Secret Lincoln Letter to Be Sold in Philadelphia

The Raab Collection is selling a private letter where Abraham Lincoln secretly attempts to get an ally of his a federal appointment.


A letter written by then-Congressman Abraham Lincoln is being sold in Philadelphia by the Raab Collection, a historical autograph and document dealer based in the area. It’s up for sale for $40,000 — check, credit card or wire transfer. The private letter — in which Lincoln insisted he and the recipient keep quiet — was recently deaccessioned from an unnamed institution.

The letter, which was written on January 5, 1849, concerns Lincoln’s attempt to get his friend Walter Davis an appointment to a federal office. “He supported Zachary Taylor for president and Taylor won,” Nathan Raab told KYW 1060. “And Lincoln wanted to be able to spend some of that political capital by appointing some of his friends and bringing more of his colleagues into government.”

Here’s the text of the letter:

Your letter is received. When I last saw you I said, that if the distribution of the offices should fall into my hands, you should have something; and I now say as much, but can say no more. I know no more now than I knew when you saw me, as to whether the present officers will be removed, or, if they shall, whether I shall be allowed to name the persons to fill them. It will perhaps be better for both you and me, for you to say nothing about this. I shall do what I can about the Land claim on your brother Thomas’ account. Yours as ever, A. Lincoln.

Just some good old-fashioned political graft from Honest Abe. They can’t even tell anyone about it! This is one great letter.

Lincoln wanted to get his friend a position because Davis had helped him with the design for adjustable buoyant air chambers, a device for “buoying vessels over shoals.” Lincoln worked briefly as a ferryman; he is the only U.S. president to have received a government patent.

Previously: The Raab Collection: Philly’s Custodians of History

[Raab Collection | KYW 1060]