Lincoln and Leadership: Military, Political, and Religious Decision Making

By Randall M. Miller | Go to book overview
Save to active project

Seeing Lincoln’s
Blind Memorandum

Matthew Pinsker

A few days after his reelection on Tuesday, November 8, 1864, President Abraham Lincoln made a startling revelation to his inner circle. According to the diary of aide John Hay, the president “took out a paper from his desk” at the Friday morning cabinet meeting, and said, ‘Gentleman do you remember last summer I asked you all to sign your names to the back of a paper of which I did not show you the inside? This is it.” Lincoln then directed Hay to open the mysterious note, which had been “pasted up in so singular a style that it required some cutting to get it open.” The text of the document, dated from the Executive Mansion on Tuesday, August 23, 1864, read in its entirety: “This morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probable that this Administration will not be re-elected. Then it will be my duty to so co-operate with the President elect, as to save the Union between the election and the inauguration; as he will have secured his election on such ground that he can not possibly save it afterwards.”1 The sixty-word statement had been signed “A. Lincoln” and was endorsed on the reverse side by the seven cabinet officers at that time. Postmaster General Montgomery Blair, one of August signers, had since been fired. Lincoln now explained to the others that his original purpose had been to outline a “course of action,” which he had “solemnly resolved on” during a period “when as yet we had no adversary, and seemed to have no friends.” Lincoln described how he had been expecting the Democrats to nominate General George McClellan, and planned in the event of Little Mac's victory to confront his former subordinate “and talk matters over with him.” Lincoln suggested that he had been prepared to concede that McClellan was “stronger” and had “more influence with the American people than I,” but since he retained the “executive power of the Government” until March 4, the two men would need to work together “to try to save the country.” Lincoln’s proposal to McClellan would have been straightforward: “You raise as many troops as you possibly can for this final trial, and I will devote all of my energies to assisting and finishing the war.”

Hay refrained from commenting on this unprecedented offer, but the twentyseven-year-old made sure to include within his diary a withering response from


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Lincoln and Leadership: Military, Political, and Religious Decision Making


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 144

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?