The Journalists: Henry J. Raymond (1820-1869)
More than other New York news editors, Henry J. Raymond maintained consistently good relations with Mr. Lincoln and regularly visited Washington on political and journalistic missions. President Lincoln called Raymond his "lieutenant-General in politics," according to fellow journalist John Russell Young. "He was the kindliest of men; he had an open ox-like eye, neat, dapper person, which seemed made for an overcoat, a low, placid, decisive voice, argued with you in a Socratic method by asking questions and summing up your answers against you as evidence, that at last, you had found the blessing of conviction. He was never in a hurry, and yet there was no busier person in journalism." He was everything that his journalistic mentor, Horace Greeley, was not - Raymond was practical, debonair, and businesslike. "Raymond was the quiet, critical, somewhat impassive man of affairs, who looked at the whole panorama like the lounger at the club-window, thinking only of its movement and color," wrote Young.1
President Lincoln wrote Raymond in March 1862 a few days after he sent a message to Congress proposing action for the "gradual abolishment of slavery". Said Mr. Lincoln: "I am grateful to the New-York Journals, and not less so to the Times than to others, for their kind notices of the late special Message to Congress. Your paper, however, intimates that the proposition, though well-intentioned, must fail on the score of expense. I do hope you will reconsider this. Have you noticed the facts that less than one half-day's cost of this war would pay for all the slaves in Delaware, at four hundred dollars per head? - that eighty-seven days cost of this war would pay for all in Delaware, Maryland, District of Columbia, Kentucky, and Missouri at the same price? Were those states to take the step, do you doubt that it would shorten the war more than eighty seven days, and thus be an actual saving of expense. Please look at these things, and consider whether there should not be another article in the Times?"2
Raymond was usually open to such influence. He was neither a Radical Republican nor as conservative as his political mentor and fellow editor, Thurlow Weed. He was considerably easier to manager, however, than Weed whose swings of emotion were not quite as wide as those of Raymond's journalistic mentor, Horace Greeley. Raymond was more laid back - as a congratulatory letter to President-elect Lincoln in mid-November 1860 suggests.
I propose to intrude for five minutes on your valuable time:
Raymond was a witness - as many visitors were - to President Lincoln's release in literature and humor - such as Petroleum Nasby and Artemus Ward. In April 1865, Raymond visited the White House and wrote:
The Saturday evening before he left Washington to go to the front, just previous to the capture of Richmond, I was with him from seven o'clock till nearly twelve. It had been one of his most trying days. The pressure of office-seekers was greater at this juncture than I ever knew it be, and he was almost worn out.
Raymond took an active role in the 1864 reelection effort. He compiled a 500-page "History of the Administration of President Lincoln" for use in the campaign. According to Raymond biographer Brown, "He was slated to head the New York delegation [to the National Union Convention in Baltimore], which with its sixty-six votes would be the largest at Baltimore, and that position alone assured him of an important part in the convention's work. Raymond's influence had a broader base than that. Some of it rested on his skill as a parliamentarian, his power as an orator, his broad tolerance and suavity. His ties with Seward and Weed and the friendships made in the years of political activity increased the weight he exerted as editor of the chief Lincoln paper in New York City. Most important of all, as the official biographer of the President, he could be regarded in some things as speaking for Lincoln himself."5
At the convention, Raymond was chosen to draft the party platform and took the lead in insisting on a roll call vote of states on President Lincoln's renomination - in order to avoid appearances of any suppression of dissent. He later established up national campaign headquarters at the Astor House in New York City and coordinated work with Edward Morgan and James Harlan, who chaired the congressional campaign committee.
New York was a hotbed of political intrigue and patronage problems - especially in August 1864 when Republican politicians of all factions were panicking. Like Mr. Lincoln's political generals, Raymond did not always possess the calm under fire that was needed in a battle. Raymond wrote Mr. Lincoln on August 22.
I feel compelled to drop you a line concerning the political condition of the Country as it strikes me. I am in active correspondence with your staunchest friends in every State and from them all I hear but one report. The tide is strongly against us. Hon. E. B. Washburne writes that "were an election to be held now in Illinois we should be beaten". Mr. Cameron writes that Pennsylvania is against us. Gov. Morton writes that nothing but the most stren[u]ous efforts can carry Indiana. This State, according to the best information I can get, would go 50.000 against us to?morrow. And so of the rest.
