To Gerrit Smith

29 January 1864


[MS in Gerrit Smith Papers, Syracuse University]


Oberlin Ohio 29th Jan 1864

Hon Gerrit Smith.

Dear Sir.

Your printed letter

to Hon. Mr. Littlejohn is recd.

I have had much satisfaction in

reading this letter, as I also have had

in the perusal of several printed

letters addressed to others which you

have kindly sent me. I am particu

larly pleased with what you say in

this letter of the President's submitting

his proclamation of freedom to the

slaves to the supreme court. I think

with you that the Pres. is grossly incon

sistent in this, & that which I fear is

that this reference to the supreme court

is a trap set for the Pres. by that

crafty politician Thurlow Weed aided

probably by Secretary Seward. I hope

you will continue to press this point

upon congress. I suppose you have

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sent copies to all the members of congress.

Write again, & again, I entreat you

until you secure congressional

action against the Pres' position.

I hope the Sermans will press

their request to put in nomination

for Pres. a less conservative man

than Mr. Lincoln. The fact is that

Mr. L. is far behind the northern publick

sentiment. We need a more radical

man to finish up this war. I hope

the radicals, in & out of congress, will

make their influence so felt in respect

to the coming nomination that Mr.

L. will see that there is no hope

of his nomination & election unless

he takes & keeps more radical ground

The people are prepared for the

to elect the most radical abolitionist

there is if he can get a nomination.

But the Weed & Seward party joining

with war democrats & conservative

republicans, will, I fear, secure the

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nomination of a conservative.

Conservatism means, now, pro slavery.

The radicals must make such a stir

that the conservatives will see that

they can not hope for their votes

in electing a conservative. What I

fear is that the radicals will so

easily acquiesce in the nomination

of Mr. Lincoln that he will get the

impression that we are satisfied

with his views & action. I think

he is honest, but he is conservative

constitutionally, & is by marriage inter

locked with southern interests so far

as to embolden Kentucky to hold out

against Emancipation. If Butler

were Pres. I do not think Kentucky

would hold out a month. I also

believe the rebellion would perish

in three months. The fact is the south

dont fear Mr. Lincoln. There is no

man in the land they would so much

fear as Gen. Butler. And they would

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have good reason to fear him.

He would not only end the war

but would reorganize the south

I believe in 6. months. It seems

to me that this can be done & that

butler would do it. If we can

not prevent the renomination of

Mr. L. can we not at least impress

him with the conviction that he

can not be reelected unless he goes

in for the immediate & total destru

ction of Slavery? Let us try.

God Bless you

C. G. Finney.


Finney's disapproval of Lincoln was in line with the more radical reformers in the country but was not wholly accepted by the people in Oberlin. Among other voices there in favor of Lincoln, R. S. Fletcher notes that in September 1862 the Aeolian Society, a young ladies' literary society in the college, had debated the question: "Resolved that Pres. Lincoln is not so bad a man as Pres. Finney thinks he is." (Fletcher, History. p. 879f.)