Historic Letter from Lincoln to the Press Up for Sale

A 1861 letter from President Abraham Lincoln to the publisher of the New York Herald seeks the newspaper's support. hide caption

itoggle caption

An American president, worried about criticism during a time of war, writes a private letter to the publisher of a prominent New York newspaper, hoping for its support.

The year is 1861, and the president is Abraham Lincoln.

Now, the Raab Collection in Philadelphia is selling the letter, valued at $55,000.

Steven Raab explains to Michele Norris that when Lincoln sent the handwritten letter to James Gordon Bennett, the publisher of the era's most influential newspaper, the New York Herald, things were not going very well for the Union side in the Civil War.

"Losses at Bull Run and other places in the beginning of the war opened the administration to accusations of incompetence. There were many people in the North who didn't really like secession, but they didn't approve of carrying on the war to free the slaves. Lincoln was attacked viciously by newspapers all over the North," Raab says.

Raab says that in his opinion, for a president to send a handwritten note — which is part plea and part offer — to the editorial board of a newspaper "was not merely unusual, but in 1861, I think you can say it was unique in American history."

And Raab says it appears as if the tactic succeeded.

"In the end, the Herald's position became more and more the view of the administration, and I think Lincoln would have had to considered that his outreach was successful."

Web Resources

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.