - implying that Hay couldn't have written it since to write the letter he undoubtly would've had to have known about it. Although, I didn't think it was the slam dunk case for Lincoln authorship Emerson implied - Robert could've misinterpreted/misrememberd what Hay said or Hay could've been reluctant to tell Robert about his role with the letter. But I think your point about not knowing what Robert means by "special knowledge of the letter at the time" - especially since Robert speculates later in the letter that Hay may have not known about the letter at the time at all - is a very good point. Why would Robert have to speculate if Hay had definitively told Robert that he had no knowledge at all of the letter when it was originally sent? Good catch.

Thank you very much.

Quote:Unfortunately, due to "circumstances" peculiar to me; I cannot comment on the computerized stylometric analysis section of your article (at least in a way which would be fair to you) on a public forum at this time.

You can PM me if you like, especially because you have made me very curious about it. I tried to give the methodology a representation as clear and accurate as I could, but I might not have succeeded.

Quote:Even though my interpetation differs from you on the latter point, I still think your article is very good.

I admit, the last section is the weakest, and I did consider keeping it out.

Thanks for reading.
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01-13-2021, 10:45 AM
Post: #137
RE: The Bixby Letter
(01-06-2021 10:11 AM)ELCore Wrote:  I have finally marshalled all my thoughts on the authorship of the Bixby Letter. "One doesn't so much finish a work as give up on it" is my memory of a quip by some famous author: that's how I feel about this.

John Hay Wrote the Bixby Letter

I solicit your opinions.

Thanks, and blessings to all in this new year.


I see that I made a previous post on this question on April 1, 2013 (Post #31).

I agree with Professor Michael Burlingame’s conclusion that John Hay is the author of the Bixby letter. And, I am grateful to Lane for calling attention in his posting to the Professor’s work on the subject, “New Light on the Bixby Letter,” published in 1995. A reading of this particular work should also be combined with Professor Burlingame’s later additional commentary on the Bixby letter subject matter contained in his two-volume Lincoln Prize winning work published in 2008, “Abraham Lincoln, A Life” (Volume II, pages 736 -38).

In his “New Light on the Bixby Letter” work, Professor Burlingame’s conclusion that John Hay was the actual author is supported by four principal elements:
1. Hay’s statement to William Herndon in 1866 that Lincoln wrote very few letters and that he gave that task of responding to letters received by the President over to Hay and Lincoln “signed without reading them the letters I wrote in his name.”
2. Authenticated stylistic “fingerprints” of John Hay’s authorship of the Bixby letter.
3. Four individuals, at four different times, claimed to have been told by John Hay, directly or indirectly (Rev. G. A. Jackson quoting Walter Hines Page’s relative), that he himself was the actual author of the Bixby letter.
4. John Hay created a literary scrapbook of his own creations in which he pasted a copy of the Bixby letter along with a few other “Lincoln” letters that he may have written.

According to John Hay, the work pressures upon President Lincoln at the time the Bixby letter was written in November, 1864, were immense:

“In the immediate aftermath of the election, Lincoln was unusually preoccupied. When Charles S. Spencer, head of the Lincoln and Johnson Campaign Club of New York City, asked the president to provide a banquet toast, Lincoln wished to compose the text himself rather than have John Hay do it. But, as Hay told Spencer on November 25, Lincoln ‘was literally crowded out of the opportunity to writing a note’ because the ‘the crush here just now is beyond endurance.’

Nor did Lincoln have time to write a suitable reply when Massachusetts Governor John A. Andrew requested a presidential acknowledgement of the heroic sacrifice made by one of his constituents, a widow named Lydia Bixby, who (falsely) claimed that she had lost five sons in the war. For the president’s signature Hay wrote a letter of condolence.” (“Abraham Lincoln, A Life” Volume II, page 736.)

Professor Burlingame also wrote that in the latter part of November Lincoln was busy drafting his very important Annual Message to Congress. “On November 14, he told Orville H. Browning that he ‘had not yet written a word of his message, and thought he would close [the] doors tomorrow and go to work at it.’” (Id. at 738)

It is, therefore, quite reasonable to conclude that Hay would have been asked by President Lincoln to at least draft the Bixby letter. The Bixby letter was dated November 21, 1864.

Hay was very experienced in mimicking the writing style of President Lincoln. And, it would take a very knowledgeable Lincoln scholar to identify the “fingerprint” details of a letter authored in Lincoln’s stead by Hay. Professor Burlingame noted that “unlike Lincoln, Hay often employed the word beguile” in his writings and proceeded to give twelve detailed examples with citations, thereto. The Professor also pointed out that “unlike Lincoln, [Hay] regularly used the terms ‘Heavenly father,’ ‘Republic,’ and ‘gloriously’” which were all words included within the short Bixby letter. (“New Light on the Bixby Letter”)

I believe not only that Lincoln did not author the Bixby letter, I also believe that if Lincoln had actually reviewed Hay’s draft of the Bixby letter, he would have, as a minimum, struck the word “gloriously” in the first sentence of the letter and substituted the word “heroically.” The first sentence of the letter delivered to Mrs. Bixby read: “I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts, that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle.”

President Lincoln did acknowledge that there was heroism on both sides of the American Civil War.

