Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Volume 1.
Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865.

Statement Regarding Harry Wilton [1]

June 25, 1841

It having been charged in some of the public prints, that HARRY WILTON, [2] late United States Marshal for the District of Illinois, had used his office for political effect, in the appointment of Deputies for the taking of the census for the year 1840, we, the undersigned, were called upon by Mr. Wilton to examine the papers in his possession relative to these appointments, and to ascertain therefrom the correctness or incorrectness of such charge. We accompanied Mr. Wilton to a room, and examined the matter as fully as we could with the means afforded us. The only sources of information, bearing on the subject, which were submitted to us, were the letters, &c. recommending and opposing the various appointments made, and Mr. Wilton's verbal statements concerning the same. From these letters, &c., it appears that in some instances appointments were made in accordance with the recommendations of leading whigs, and in opposition to those of leading democrats; among which instances, the appointments in Scott, Wayne, Madison and Lawrence are the strongest. According to Mr. Wilton's statement, of the 76 appointments we examined, 54 were of democrats, 11 of whigs, and 11 of unknown politics.

Page  259The chief ground of complaint against Mr. Wilton, as we had understood it, was because of his appointment of so many democratic candidates for the legislature; thus giving them a decided advantage over their whig opponents---and consequently our attention was directed rather particularly to that point. We found that there were many such appointments, among which were those in Tazewell, McLean, Iriquois [sic], Coles, Menard, Wayne, Washington, Fayette, &c.; and we did not learn that there was ONE instance in which a whig candidate for the legislature had been appointed. There was no written evidence before us, showing us at what time those appointments were made; but Mr. Wilton stated that they all, with one exception, were made before those appointed became candidates for the legislature; and the letters, &c. recommending them all bear date before, and most of them long before those appointed were publicly announced as candidates.

We give the foregoing naked facts, and draw no conclusions from them. BENJ. S. EDWARDS, [3]

June 25, 1841. A. LINCOLN.


[1]   Sangamo Journal, July 2, 1841.

[2]   Appointed U. S. Marshal on June 28, 1833, and reappointed May 24, 1838. The Sangamo Journal had made the charge May 7, 1841.

[3]   Benjamin Stephenson Edwards, youngest son of Ninian Edwards and brother of Ninian W. Edwards, was apparently not satisfied with this joint statement. Immediately following the joint statement in the Journal appears Edwards' individual statement, dated June 24, in which he specifies, ``I am convinced that in no case has he [Wilton] used the office of Marshal for party or political purposes.'' The Journal, however, comments at length on ``the facts here presented, and others of a similar character, to which we might refer, [which] led the whig party to believe that the office was used for political purposes.''