President Lincoln and California

Happy Birthday to President Abraham Lincoln, born on February 12, 1809.

Although he never visited California, he was very aware of its importance in the Union and hoped one day to see it for himself.

To his life-long friend Charles Maltby, who served as Superintendent of Indian Affairs for California, he wrote:

“I have long desired to see California; the production of her gold mines has been a marvel to me, and her stand for the Union, her generous offerings to the Sanitary Commission, and her loyal representatives have endeared your people to me; and nothing would give me more pleasure than a visit to the Pacific shore…”

Not long before he left for Ford’s Theater on the last evening of his life, Lincoln discussed California with House Speaker Schuyler Colfax (for whom Colfax, California is named). Colfax was about to leave on a trip to California and Lincoln said to him:

“During the war, when we were adding a couple of million dollars every day to our national debt, I did not care about encouraging the increase in the volume of our precious metals. We had the country to save first. But now that the rebellion is overthrown and we know pretty nearly the amount of our national debt, the more gold and silver we mine makes the payment of that debt so much the easier.

Tell the miners from me, that I shall promote their interests to the utmost of my ability; because their prosperity is the prosperity of the nation, and we shall prove in a very few years that we are indeed the treasury of the world.”

quoted in “Abraham Lincoln and California ”

If only Lincoln had lived! As a promoter of the transcontinental railroad, he might have been on the first train the California, to see her marvelous gold mines and prosperous cities. John Bidwell, who met Lincoln in 1864, would have been happy to welcome him to his home in Chico.

About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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3 Responses to President Lincoln and California

  1. Suzanne Stone says:

    Thank you for this especially informative post! If only Lincoln could have come to California…what might have been. Hope to visit Chico and treat you to lunch in the spring.

  2. Marian Ware says:

    So interesting to read President Lincoln’s comments about California , and to think about John Bidwell Meeting him.

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