“When the Chronicle, of Washington, had the courage to speak well of ‘Stonewall’ Jackson, accidentally shot, as a brave soldier, however mistaken as an American, Lincoln wrote to the editor: ‘I honor you for your generosity to one who, though contending against us in a guilty cause, was nevertheless a gallant man. Let us forget his sins over a fresh-made grave.’” – Henry L. Williams, quoting the Washington Chronicle. (“Lincoln Talks, a Biography in Anecdote, Emanuel Hertz, 1941, page 567)

But, in my opinion, President Abraham Lincoln considered the American Civil War to be a Shakespearean tragedy, with brother killing brother and Americans killing other Americans over an unjust cause. Glory and tragedy are incompatible words.

Frederick Douglass made the following statement concerning President Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address: “I heard Mr. Lincoln deliver this wonderful address. It was very short; but he answered all the objections raised to his prolonging the war in one sentence – it was a remarkable sentence.” (“Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln, by Distinguished Men of His Time,” edited by Allen Thorndike Rice, 1888, page 191.)

“Fondly do we hope, profoundly do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war shall soon pass away, yet if God wills it continue until all the wealth piled up by two hundred years of bondage shall have been wasted, and each drop of blood drawn by the lash shall have been paid for by one drawn by the sword, we must still say, as was said three thousand years ago, the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

In summary, for all the reasons stated above, I agree with Professor Michael Burlingame’s conclusion that John Hay is the author of the Bixby letter.

I want to add today these two observations:

If you are an honest person, as I believe John Hay to be (as President Lincoln also believed, in my opinion), why would you say something that you could not prove, unless it is true? By doing so, it brings everything that you have said into question.

President Lincoln trusted Hay; that's enough proof for me that John Hay was an honest man.

Furthermore, I do not believe that President Lincoln would have written the following words in the Bixby letter:

"I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming."

President Lincoln's strength was his strength.

President Abraham Lincoln’s Condolence Letter to Fanny McCullough:
Executive Mansion,
Washington, December 23, 1862.

Dear Fanny

It is with deep grief that I learn of the death of your kind and brave Father; and, especially, that it is affecting your young heart beyond what is common in such cases. In this sad world of ours, sorrow comes to all; and, to the young, it comes with bitterest agony, because it takes them unawares. The older have learned to ever expect it.

"So very difficult a matter is it to trace and find out the truth of anything by history." -- Plutarch
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01-13-2021, 02:41 PM
Post: #138
RE: The Bixby Letter
(01-13-2021 10:45 AM)David Lockmiller Wrote:  I see that I made a previous post on this question on April 1, 2013 (Post #31).

Indeed, I have read it many times. Smile
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01-14-2021, 08:08 AM
Post: #139
RE: The Bixby Letter
(01-13-2021 10:45 AM)David Lockmiller Wrote:  President Lincoln did acknowledge that there was heroism on both sides of the American Civil War.

“When the Chronicle, of Washington, had the courage to speak well of ‘Stonewall’ Jackson, accidentally shot, as a brave soldier, however mistaken as an American, Lincoln wrote to the editor: ‘I honor you for your generosity to one who, though contending against us in a guilty cause, was nevertheless a gallant man. Let us forget his sins over a fresh-made grave.’” – Henry L. Williams, quoting the Washington Chronicle. (“Lincoln Talks, a Biography in Anecdote, Emanuel Hertz, 1941, page 567)

I had a very difficult time finding an authoritative quote confirming the accuracy of this statement published in the Emanuel Hertz book.

Professor Michael Burlingame wrote in Abraham Lincoln: A Life, Vol. Two, page 498:

"The only consolation to Union forces [following the Battle of Chancellorsville] was the death of Stonewall Jackson, who was accidentally shot by his own men. (When John W. Forney published kind remarks about the fallen Confederate chieftain, Lincoln wrote the journalist: "I honor you for your generosity to one who, though contending against us in a guilty cause, was, nevertheless, a gallant man. Let us forget his sins over his fresh made grave.")

(citation #181: Reminiscences of John W. Forney in a lecture delivered in Nov. 1865 before the Ladies' Soldiers' Aid Society of Weldon, Pennsylvania, New York Evening Post, 30 Nov. 1865.)

"So very difficult a matter is it to trace and find out the truth of anything by history." -- Plutarch
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01-16-2021, 05:58 AM
Post: #140
RE: The Bixby Letter
Many thanks to Steve for sending this information. He writes:

"It's the partial copy of Rev. Gildart Arthur Jackson's 16 January 1922 letter to British writer E. V. Lucas which was published in Lucas' 1934 book Post-Bag Diversions. Since I've never seen Jackson's account in full in article, I thought I'd share a copy with the forum.

I checked ambassador Walter Hines Page's papers and he was a guest of the Lady Strafford mentioned by Jackson in 1917 at Knebworth House:

https://archive.org/details/lifeletterso...6/mode/2up

(Page mentions Lady Strafford on the next page of the letter)

So the incident described by Lady Strafford to Jackson occurred in the late summer of 1917."

[Image: jacksonletter.jpg]
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01-16-2021, 11:14 AM
Post: #141
RE: The Bixby Letter
Cora Smith Colgate Byng Kennard, some time Countess of Strafford

I have endured a great deal of ridicule without much malice; and have received a great deal of kindness, not quite free from ridicule. I am used to it. (Letter to James H. Hackett, November 2, 1863)
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