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44. Lincoln to Gen. Samuel R. Curtis on proposed exile of Southern sympathizer Samuel B. McPheeters and church governance


44. Lincoln to Gen. Samuel R. Curtis on proposed exile of Southern sympathizer Samuel B. McPheeters and church governance


Letter from Abraham Lincoln to General Samuel R. Curtis regarding proposed banishment of St. Louis minister Samuel B. McPheeters for southern sympathies. Lincoln expresses his intent to leave the decision up to Curtis but emphasizes his belief that the government should not intervene in the operations of churches in response to individiual members' actions. January 2, 1863. Copy.




Becki Plunkett and Stephen Vincent


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State Historical Society of Iowa, Des Moines

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Special Collections: Samuel R. Curtis Papers

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Executive Mansion[,] Washington Jan[uar]y 2[,] 1863 Maj. Genl Curtis[,] My Dear Sir[,] Yours of Dec[.] 29th by the hand of Mr. Strong is just received. The day I telegraphed you suspending the order in relation to Dr[.] [Samuel B.] McPheeters he with Mr[.] [Edward] Bates the Attorney General appeared before me and left with me a copy of the order mentioned. The Dr. also showed me the copy of an oath which he said he had taken which is indeed very strong and specific. He also verbally assured me that he had constantly prayed in church for the President and the Government as he had always done before the present war. In looking over the recitals in your order I do not see that this matter of the prayer as he states it is negative; nor that any violation of his oath is charged nor in fact that any thing specific is alledged [sic] against him. The charges are all general-- that he has a rebel wife and rebel relation that he sympathizes with rebels and that he exercises rebel influence. Now after talking with him I tell you frankly, I believe he does sympathize with the rebels; but the question remains whither [sic] such a man of unquestionable good moral character, who has taken such an oath as he and cannot ever be charged of violating it and who can be charged with no other specific act or omission can with safety to the Government be exiled upon the suspicion of his secret sympathies. But I agree that this must be left to you, who are on the spot; and if after all you think the public good requires his removal my suspension of the order is withdrawn only with this qualification that the time during the suspension is not to be counted against him. I have promised him this. But I must add that the U.S. Government must not as by this order undertake to run the churches. When an individual in a church or out of it becomes dangerous to the public interest he must be checked, but let the churches as such take care of themselves. It will not do for the U.S. to appoint Trustees[,] Supervisors or other agents for the churches[.] Yours very truly[,] A. Lincoln P.S. The committee composed of misters [?] [James E.] Yeatman & [G. E.] Filley (but [James O.] Broadhead not attending) have presented your letter and the memorial of sundry citizens. On the whole the subject embraced exercise your best judgement [sic], with a sole view of the public interest and I will not interfere without hearing you[.] A. Lincoln Jan[uar]y 3d 1863