Mystery Lincoln Letter Addressed to 'My Dear Sir' Is Solved

Monday, 10 Mar 2014 05:30 PM

By Morgan Chilson

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The mystery of a vaguely addressed letter written by Abraham Lincoln has been solved after researchers put clues together from other correspondence from the 16th U.S. president.

The Papers of Abraham Lincoln project, a nonprofit attempting to get all of Lincoln’s paperwork identified and published, determined that a letter addressed to “My dear Sir” and with a small part cut out of it had to do with what The Associated Press called “political intrigue.”

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In the letter, Lincoln asked that the person “keep up a correspondence” with another unnamed individual, and it’s that phrase that helped researchers determine what the letter was about.

Lincoln used that phrase also in a letter to another attorney, Leonard Swett, the AP said. The two men were talking about tracking another political figure, whom Lincoln called “our friend TW of Albany,” in another letter.

On its website, the Papers of Abraham Lincoln project said the “TW” refers to Thurlow Weed, a prominent Republican and newspaper editor in New York. Lincoln wanted Weed’s support, which he ultimately got, but the nonprofit said he didn’t want to appear close to him during the presidential campaign.

“Swett solved the problem by offering to play the intermediary to the East Coast insider, letting Lincoln receive political intelligence from the critical state of New York without having an open correspondence with Weed,” the Project wrote. “This political intrigue likely explains why Swett referred to Weed as “T W” and clipped Weed’s name from Lincoln’s letter.”

In the letter, Lincoln also wrote to Swett, “If you can keep up a correspondence with him without much effort, it will be well enough." A copy of the letter, in Lincoln’s spidery hand-writing, is posted on the Project website.

The fact that researchers were able to identify the date, recipient, and additional information about such a brief letter is an example of why the Project is seeking to put all of Lincoln’s papers in a database, said Project director Daniel W. Stowell on the organization’s website.

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