The Bixby Letter

By Michael Burlingame
Chancellor Naomi B. Lynn Distinguished
Chair in Lincoln Studies, University of Illinois
Springfield and a Director of The Abraham
Lincoln Association

In 1995, the Journal of The Abraham Lincoln Association (JALA) ran an article, “New Light on the Bixby Letter,” which argued that Lincoln’s much admired condolence letter was actually composed by John Hay. Earlier authors had noted that Hay told some people (among them the British statesman John Morley and the American journalists William Crary Brownell and Walter Hines Page) that he had written the document but did not want his authorship revealed until after he died. Moreover, people close to Hay (among them his secretary Spencer Eddy and the journalist Louis Coolidge) testified that he had written it, though they did not claim that Hay himself had told them so.

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