-- Dilemmas of Compromise --


Advice: Thurlow Weed

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Thurlow Weed

Thurlow Weed, New York's powerful Republican boss, editor, and ally of William H. Seward, Lincoln's designated secretary of state, recommended the restoration of the Missouri Compromise line. At times, he even suggested extending the Missouri Compromise line to all the remaining territories, though he rejected the Crittenden Compromise package as "partial and one sided" in favoring the South (see December 18, 1860). He explained that given the inhospitability of the "soil and climate" of the present territories to slavery and given Republican control of the presidency and the administration of the territories, he was "almost prepared to say, that Territories may be safely left to take care of themselves." While thus tilting towards popular sovereignty once Lincoln was safely elected, Weed and his newspaper, the Albany Evening Journal, insisted that they did not favor the surrender of any free territory to slavery. Under the conditions presented by Lincoln's election, no territory would be lost to the South. During a visit to Lincoln in Springfield, Illinois, in December 1860, and in editorials in his newspaper, Weed urged that Republicans offer concessions in light of the seriousness of the secession crisis and the increased likelihood of war.

Weed especially thought that conciliation was necessary hold the upper South in the Union and unite the North. He doubted that the cotton South would change its course, but he hoped that the effect of concessions on the border South and North would halt secession's momentum and avert war. And if war came, the North would be more united and have the moral advantage of having favored compromise.

As one of the most powerful figures in the Republican Party, and a close associate of Seward, Weed's recommendation of an accommodation more satisfactory to the North than the Crittendon proposals received considerable attention in the press and needed to be taken seriously.

Bibliography: Albany Evening Journal, Nov. 24, Dec. 17, Dec. 19, Dec. 24 1860, Jan. 9, Feb. 28, 1861; Potter, Lincoln and His Party, pp. 68-74, 166-67; Nevins, Emergence of Lincoln, 2: 393-94; Van Deusen, Weed, pp. 266-69.

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