Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Volume 6.
Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865.

To Augustus W. Bradford [2]

His Excellency A. W. Bradford Executive Mansion.
Governor of Maryland. Washington, Nov. 2. 1863.

Sir: Yours of the 31st. ult. was received yesterday about noon, and since then I have been giving most earnest attention to the subject matter of it. At my call Gen. Schenck has attended; and he assures me it is almost certain that violence will be used at some of the voting places on election day, unless prevented by his provostguards. He says that at some of those places Union voters will not attend at all, or run a ticket unless they have some assurance ofPage  557 protection. This makes the Missouri case, of my action in regard to which, you express your approval. The remaining point of your letter is a protest against any person offering to vote being put to any test not found in the laws of Maryland. This brings us to a difference between Missouri and Maryland. With the same reason in both States, Missouri has, by law, provided a test for the voter, with reference to the present rebellion, while Maryland has not. For example, Gen. Tremble, captured fighting us at Gettysburg, is, without recanting his treason, a legal voter by the laws of Maryland. Even Gen. Schenck's order, admits him to vote, if he recants upon oath. I think that is cheap enough. My order in Missouri, which you approve, and Gen. Schenck's order here, reach precisely the same end. Each assures the right of voting to all loyal men; and whether a man is loyal, each allows that man to fix by his own oath. Your suggestion that nearly all the candidates are loyal, I do not think quite meets the case. In this struggle for the nation's life, I can not so confidently rely on those whose elections may have depended upon disloyal votes. Such men, when elected, may prove true; but such votes are given them in the expectation that they will prove false.

Nor do I think that to keep the peace at the polls, and to prevent the persistently disloyal from voting, constitutes just cause of offence to Maryland. I think she has her own example for it. If I mistake not, it is precisely what Gen. Dix did when your Excellency was elected Governor.

I revoke the first of the three propositions in Gen. Schenck's general order No. 53; not that it is wrong in principle, but because the military being, of necessity, exclusive judges as to who shall be arrested, the provision is too liable to abuse. For the revoked part I substitute the following:

``That all Provost Marshals, and other Military officers, do prevent all disturbance and violence at or about the polls, whether offered by such persons as above described, or by any other person, or persons whomsoever''

The other two propositions of the order I allow to stand.

Gen. Schenck is fully determined, and has my strict orders besides, that all loyal men may vote, and vote for whom they please.

Your Obt. Servt A. LINCOLN.

Annotation

[1]   ADfS, DLC-RTL; LS, MdAA. On November 3, Governor Bradford answered Lincoln:

``Your letter of 2nd inst. in reply to mine of 31st ulto. reached me to-day after I had already read it in the Baltimore papers of this morning.

``Your Excellency has in this respect the advantage of me, for although, following your example, I shall send a duplicate of this to the Press, the probabilitiesPage  558 are, looking to recent events, that the military authorities will not allow its publication.

``When I wrote to you on Saturday last I had not been able to procure a Copy of the Military Order in reference to the Election and acted merely on the rumor of its character. When I saw it, as I did for the first time on Sunday I found it even more objectionable . . . and when I was shown on the same day a copy of your letter to Mr. Swann, in which you say you `trust there is no just ground for the suspicion' he had expressed and declaring that you felt (mortified that there could be a doubt upon this point of your (his) enquiry' &c., which point was a suggestion by Mr. Swann, that `the election about to take place will be attended with undue interference on the part of persons claiming to represent the wishes of the Government.' I rested satisfied that I should receive from you a prompt countermand of the Order in question. If the sending out one or more Regiments of troops distributed among several of the Counties to attend their places of Elections in defiance of the well known laws of the State prohibiting their presence; ordering Military Officers and Provost Marshals to arrest voters guilty, in the opinion of such officers, of certain offences; menacing Judges of Election with the power of the Military arm in case this Military order was not respected, is not an `undue' interference with the freedom of elections, I confess myself, unable to imagine what is.

``The purport of your Excellency's remarks in your letter to me is confined chiefly to a justification of the exclusion of disloyal voters from the Polls by means of the administration of an oath of allegiance; without stopping to analyse the particular oath in question it may be sufficient to say that this clause of the Order is by far the least objectionable of the three. If any who were once citizens of the United States have been guilty of such conduct as justly disfranchises them, let them take the consequences . . . But I insist that the Judges whom the State has provided are the exclusive Judges of the question of such citizenship and that they shall be allowed to exercise their own judgment upon that question, and I shall never cease to protest against any attempt of the Military power in a loyal State to control that judgment and especially against the use of any threats tending to coerce. . . .

``The first and third Sections of the Order are the most remarkable items of the arbitrary authority it assumes. . . .

``I am aware that your Excellency has so far modified the first of said Sections, . . . but . . . whilst the modification may relieve that part of the order of some of the most immoderate of its powers it still leaves these Officers the exclusive judges of who are guilty of violence or disturbances . . . opportunity for . . . abuse of power,---the probabilities of which you may the more readily estimate when I inform you that several of them are themselves candidates for some of our most important offices. . . .'' (DLC-RTL).