Abraham Lincoln Contacts
in an effort to force the South back into the Union.
Affix the Seal Signed "Abraham Lincoln" Washington, September 26, 1862.
Written four days after the issuance of his Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, President
Lincoln is here authorizing and directing "the Secretary of State to affix the Seal of the United States to the envelope of a letter addressed to His Holiness Pope Pius IX (Mr Blatchford's
credence) dated this day and signed by me and for so doing this shall be his warrant." Housed within a lovely, quarter bound black leather and brown cloth over boards with integral chemise with
five raised bands and gilt titles and decoration on the spine.
The letter referred to in the document is the appointment of the aforementioned "Mr. Blatchford" as Minister to the Papal States. The original letter, not included here, also dated September 26, 1862, reads in part: "Great and Good Friend: I have made choice of Richard Milford Blatchford, one of our distinguished citizens, to reside near Your Holiness in the character of Minister Resident of the United States of America. He is well informed of the relative interests of the two countries and of our sincere desire to cultivate and strengthen the friendship and good correspondence between us . . . I have entire confidence that he will render himself acceptable to Your Holiness by his constant endeavors to preserve and advance the welfare and interests of both nations. I therefore request Your Holiness to receive him favorably and to give full credence to whatever he shall say on the part of the United States."
At the beginning of the Civil War, New York lawyer Richard M. Blatchford (1798-1875) became a prominent member of the Union Defense Committee, a citizens group whose goal was to assist the Federal government in forcing the rebellious Southern states back into the Union. He was soon appointed by President Lincoln to a committee charged with the distribution of money which had been collected to recruit soldiers for the Federal army. By late summer 1862, he was appointed ambassador to the Papal States.
Pope Pius IX indirectly proposed mediation to Blatchford in order to settle the American Civil War, but qualified the proposal by saying that any such proposal, to be accepted, should be tendered by a power so unimportant as to irritate neither the pride nor the sensitiveness of the American nation; that it should be offered by some smaller country that had no interest in diminishing the power of the American government, a country that had neither army nor navy, and whose very humbleness made the offer of her services acceptable. He then added that the Papal forces were only a few battalions of soldiers and no navy except a single corvette, which was then useless.
Cardinal Antonelli told the same Blatchford that if he had the honor to be an American citizen, he would do everything in his power to preserve the nation undivided.
With the Civil War looking more and more like a stalemate to the powers of Europe, Great Britain and France began to wonder whether they
should relent and recognize the Southern Confederacy. U.S. Minister to Great Britain, Charles Francis Adams, warned the British government that recognition of the Confederacy risked an open war with
the United States. The government of Britain offered to mediate between North and South, but decided to hold off on their proposal until they heard news of the results of Robert E. Lee's invasion of
the North. Pope Pius IX, arguably one of the most powerful monarchs in the world, favored mediation, but through the urging of Blatchford, remained neutral. Lee was defeated at Battle of Antietam on
September 17, 1862, and Lincoln released his preliminary emancipation proclamation five days later. The British and French, recognizing a turn in momentum toward the North, withheld their recognition
of the South.
Though Confederate States never gained international recognition, a letter from the pontiff, addressing Jefferson Davis as "The Honorable President of the Confederate States of America" was the closest they came. After the war, Robert E. Lee, a devout Episcopalian, reportedly kept a portrait of Pius IX in his home.
Also shown is an Engraved Portrait of Pius IX, published in 1874 by Johnson, Wilson & Co., New York. The pope is seen standing, holding a handkerchief in his left hand, right hand raised in benediction. His signature, in facsimile, appears below.