Our Collection

At the Institute’s core is the Gilder Lehrman Collection, one of the great archives in American history. More than 70,000 items cover five hundred years of American history, from Columbus’s 1493 letter describing the New World to soldiers’ letters from World War II and Vietnam. Explore primary sources, visit exhibitions in person or online, or bring your class on a field trip.

Johnson, Cave (1793-1866) to P. G. Washington

High-resolution images are available to schools and libraries via subscription to American History, 1493-1943. Check to see if your school or library already has a subscription. Or click here for more information. You may also order a pdf of the image from us here.

Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC02823 Author/Creator: Johnson, Cave (1793-1866) Place Written: Nashville, Tennessee Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 6 December 1859 Pagination: 3 p. : docket ; 25 x 20 cm.

Summary of Content: Discusses the ownership of an unspecified paper, mentioning several persons associated with the paper's publication. Recommended Washington's brother to one of the paper's editors. Comments that he is no longer engaged in politics, and is disappointed in the Democratic party. Discusses the Democratic Party Convention scheduled to be held in Charleston, South Carolina in April 1860. Of the candidates for nomination at the convention, prefers James Guthrie of Kentucky over Stephen Douglas. Also mentions candidate Daniel S. Dickinson. Writes, "The present position of the Slavery question operates most unfortunately upon our colored population... in every respect their condition [is] made worse whilst strong efforts are now being made in the general assembly to drive out all the free colored population or force them again into slavery an act of cruelty and injustice which I hope we may be able to defeat- there is no danger from them here and but little inconvenience felt from their presence- the most that we should do would be to prevent more from coming in from other states & allow no more to be emancipated." Further discusses politics and slavery, mentioning President James Buchanan, former Governor of Tennessee and future President Andrew Johnson, and others.

Background Information: Johnson was a United States Representative from Tennessee 1829-1836 and 1839-1844, and was Postmaster General of the United States 1845-1849.

Full Transcript: Nashville
Dec 6th. 1859
Dear Sir,
I recd yours of the 24th Novr. at the proper time & delayed a reply until I could see some of those interested in the paper & ...consult with them as to a new Editor. Our friend Eastman owned one third and the still more unfortunate Poindexter owned a sixth and no permanent arrangement can be made, until they have administrators appointed by the Court - Dunington owns a sixth & Griffith a third and the paper will be edited by Dunington until the other interests are represented. I mentioned to them the name of your brother, of whose abilities I formed a very favorable opinion many years ago. I also mentioned his name to Govr. Johnson who visited here just before his departure for Washington. I think it probable that A O P Nicholson would have more influence than any other man. both the surviving Editor & proprietors came here from his town (Columbus) and are understood to be warmly his friends. You had best advise [Lund] to see him in Washington. I should be much gratified to see him as the Editor of that paper though I have not heard a word of him since I left Washington. I am now entirely out of politics & shall continue so though I can not feel less interest now in the success of the Democratic party than at any former period. You have been correctly informed as to my preference among Southern men for the succession. I have long had a very high estimate of the talents of Mr Guthrie, his sterling integrity, and above all [2] his ferventness - he can say no - the horde of lobby jobbers would have no influence on him
The Southern vote it is probable could be brought to [unite] upon any safe & sound man on the question of Slavery and will probably be influenced in the Charleston Convention by the supposed availability of the person for whom they vote.
I know of no man in the South qualified for the office who would have a better chance of uniting it than Mr. Guthrie - if his Northern friends [struck: should] make such demonstrations in his behalf as to [struck: but as] [inserted: give up ground proven their] hope of [selling him in their Northern States] for him. I [inserted: would] not doubt his selection. I do not think [Dougless] has a chance for a Southern vote at Charleston. He will be as weak then as he is now in the House. Dickinson would unite the South better than any other Northern man - We could carry it for Seymour but with difficulty.
The present position of the Slavery question operates most unfortunately upon our colored population. The whites are much excited, more watchful, more restrictions placed upon the movements [inserted: of slaves] & in every respect their condition made worse, whilst strong efforts are now being made in the General Assembly to drive out all the free colored population or force them again into slavery, an act of cruelty & injustice which I hope we may be able to defeat. There is no danger from them here and but little inconvenience felt from their presence - The most that we should do would be to prevent more from coming in from other States & allow no more to be emancipated. [3] Our laws now prohibit emancipation unless removed from the State. I have not yet met with a single man in favor of re opening the slave trade and but few who will ask or [expect] Congress to afford any additional protection to that given by the Constitution, for slavery in the territories in this Section. The extreme hostilities assumed by Govr. A.G. Brown [inserted: of Miss.] and his followers are but little less objectionable than the absurdity of [Giddings,] Beecher & Co. We intend to stand by the position of the President - non interference with the slavery question by Congress either [such prohibition in or enclosure] [struck: for] the territories. If the territorial Legislatures shall interfere for its exclusion by "unfriendly legislation" or [inserted: favor] its introduction, before the formation of their State Constitutions; the parties injured will find ample remedies in the Courts of the U.S. the same protection given to [strikeout] every other kind of [pro] party - you may rely on it, whatever may happen, our noble State will be ever found maintaining the Union and the Constitution as interpreted by Jackson & Polk & enforced in the Cincinnatti platform. I beg pardon for troubling you with such a [dish] of politics. I have not written as much for years & will not probably do so again. I quit the Bank the 1st of Jany - and shall leave it as we did the P O D in the best possible condition. I shall return to Clarksville, & the little time left me be given to my boys. My health is better now than when I left Washington or at any time since & if it continues I may visit Washington in May.

I remain truly
yr friend
C Johnson
P G Washington Esq

[docket]
Nashville 16 Dec 59
Hon Cave Johnson
Secry
[P.Mg 1845]
See More

People: Johnson, Cave, 1793-1866
Buchanan, James, 1791-1868
Guthrie, James, 1792-1869
Douglas, Stephen Arnold, 1813-1861
Dickinson, Daniel Stevens, 1800-1866

Historical Era: National Expansion and Reform, 1815-1860

Subjects: African American HistoryEnslaved peopleJournalismPoliticsDemocratic PartyElectionGovernment and CivicsAbolitionSlaveryImmigration and MigrationFreemenEmancipationPresident

Sub Era: Age of Jackson

Order a Copy Citation Guidelines for Online Resources