“I shall never forget our frequent conferences at Cairo, in 1861, when I was in immediate command of that post. That was a gloomy period; the financial credit of the Government was strained to extreme tension; the soldiers had not been paid for some time. In this exigency you suggested and advocated the expedient of issuing Treasury notes as a circulating medium, to be made a legal tender in payment of all debts, public and private. You not only advocated that recourse as an expedient, but as a principle and system. In the same interview you informed me that you had unfolded this scheme to General Grant, and that you would immediately proceed to Washington City and lay it before President Lincoln, which, I am convinced by what followed, you did.” General John A. McClernand, to Edmund Taylor. (Emphasis added)
Few people today are aware that there are on-going questions relating to the assassination of President Lincoln, and the motives therefore. Without a doubt, Lincoln made some powerful enemies when he was president, and they weren’t all south of the Mason-Dixon Line. If Col. Taylor was the father of the greenback, he too would have been in the sights of some of the same enemies.
“I have two great enemies,” Lincoln once said, “the southern army in front of me and the financial institutions in the rear. Of the two, the one in the rear is the greatest enemy.” (quoted from This Difficult Individual, Ezra Pound, by Eustace Mullins)
Let me briefly bring readers up to date on Lincoln assassination conspiracy theory. Simply put, it is believed by many that Lincoln was assassinated because of his monetary policy. They don’t buy the “lone gunman” and “Confederate leadership” idea. If this be true, the difficulty the Springhouse has experienced with regard to reliable information about Taylor could be readily explained. His character would have been discredited and his memory suppressed by contemporary and subsequent engineers of political “cover-up” — aided and abetted, of course, by court historians and a gullible, uninformed, public.
According to David Balsiger and Charles E. Sellier, Jr.’s 1977 book , The Lincoln Conspiracy, (later made into a movie) the conspiracies against Lincoln are no longer mere theories, but facts revealed by an abundance of irrefutable documentary evidence. The complex and convoluted truths far out-do the wildest imaginings any conspiracy theorist or writer of fiction could think up. If what the book claims is true, there were multiple, over-lapping, plots against Lincoln. They involved the southern Confederate leadership, prominent northern businessmen and speculators, radical Republicans of Lincoln’s own party, some of the key members of Lincoln’s own cabinet, and “financial interests.” Ironically, actor John Wilkes Booth, an idealistic southern partisan (or greedy assassin for hire), was recruited by both southerners and northerners. In the end, it was the northern conspirators’ purposes that were served by Lincoln’s assassination. Booth did a great disservice to the south he supposedly desired to help.
Gerald G. McGeer, author of The Conquest of Poverty, stated in 1934, that, “The South worshipped Lincoln and looked upon him as the only one who would secure them justice in defeat. If they wished to kill him they had splendid opportunities and could have secured a thousand who would do the job”.
McGeer may have overstated somewhat in saying that the South worshipped Lincoln. After all, Lincoln had gone to extreme lengths to defeat its bid for independence and self-determination. But it is probably true that Lincoln had little to fear from the South after its defeat. It was clear to most southerners that Lincoln was the South’s greatest hope (last, and only hope, as it turned out), for a just peace following its defeat.
The Lincoln Conspiracy, for all its revelations, is silent on the greenback money controversy. And there is no mention of Edmund Dick Taylor. However, there is brief allusion to the strong influences of the money men in both the assassination conspiracy and cover-up. “…the very bankers who financed Lincoln’s war,” according to the book, involved John Wilkes Booth in a scheme to remove Lincoln from power. Booth is alleged to have said to banker-financier, Jay Cooke, and his brother, Henry Cooke, organizer of the First National Bank, “So much of the problem you gentlemen face has grown out of the new Treasury system.” This would seem to allude to the issue of greenbacks rather than the national banking acts of the period. Jay Cooke is alleged to have told Booth, “There are millions of dollars in profits to be made, and we’re being denied our share. We’ll be ruined if Lincoln’s policies are continued.”
