[1856–1863, Small Collection of Letters and a Document Signed by Isaac Toucey, U.S. Secretary of the Navy].
“Be Just & Fear Not” Declares this Naval Secretary
In 1857, Isaac Toucey (1792–1869) of Connecticut was appointed Secretary of the Navy by President James Buchanan. Prior to this, Toucey, a native of Newtown, Connecticut, had a distinguished legal and political career.
He had served as U.S. Congressman, Governor, and U.S. Senator. He had even already been a member of a presidential cabinet, serving as Attorney General in the Polk administration.
His tenure as Secretary of the Navy, in the years leading up to the American Civil War, was marred by suspicions that he was sympathetic to the South. The Dictionary of American Biography reports that:
His sympathies were more or less with the South, and he was suspected, perhaps unjustly, of so disposing of the country’s naval forces in 1860 as to aid the South in the movement toward secession[.] … Toucey’s sympathetic attitude toward the South incited some members of the Connecticut legislature to remove his portrait from the gallery of ex-governors, and a resolution providing for the replacement of the portrait, offered in the state Senate in 1863, was defeated.
Here we see a small cache of letters, notes, and documents signed by Isaac Toucey. They are accompanied by an engraved portrait of Toucey. The collection of manuscripts includes three autograph or signed letters and one signed document dating from 1857 and 1858, Naval Secretary Toucey’s first year in office.
In the 1857 document, Toucey appoints Mexican War hero Commander John A. Winslow (1811–1873) to serve on a general court martial. In an 1858 letter he introduces Commodore Francis Gregory – “who’s so well known to the country.” In an 1857 letter, Toucey writes about his cramped carriage. In another letter that same year, he informs a correspondent that Commander Henry J. Hartstene, a rescuer of Arctic explorer Dr. Elisha Kent Kane, is now living in Savannah, Georgia.
Also found among this collection of manuscripts are two autograph notes signed by Toucey. One, written in 1856 as U.S. Senator from Connecticut, complies with a simple request for an autograph. The other note is a short sentiment written at the time of the Civil, after he had returned to his private law practice.
Toucey’s poignant sentiment from March 1863—“Be just and fear not”—may reflect his own judgment upon his controversial actions as Secretary of the Navy. An engraved portrait of Toucey that accompanies the collection reflects this firm, yet calm outlook.
Description: [1856–1863, Small Collection of Letters and a Document Signed by Isaac Toucey, U.S. Secretary of the Navy].
Washington [D.C.] and Hartford, Conn., 1856–1863. pp. in all. Six items: Two A.Ls.S., one L.S., two A.Ns.S., and one D.S. Ranging in size from 7 x 4½ inches to 9¾ x 7¾ inches. Folios and one bifolium; various paper stocks. One A.L.S. mounted. Accompanied by an engraved portrait of “I. Toucey,” 8¾ x 6¼ inches, with adhesive remnants around perimeter of verso. Fold lines on letters; document with short closed tears at folds; overall, very good.