Lincoln ALS Re: to Copperhead Judge Who Became Harsh Wartime Critic of Lincoln's Administration

This brief letter introduces Henry Clay Whitney to Judge Buckner S. Morris of Chicago, who had served as judge of the Seventh Judicial Circuit in Illinois from 1851 to 1855. Whitney, a younger attorney whom Lincoln had befriended in Urbana, Illinois, while riding the Eighth Judicial Circuit, had recently begun a partnership with M. R. M. Wallace in Chicago. Wallace had studied law with his older brother and T. Lyle Dickey in Ottawa. Dickey had been a judge of the Ninth Judicial Circuit from 1848 to 1851, and both Morris and Dickey strongly supported the reelection of Stephen A. Douglas to the U.S. Senate in 1858.

Ironically, Morris became a leader of the Copperhead Sons of Liberty in Chicago during the Civil War and made many speeches condemning President Lincoln and his administration. His speeches in the fall of 1864 got him arrested for conspiracy to free Confederate prisoners from Camp Douglas near Chicago. His wife was arrested in mid-December 1864 for involvement in the Confederate plot to release prisoners from Camp Douglas and sent there for confinement. She made a confession in February 1865 of aiding escaped prisoners and was released and ordered out of Union lines "into the so-called Southern Confederacy." Because she confessed, however, she was instead permitted to go to her father's home near Lexington, Kentucky. Judge Morris was acquitted in April by the military commission in Cincinnati.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN, Autograph Letter Signed, to Buckner S. Morris, May 3, 1858, Springfield, Illinois. 1 p., 5" x 8", matted to 4.75" x 7.5"; framed with image of Lincoln to 18" x 15". Expected folds; some soiling on edges.

Springfield, May 3, 1858
Hon: B. S. Morris
My dear Sir
Permit me to introduce my friend and brother lawyer, Henry C. Whitney. He has gone into business in your city with Mr Wallace, Judge Dickey's late partner. At Urbana, in Champaign County, he has been one of our cherished friends for the last three or four years.
Your Obt Servt
A. Lincoln.

Buckner S. Morris (1800-1879) was born in Kentucky and admitted to the bar in 1827. He won election to the Kentucky General Assembly in 1830 and 1832. Morris moved to Chicago in 1834 and became one of the city's earliest leaders. He practiced law with John J. Brown and became the city's second mayor in 1838. In 1851, Morris was elected judge of the Seventh Illinois Circuit and remained in that office until 1855. The following year, he ran unsuccessfully for governor as the Know Nothing candidate. In 1858, he was one of the directors of the Great Western Insurance Company and supported the reelection of Stephen A. Douglas to the U.S. Senate. During the Civil War, opponents considered him to be a Copperhead. In speeches to the Order of the Sons of Liberty, of which he was a "Grand Seignior," in the autumn of 1864, Morris condemned President Lincoln's "tyranny" and said that many of the country's best men were "rotting in Lincoln's bastiles." He advocated setting the prisoners free from Camp Douglas and sending abolitionists and "Lincoln hirelings" "to hell in a hand-basket." He declared that the tyrannical reign of "Abraham the First" was quickly drawing to a close. Military authorities arrested him in November 1864 for conspiring to release Confederate prisoners of war from Camp Douglas, but he was later acquitted and released after taking the oath of allegiance.

Henry Clay Whitney (1831-1905) was born in Maine and received a classical education at Augusta College in Kentucky and Farmer's College in Ohio. He then studied at law schools in Cincinnati and Chicago. In 1854, he moved to Urbana, Illinois, where he began to practice law and became a friend and political ally of Abraham Lincoln. In 1857, he married Sarah Ann Snyder, with whom he had five children. During the Civil War, Whitney served as Assistant U.S. Paymaster in Louisville, Kentucky. After the war, he settled in Kansas, where he practiced law and edited a newspaper. He published Life on the Circuit with Lincoln (1892) and a two-volume biography of Lincoln—Lincoln the Citizen and Lincoln the President (1907, 1892).

Martin R. M. Wallace (1829-1902) was born in Ohio and moved with his family to Illinois in 1834. He graduated from the Rock River Seminary, where his father was a trustee. He studied law with his older brother William H. L. Wallace (1821-1862) and Theophilus Lyle Dickey (1811-1885) in Ottawa, Illinois. He was admitted to the bar in 1858 and moved to Chicago, where he formed a partnership with Henry Clay Whitney and later with Thomas Dent (1831-1924). In 1861, he helped organize the 4th Illinois Volunteer Cavalry and received a commission as major in the regiment under Col. Theophilus Lyle Dickey. He fought in the battles of Fort Henry, Fort Donelson, and Shiloh. In December 1862, Wallace took command of the regiment and was promoted to lieutenant colonel in January 1863 and to colonel in June 1863. He was mustered out in November 1864. In 1866, he was appointed to the honorary rank of brevet brigadier general. After the war, he served as United States Assessor for the Chicago District and as a judge of the Cook County Court (1868-1876).

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