Edgar Lee Masters, in his Lincoln The Man, says nothing about Lincoln’s greenback issue and little enough about Lincoln’s assassination. Masters does mention Taylor, however briefly. Early in Lincoln’s career, “…on the stump he (Lincoln) was compelled to defend himself against the ridicule of swashbucklers like Col. Dick Taylor, who to discomfit, Lincoln pulled down his vest rudely, while Taylor was addressing the multitude, exposing to the gaping rustics Taylor’s frilled shirt, and great watch seal.” This would hardly seem the endearing act of an old friend, as Taylor later claimed to be. Yet it may have been that the familiarity born of long association and friendship made the act acceptable in Lincoln’s own rustic eyes. Had Lincoln not been on quite familiar terms with Taylor, such a rude act would have been truly outrageous. It was rude enough, but perhaps an old friend would forgive it.
In spite of the lack of biographical data, Edmund Taylor had much to his credit. He spent many years in public life, serving in the Illinois Legislature from 1830. During most of his public years, he was on the opposite side of the political fence from Lincoln. In 1832, he gained 1,127 votes to young Abe Lincoln’s 657. Lincoln’s old law partner, and later Lincoln biographer, William H. Herndon, died in 1891, the same year Edmund Taylor passed on. In his three volume Herndon’s Lincoln, Herndon devoted a rather long paragraph to Taylor, and Lincoln’s vest tugging escapade. Herndon said Taylor was “a showy, bombastic man, with a weakness for fine clothes and other personal adornments… He had a way of appealing to ‘his horny-handed neighbors,’ and resorted to many artful tricks of a demagogue…” as he was doing when Lincoln gave his vest a playful pull, “to take the wind out of his sails.”
Regardless of their political differences, there is evidence that they were friends and met socially. An one instance, for example, Lincoln and Taylor co-managed (along with several others), a “Cotillion Party,” held at the American House in Springfield, Illinois, on the night of December 16th, 1839. (Springhouse Magazine, Vol. 14, No. 3, June, 1997 Edmund D. Taylor, Forgotten Illinoisan, and father of the “Greenback”)
…While engaged in his business of Indian trader he became acquainted with Abraham Lincoln, who was then a clerk at Salem, Illinois, and with Stephen A. Douglas, who was teaching a country school. He was much impressed… and told them they should study law. Lincoln replied that he had no money with which to buy books.
“Come to Springfield and I will see that you are supplied,” was the Colonel’s reply.
Lincoln came and for a long time made his home with Col. and Mrs. Taylor. Through Col. Taylor’s influence Lincoln was taken into Judge Logan’s office where he made himself useful keeping up fires, sweeping out the office and doing clerical work for the privilege of using the Judge’s law library.
About that time Lincoln bought several yards of jeans for a pair of trousers. He lacked enough money to get them made, and Mrs. Taylor volunteered to make them for him. In after years when he was the President, he told Mrs. Taylor that he had never had a pair of trousers that gave him as much satisfaction and as good wear as the pair she had made him when he was a law student unknown to the world.
…Col. Taylor had an active interest in politics from the time he first settled in Illinois until his death. He campaigned the state for Gov. Bissell and it was largely through his efforts that Bissell was elected. He afterwards took the field against Lincoln in the famous Lincoln-Douglas campaign. After the battle was over, Lincoln met the Colonel on the street at Springfield and jokingly remarked:
“Well, Colonel, you elected me President.”
“Well,” replied the Colonel without a smile, “if voting for Douglas made you President, I presume I did.”
“No, no, it was not that,” continued Lincoln. “If I had never read law I never would have been President and if it had not been for you, I never would have read law; therefore, I say you are responsible for my election.”
Col. Taylor was a financier and was connected with many banking institutions in his day. And when the war broke out and the government’s credit with Europe was exhausted… and the Treasury was empty, Lincoln sent for Col. Taylor.
“I have many suggestions from the bankers of New York and the East,” said the President, “But they do not suit me. There is a crisis at hand. We must have money. I want to hear what you have to say.”
“Issue treasury notes printed on good banking paper,” promptly replied Col. Taylor…
“The best suggestion I have heard,” spoke up Lincoln.
Secretary of State Chase was called in, but being a hard money man, he opposed the plan with all his force… (A) Cabinet meeting was called and the first greenbacks were soon in circulation. The crisis was over.
(From a Taylor obituary. See Springhouse, Edmund D. Taylor, Forgotten Illinoisan, and father of the “Greenback”)