A manuscript dealer asked the Papers of Abraham Lincoln staff to make sense of a mysterious Lincoln letter with an unidentified recipient and subject:
Researchers at the Papers of Abraham Lincoln project concluded Lincoln was writing to an ally to ask him to maintain a secret relationship with a political insider during the 1860 election campaign.
Lincoln asked his cohort to “keep up a correspondence” with the person, a phrase that gave researchers their best clue. They ran it through a searchable database of Lincoln’s papers and found several matches.
One was in a letter to Lincoln from fellow attorney and Republican Leonard Swett of Bloomington, Ill.
The two men, it turns out, were conspiring to keep tabs on a New York political figure. The mystery note was Lincoln’s response to Swett’s letter, the researchers surmised.
The subject of the letter was probably Thurlow Weed, a newspaper publisher and politician who ultimately opposed the president’s emancipation policy.