Joshua F. Speed and Others to the Editor of the Chicago American, 24 June 18391Springfield June 24th 1839Mr Editor,
From present indications we have every reason to believe that Mr Douglass will contest the right of Mr Stuart to a seat in Congress—.2 We deem it a matter of great importance to the Whig party of this District that they should be prepared to meet such contest. The importance of the decision of that contest is increased by the doubt which at present exists as to which party will have the ascendency in the next Congress—. In this state of uncertainty one vote may become of the utmost importance to the sustaining of those great principles for which the whig party are now contending, To prepare ourselves for this contest and to solicit your aid in so doing by engaging your assistance in the collection of proofs to the following facts, are the objects of this communication
1st Whether there are any mistakes for or against Mr Stuart in the addition of colums or otherwise, apparant on the face of the Poll Books of your County?
2nd Whether any persons voted for Mr Douglass in your County who were minors, or who had not been Residents of the state six months preceding the Election?
3rd Whether any unnaturalized foreigners voted for Mr Douglass in your County?
After you shall have examined into the preceding questions, we will thank you to write us the result without delay together with the names of the illegal voters refered to in the two last questions: the names of the individuals by whom the fact of their illegality can be proved and the name and the residence of a Justice of the Peace before whom Depositions can be taken and a proper place to take them— When informed by you of the fact we will immediately take steps to procure the proofs— We would suggest the propriety of your consulting the political Friends you may think propor in your County and solicit their assistance inRespectfully yours &c.[etc]Joshua F. SpeedE. D. BakerMilton HayJames H. MathenyA. LincolnN. B.[nota bene]
<Page 2>procuring the above facts; or the appointment of precinct committees as you may think the most advisable3
Would it not be as well to Keep the Knowledge of this investigation as well as any discoveryies you may make, confined to as few as possible[?]P. S. Let letters on this subject, be addressed to "Stuart & Lincoln," as business letters—
<Page 4>SPRINGFIELD Il
[?]Editor of the Chicago American,ChicagoIllinois
Will Mr Balestier attend to this in Some way minding the [Instruction?]
1This may have been a form letter sent to other editors of Whig newspapers in Illinois. The body of the letter is not in Abraham Lincoln’s hand, but the date is partially in Lincoln’s hand; the closing, signatures, postscript, and address on the envelope are entirely in Lincoln’s hand.
2In the spring and summer of 1838, Stephen A. Douglas and John T. Stuart contested the U.S. House of Representatives seat for the Third District. When the ballots were finally tallied in August, Stuart had defeated Douglas by a scant 36 votes (18,254 for Stuart to 18,218 for Douglas). The closeness of the vote and accusations of voter irregularities prompted Douglas to contest the election, to no avail.
Robert W. Johannsen, Stephen A. Douglas (New York: Oxford University Press, 1973), 64-68, 70-72; Theodore C. Pease, ed., Illinois Election Returns, 1818-1848, vol. 18 of Collections of the Illinois State Historical Library (Springfield: Illinois State Historical Library, 1923), 109.
3Concerns about Douglas challenging Stuart proved premature; Lincoln informed Stuart in a letter in November that Douglas had decided not to contest Stuart’s seat. James H. Ralston became the Democratic challenger to Stuart, and when the ballots were counted in August 1841, Stuart had handily defeated Ralston with 52 percent of the vote (21,698 for Stuart to 19,553 for Ralston).
Theodore C. Pease, ed., Illinois Election Returns, 1818-1848, 122.
Handwritten Letter Signed, 4 page(s), Lincoln Collection, Brown University (Providence, RI).