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Lot 196

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Charles Francis Adams Shares Memories of President Lincoln and His Assassination

"It seems as if we were all afloat in the midst of a boundless Ocean."

In this letter to Lincoln collector O. H. Oldroyd, former Ambassador Charles Francis Adams reflects on his brief meetings with Lincoln and his feelings on hearing of Lincoln’s assassination.

CHARLES FRANCIS ADAMS, Autograph Letter Signed, to Osborn H. Oldroyd, August 10, 1880, Quincy, Massachusetts. 2 pp., 4.875ʺ x 8ʺ. Expected folds; beautiful signature; very good. Ex. The Forbes Collection.

Complete Transcript:

O. H. Oldroyd – Springfield Illinois
Quincy 10 August 1880
My Dear Sir
Your note has been much too long on my table unanswered.
Personally I never saw President Lincoln more than twice in my life, and then for a very few minutes. He then frankly told me that my mission to Great Britain had not altogether his selection, but I believe he became well satisfied afterwards – so on the other hand I became from a very lukewarm admirer of his, one of the most appreciative of his high qualities, and mourners of his great loss. I shall never forget the moment in London the tidings of this loss were brought to me. It seems as if we were all afloat in the midst of a boundless Ocean.
I have still in my possession some of the many manifestations made by the people of Great Britain to me of their deep sympathy with us in this disaster.
Were I perfectly sure they would be properly guarded from all risk of destruction by time and neglect, I think I might be induced to deposit the greater part of them as a permanent memorial. But such things are very apt to be neglected by time and indifference – unless properly secured as with me.
Very truly yours
Charles Francis Adams

Charles Francis Adams (1807-1886) was born in Boston, the son of future President John Quincy Adams and grandson of former President John Adams. He graduated from Harvard College in 1825, studied law with Daniel Webster, gained admission to the bar, and established a law practice in Boston. He served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives (1840-1843) and the Massachusetts Senate (1843-1845). He purchased the Boston Whig newspaper in 1846 and became its editor. He also began a career as a historical editor, publishing several volumes about his grandparents and parents. In 1848, he was the vice-presidential nominee of the Free Soil Party, running with former President Martin Van Buren as the presidential nominee. He won election to the U.S. House of Representatives as a Republican in 1858, serving from 1859 to 1861, when President Abraham Lincoln appointed him as ambassador to Great Britain, a position previously held by both his grandfather and his father. He served in that position from 1861 to 1868. He successfully prevented British diplomatic recognition of the Confederacy and monitored Confederate efforts to obtain ships from Great Britain. After the war, he represented the United States in the arbitration of damages caused by Confederate warships built by the British. In 1872, the British government agreed to pay $15 million in damages. Adams returned to Boston, where he declined the presidency of Harvard University but became one of its overseers. He also built the first presidential library in the United States to honor his father John Quincy Adams. It is now part of the Adams National Historical Park in Quincy, Massachusetts.

Osborn H. Oldroyd (1842-1930) was born in Ohio and enlisted in the 20th Ohio Volunteer Infantry in 1861. He kept a journal during his military service and published portions in 1885 as A Soldier’s Story of the Siege of Vicksburg. In 1865, he served as steward of the National Soldiers' Home in Dayton, Ohio. He married Lida A. Stoneberger in 1873, and they had one daughter. They moved to Springfield, Illinois, where they rented the former home of Abraham Lincoln, which Oldroyd converted into a museum in 1884 to display his growing collection of Lincoln memorabilia. When Robert T. Lincoln donated the home to the State of Illinois in 1893, Oldroyd moved his family and collection to the Petersen House in Washington, D.C., where Lincoln died. In 1917, he published The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln, which became a popular success. In 1925, Oldroyd sold his 3,000-piece collection of Lincoln memorabilia to the U.S. government for $50,000.

Ex. The Forbes Collection. Malcolm Forbes (1919-1990), American owner-publisher of Forbes magazine, and consummate collector, amassed one of the most substantial and broad collections of such breadth and depth that it filled a half-dozen residences, and sat on three continents. Many of his manuscripts were sold in multi-million-dollar sales by Christie's in the early 2000s. The Forbes name is considered to be the apex of provenance when attached to an item like the one above. We are honored to have been chosen by the family to sell at auction the substantial balance of the collection.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


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