Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Volume 5.
Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865.

Memorandum Concerning J. Wesley Greene [1]

[December, 1862?]

After inquiry, I believe it is true that a man calling himself J. Wesley Greene, and professing to reside at Pittsburg, Pa., called on the President some time in November, and stated to him that he, Greene, had had two interviews with Jeff. Davis, at Richmond, Va., on the last day of October; and also related certain statements which he said Davis had made to him upon the occasion. The President became satisfied that Greene had not seen Davis at all, and that the whole thing was a very shallow attempt at humbuggery. Jeff. Davis can redeem Greene's character if he will, by verifying his statement.

Annotation

[1]   Hertz, II, 961. As printed by Hertz this item is described as ``a manuscript memo.'' But Hertz's date, February, 1865, probably taken from the American Art Association Anderson Galleries Catalog, October 20, 1930, would seem to be incorrect. The New York Tribune for December 11, 1862, prints a similar statement at the end of a news item reprinted from the Chicago Times, Wednesday, December 10, 1862, which gives an account of J. Wesley Greene's visits to Jefferson Davis and to President Lincoln. The Tribune does not, however, credit the statement as Lincoln's, although implying that Lincoln is the source of information, and it seems possible that Lincoln may have written the memorandum in answer to a query from the press on the reliability of Greene's narrative. A letter from Greene to Lincoln, November 11, 1862, reads in part as follows:

``An entire stranger to fame, and almost unknown . . . but at the same time an ardent lover of the country which for nearly fifty years has encompassed me with its protection, I presume to introduce myself to your notice in reference to the . . . termination of the Rebellion and the restoration of the Union.

``One week has but just elapsed since I returned to my home in this city, fresh from two interviews with the controlling man of the rebellious states. I not only found him depressed in spirit, beyond my conception of him, in view of the terriblePage  518 circumstances in which he is placed and the condition of the Confederacy, but I found him anxious for an end of hostilities and a return to the Union. In the last interview he cautiously intimated the terms on which the desired end might be accomplished. They are of a nature which forbids me to commit them to writing from this distance. This much I can say that, while he now deprecates foreign intervention or foreign mediation, the terms are such as may be secretly negotiated, and can in no way reflect upon the Government of which you are the head should they in any future period become known.

``I am no visionary, . . . no speculator, no party demagogue. I am but a plain business man, who in other days became incidentally acquainted with Mr. Davis, an acquaintance which secured his friendship. . . .

``I sincerely and daily pray for the peace and unity and prosperity of my beloved country, again. I honestly believe they can be brought about at an early day, honorably to the North without the continuance of bloodshed and devastation. If, therefore, Your Excellency desires an interview with me on this subject such an order as will convey me to Washington will be promptly complied with.

``Permit me to add, Sir, that I have never intimated this matter to any human being; and desire that it may, at least for the present, be treated confidentially.'' (DLC-RTL).