Johnson as VP

I am reading today Paul Bergeron’s excellent book on Andrew Johnson.  Bergeron notes that the question of Lincoln’s role in the selection of Andrew Johnson as vice president has been and continues to be controversial.  The “conventional wisdom” is that Lincoln was neutral in this process; that he allowed the Republican delegates at the Baltimore convention to make their own choice.  Bergeron disputes this, arguing that Lincoln knew he needed political help in the election and “the logical choice . . . was his military governor from Tennessee.”

I have come across a tidbit that bears on this dispute, in the outgoing telegrams of Stanton.  On June 7, 1864, Stanton telegraphed to Dana, who was with Grant in Virginia, on various military points.  At the end, knowing of Dana’s intense interest in politics, Stanton added “the chances of Hamlin and Andy Johnson for Vice President about even.”  Is this the wording Stanton would have used if Lincoln strongly favored Johnson for vice president?  It seems unlikely; and it seems unlikely that Stanton would have been unaware of Lincoln’s preferences.

Similarly, on the next day, Stanton reports to Butler without comment that Lincoln was nominated for President and Johnson for Vice President.  Would he have used such neutral wording if Johnson was really Lincoln’s first choice?

These are no more than tidbits, far from proof, but perhaps of interest.