Benton, Thomas Hart, Jr.
Autograph Letter Signed, Marshalltown, Iowa, June 11, 1866 to Edmund Cooper, Washington City

quarto, 3 pages, in very good, clean and legible condition. Cooper was the Private Secretary and confidant of President Andrew Johnson.

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              Written during the first year of bitter conflict between radical Republicans in Congress and Andrew Johnson who had succeeded to the Presidency after Lincoln’s assassination, this letter of recommendation for federal appointment of a “leading Republican” who “gave Lincoln & Johnson the most cordial and hearty support … last fall he cooperated with us in our conservative move and … reduced the radical Republican majority in this county … an unfaltering friend of the President in whom he may implicitly rely…”

               At the Republican State Convention the previous year, Benton and his “conservative” colleagues had opposed a resolution that passed in favor of Negro suffrage, its “radical Republican” proponent “backing up Congress squarely in opposition to the Administration…” Pasted to the letter is a newspaper clipping of a statement Benton and his friends had signed: “We cordially endorse the restoration policy of President Johnson as wise, patriotic, constitutional and in harmony with the loyal sentiment and purpose of the people in the suppression of the rebellion [and] … with the declared policy of the late President Lincoln, the action of Congress and the pledges given during the war”


Benton was a nephew and namesake of the powerful United States Senator who had been the architect of “manifest Destiny.” He had been a Union General during the Civil War and the first year of Reconstruction, serving as Military Governor of Little Rock, Arkansas after its capture from the Confederates. When he wrote this letter to Johnson’s White House, Benton had returned home to accept a lucrative presidential appointment as a US Collector of Revenue. A revealing letter about post-war tensions within the Republican Party.