"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Letter from President Lincoln to Erastus Corning and others (June 12, 1863)

Letter from President Lincoln to Erastus Corning and others (June 12, 1863), in 8 Complete Works of Abraham Lincoln, 1862–1863, at 313 (John G. Nicolay & John Hay eds., N.Y., The Tandy-Thomas Co. new ed. 1894):

And yet, let me say that, in my own discretion, I do not know whether I would have ordered the arrest of Mr. Vallandingham. While I cannot shift the responsibility from myself, I hold that, as a general rule, the commander in the field is the better judge of the necessity in any particular case.  Of course I must practise a general directory and revisory power in the matter.

The error in spelling—“Vallandingham” should be “Vallandigham”—appears to be made by Nicolay & Hay, the Complete Works editors, not by Lincoln. The same might also be said for the editors’ use of “practise” rather than “practice.” See Abraham Lincoln to Erastus Corning and Others, [June] 1863, American Memory:  The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress (last visited July 30, 2015) (displaying Lincoln’s original letter), http://tinyurl.com/nrs4ho6 (copy #1), and http://tinyurl.com/p7oa57j (copy #2).  

Good editors are difficult to find. See generally Seth Barrett Tillman, Ex parte Merryman: Myth, History, and Scholarship, 224(2) Mil. L. Rev. (forthcoming Summer 2016) (peer reviewed) (discussing Corning-Lincoln correspondence, and also the Corning-Merryman relationship). 

Seth

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SethBTillman ( @SethBTillman ) 



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