Saturday, February 04, 2006

Consul Edward Lewis Baker

Edward Lewis Baker (not to be confused with Edward Dickenson Baker) played a very important and intimate role in the political life of Abraham Lincoln. As editor and proprietor of The Illinois State Journal, Baker served as Lincoln's mouthpiece during the presidential campaign of 1860 and particularly during the period between Lincoln's election in November, 1860 and his inauguration in March, 1861.

Edward L. Baker's relationship with Abraham Lincoln extended beyond politics. Baker was married to Julia Cook Edwards, the daughter of Ninian Wirt Edwards and Elizabeth Todd. Elizabeth Todd was the sister of Mary Todd Lincoln, so Julia was Mrs. Lincoln's niece. The Edward L. Baker family accompanied the Abraham Lincoln family on their trip to Washington D.C. and attended both inaugurals.

Apparently relying on his father-in-law, Ninian W. Edwards, for the necessary funds, E.L. Baker bought The Illinois State Journal in partnership with William Bailhache, and assumed the position of editor in 1855. Edwards, in turn, later found it necessary to borrow money from Lincoln to meet his expenses as he describes them in a letter to the president. Historian Paul Angle, in his book Here I Have Lived, places Lincoln in the office of the Journal editor when receiving the news of his nomination to the Republican presidential ticket in 1860.

Letters in the Library of Congress' Lincoln Papers reveal an intriguing story directly involving Edward Lewis Baker. In 1863, several of Lincoln's influential friends in Springfield were organized by Jesse Dubois to complain to the president about what they viewed as corruption and treachery in the Quartermasters and Commissary departments. Through a letter-writing campaign to the president, Dubois, Hatch, William Yates, Rev. Francis Springer and others accused Ninian W. Edwards (Lincoln's brother-in-law) and William Bailhache (Baker's business partner) of awarding contracts to the enemies of the administration, particularly associates of former Governor Matteson, a Democrat. Edwards, it was pointed out in the letters, voted for Stephen Douglas in the 1860 election and his brother Benjamin Edwards led a bitter revolt within the Republican ranks a few years earlier, finally going over to the Democrats, that led to the estrangement of many long time friends in Springfield.

A letter written by Jacob Bunn to President Lincoln accused Edward L. Baker of profiting from kickbacks for the controversial contracts. It is doubtful that Baker was ever made aware of the accusation. Bunn was Baker's banker in Springfield and used his knowledge of the bank accounts of the accused as evidence, saying they were depositing far more money than their salaries provided.

The Lincoln Papers also include letters written in defense of the accused by Edwards, Bailhache, Baker and Orville Browning.

Refereeing this conflict between his family and his friends took up precious hours of Lincoln's time leading up to and extending beyond the Battle of Gettysburg, and all of the letter-writers are duly apologetic for the imposition. Not wishing to upset his friends or besmirch the honor of his extended family members and their associates, Edwards and Bailhache were replaced and transferred to other duties, which brought a rather angry response from Baker, who continued to lobby on behalf of his friend and business partner.

In 1869 Baker was appointed United States Assessor in Internal Revenue, and in 1873 he was offered the position of U.S. Consul at Buenos Aires, Argentina Republic. He left Springfield for his duties in South America, March 17, 1874. He died in Buenos Aires on July 8, 1897 as a result of an accident. His Argentine friends erected a beautiful monument to him over his grave in the Edwards' family plot at Oak Ridge Cemetary. The bas-relief image of him above is a detail of that monument.

Here are some passages from Paul M. Angle's "Here I Have Lived: A History of Lincoln's Springfield" that mention Baker:

In at least one instance newspaper intemperance resulted in physical violence. Early in September [1858] E.L. Baker, the editor of the Journal, charged John A. McClernand with the authorship of a Register article which he had found offensive. Shortly afterward McClernand met Baker on the street, denied that he had written the article in question, and demanded that he publish a correction of his statement. Baker answered that he had nothing to retract, whereupon McClernand belabored him with his cane until bystanders stopped the fracas.

* * *

But though Lincoln himself was inflexible in his refusal to announce a definite policy, there were other indications of his attitude which observers lost no time in utilizing. One such was the editorial column of the Illinois State Journal, whose editor, E.L. Baker, was a cousin by marriage of Mrs. Lincoln and Lincoln's own friend and supporter. Disclaiming any intention of speaking for the President-elect, Baker left no doubt of his own attitude. Neither South Carolina nor any other state could dissove the Union by passing resolutions to that effect. "Disunion, by armed force, is TREASON," he wrote in an editorial so forceful that it was reprinted all over the country, "and treason must and will be put down at all hazards. This Union is not, will not, and cannot be dissolved until this Government is overthrown by traitors who have raised the disunion flag. Can they overthrow it? We think not. 'They may disturb its peace -- they may disrupt the course of its prosperity -- they may cloud its reputation for stability -- but its tranquility will be restored, its prosperity will return, and the stain upon its national character will be transfered and remain an eternal blot on the memory of those who caused the disorder.' Let the secessionists understand it -- let the press proclaim it -- let it fly on the wings of lightening, and fall like a thunderbolt on those now plotting treason in convention, that the Republican party, that the great North, aided by hundreds of thousands of patriotic men in the slave States, have determined to preserve the Union -- peacably if they can, forcibly if they must!"

* * *

"Within a few months of Lincoln's inauguration Dubios was angered by the administration's coolness towards men he had recommended for office. Herndon compained of Lincoln's slowness in attacking slavery -- "Does he suppose he can crush -- squelch out this huge rebellion by pop guns filled with rose water?" Conkling thought the President weak and half-hearted. Baker of the Journal inveighed against the "dilly-dallying of the Government with the Southern traitors."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

car insurance quote online uk
aig car insurance
online car insurance
general car insurance
collector car insurance
cheap car insurance quote uk
cheap car insurance uk
car insurance rate
cheap car insurance for young driver
car insurance for woman
washington car insurance
car insurance comparison
cheapest car insurance
allstate car insurance
geico car insurance
free car insurance quote
direct car insurance
california car insurance
general car insurance
cheap car insurance quote
car insurance comparison
car insurance rating
infinity car insurance
young driver car insurance
fresno car insurance
collector car insurance
car insurance group
best car insurance company
discount car insurance
best car insurance company

Random Keyword: :)
car insurance quote canada

9:38 PM  
Blogger Pamela Pi said...


What is Edward L. Baker's relationship to "Willis E. Baker"? Recently at Salvation Army, I found & purchased a First Edition (1866) of "A Rebel WasClerk's Diary, Vol 1", which is in pretty good shape despite it's age, with Willis E. Baker's hand-written signature inside the front cover, as well as a sticker with the name (type, not a hand-written sig) "Julia Edwards Baker" on it & have been doing some research on the internet. I understand Julia was a rather colorful character from what I gather, & that she was married to Edward L. Baker, who was a consul in Argentina, but so was "Willis E. Baker" (a consul in Argentina), from what I found.

Willis E. Baker's signature is also dated "June 1893", so I know Willis was alive at that time.

Thanks for any info you can provide.

5:29 AM  
Blogger Ed Cerutti said...

Willis Edward Baker (my great-grandfather) was the second son of Edward Lewis Baker. He was the son of Julia Edwards Baker (maiden name Julia Cook Edwards) who was married to Consul Edward L. Baker. Willis E. Baker served as a consul in Rosario, Argentina, and remained in the country until his death.

Julia Baker was indeed a colorful character, and there were a number of interesting stories told about her.

If you have any additional insights from the book that you found, I would be extremely interested.

Ed Cerutti

1:07 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home