Raymond went on to propose a peace commission "to make distinct proffers of peace to Davis, as the head of the rebel armies, on the sole condition of acknowledging the supremacy of the Constitution , - all other questions to be settled in convention of the people of all the States? The making of such an offer would require no armistice, no suspension of active war, no abandonment of positions, no sacrifice of consistency."6 Historian Allan Nevins wrote: "Such pessimism had seized some party leaders that Raymond, usually clearheaded and determined, persuaded the National Committee to support him in laying a preposterous suggestion before the President."7 President "Lincoln wanted no more peace talks, but he could hardly brush aside proposals that Raymond as national chairman brought forward," wrote Raymond biographer Francis Brown.8
Mr. Lincoln seemed temporarily unsettled by Raymond. On August 24. 1864, he responded to Raymond in a letter which was effectively revoked in a meeting with Raymond, William H. Seward, Edwin M. Stanton and William P. Fessenden the following day. The original letter proposed:
You will proceed forthwith and obtain, if possible, a conference for peace with Hon. Jefferson Davis, or any person by him authorized for that purpose.
The conclusion of the White House meeting, according to John G. Nicolay, was that Raymond's "plan of sending a commission to Richmond would be worse than losing the Presidential contest - it would be ignominiously surrendering it in advance. Nevertheless the visit of himself and committee here did a very great good. They found the President and Cabinet wide awake to all the necessities of the situation, and went home much encouraged and cheered up."10 There is evidence from Mr. Lincoln's pen that he himself thought his reelection was nearly doomed, but his aides clearly did not.
Nicolay wrote to John Hay on August 25, 1864: "The N.Y. politicians have got a stampede on that is about to swamp everything. Raymond and the National Committee are here today. R[aymond] thinks a commission to Richmond is about the only salt to save us - while the Tycoon sees and says it would be utter ruination. The matter is now undergoing consultation. Weak-kneed d?d fools like Chas. Sumner are in the movement for a new candidate - to supplant the Tycoon. Everything is darkness and doubt and discouragement. Our men see giants in the airy and unsubstantial shadows of the opposition, and are about to surrender without a fight."11 According to biographer Brown, "In the end, 'encouraged and cheered,' the committee issued an optimistic statement of confidence in Lincoln's reelection...and the Times next day denied that the Government had any thought of peace negotiations. 'Its sole and undivided purpose is to prosecute the war until the rebellion is quelled.'"12
Nicolay concluded his letter to Hay: "I think that today and here is the turning point in our crisis. If the President can infect R[aymond]. and his committee with some of his own patience and pluck, we are saved. If our friends will only rub their eyes and shake themselves, and become convinced that they themselves are not dead we shall win the fight overwhelmingly."13 Nicolay wrote Lincoln:
"I did not reach here until noon today, in consequence of the late train of last night coming no farther than Philadelphia.
It was a nasty and brutish campaign, though blessedly short as a result of the Democrats' late convention in August. Although President Lincoln remained publicly above the campaign, the Republican Party, which had nearly dissolved in consternation and trepidation in August, solidified into a strong and effective campaign organization under the leadership of Raymond. He squeezed political appointees in the government for political contributions with the help of Senator James Harlan. The President tacitly approved the operation although he was careful to oppose it when the screws were tightened too tightly or too obviously as they were at the Philadelphia Post Office. Historian Allan Nevins noted that Raymond "was more resourceful and dexterous that the Democratic national chairman, the capitalist-politician August Belmont."15 But one member of the Cabinet, Gideon Welles, strenuously opposed any political interference in his operations, writing in his diary
The President is greatly importuned and pressed by cunning intrigues just at this time. Thurlow Weed and Raymond are abusing his confidence and good nature badly. [John] Hay says they are annoying the President sadly. This he tells Mr. [Gustavus] Fox, who informs me. They want, Hay says, to control the Navy yard but dislike to come to me, for I give them no favorable response. They claim that every mechanic or laborer who does not support the Administration should be turned out of employment. Hay's representations alarmed Fox, who made it a point to call on the President. F. reports that the President was feeling very well over the election returns, and, on the subject of the Navy Yard votes, expressed his intention of not further interfering but will turn the whole matter over to me whenever the politicians call upon him. I have no doubt he thinks so, but when Weed and Raymond, backed by Seward, insist that action must be taken, he will hardly know how to act. His convictions and good sense will place him with me, but they will alarm him with forebodings of disaster if he is not vindictive. Among other things an appeal has been made to him in behalf of Scofield, a convicted fraudulent contractor, who is now in prison to serve out his sentence.16
Horace Greeley (Mr. Lincoln's White House)
John Hay (Mr. Lincoln's White House)
John G. Nicolay
John G. Nicolay (Mr. Lincoln's White House)
William H. Seward
William H. Seward (Mr. Lincoln's White House)
Edwin M. Stanton
Edwin M. Stanton (Mr. Lincoln's White House)
Elihu B. Washburne
Elihu B. Washburne (Mr. Lincoln's White House)
Thurlow Weed (Mr. Lincoln's White House)
Abraham Lincoln and Journalists (Abraham Lincoln's Classroom)