Abraham Lincoln to John T. Stuart, 1 January 18401Springfield, Jany— 1st 1840Dear Stuart:
There is a considerable disposition on the part of both parties in the Legislature here, to reinstate the law bringing on the congressional elections next summer— What motive for this, the Locos have, I can not tell— The whigs say that the canal & other public works will stop, and consequently, we shall then be clear of the foreign notes, whereas by another year they may be brought in again—2 The whigs here of our district, say that every thing is in favour of holding the election next summer, except the fact of your absence; and several of them have requested ^me ^ to ask your opinion on the matter— Write me immediately what you think of it—3
On the other side of this sheet, I send you a copy of my Land Resolutions which passed both branches of our Legislature last winter—4 Will you show them to M Calhoun, informing him of the fact of their passage through our Legislature? M Calhoun suggested a similar proposition last winter; and perhaps, if he finds himself backed by one of the states, he may be induced to take it up again,—5 You will see by the resolutions, that you and the others of our delegation in congress are instructed to go for them—6
Jan[January] 1st 1840.
Jan[January] 1st 1840.
2A reference to the problems related to the internal improvement system, which suffered in the aftermath of the Panic of 1837.
3Section twenty-six of the 1829 law governing elections stipulated congressional elections would occur on the first Monday in August 1831, and on the first Monday in August 1832, and on the first Monday in August biennially thereafter. Under provisions of section twenty-six, elections had occurred in 1834, 1836, 1838, and were scheduled for August 1840. In January 1839, the General Assembly enacted, and the Council of Revision approved, an act stipulating that on the first Monday of August, 1841, and on the first Monday of August every second year thereafter, there was to be held an election for the House of Representatives. This act explicitly repealed section twenty-six of the 1829 law. On January 21, William J. Hankins introduced in the Illinois House of Representatives a bill entitled “A Bill in Relation to the Election of Members of Congress.” The text of the bill is not extant, but presumably it would have repealed the January 1839 act and reinstated section twenty-six. The House passed the bill by a vote of 45 yeas to 39 nays, with Lincoln voting nay, but the Senate indefinitely postponed further consideration on January 30, and the bill never became law.
“An Act Regulating Elections,” 10 January 1829, Revised Laws of Illinois (1829), 67; Abraham Lincoln to John T. Stuart; Illinois House Journal. 1839. 11th G. A., special sess., 222-23; Illinois Senate Journal. 1839. 11th G. A., special sess., 162, 212, 242.
4The copy which Lincoln sent to Stuart is not with this letter. Roy P. Basler presumed that Stuart gave the copy to John C. Calhoun per Lincoln’s request, though no evidence exists to corroborate his claim. Basler further speculates that since the letter bears no closing or signature, the page bearing the resolutions also carried the consummation of the letter. Lincoln did not, however, write the resolutions, as he claimed, “on the other side of this sheet.”
Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1953), 1:181.
5Calhoun made his proposal in a speech before the Senate on January 16, 1839, in opposition to a bill to reduce and graduate the price of public lands. On January 3, 1840, Calhoun introduced a bill in the Senate to cede public lands in new states under certain conditions. The Illinois House of Representatives debated and tabled a resolution in support of this bill, with Lincoln voting in favor of it. The Illinois Senate passed a resolution endorsing Calhoun’s bill, but the House took no further action.
Cong. Globe 25th Cong., 3rd Sess., Appendix, 95-97; U.S. Senate Journal. 1839. 26th Congress, 1st sess., 72; Illinois House Journal. 1839. 11th G. A., special sess., 220-21, 250, 254; Illinois Senate Journal. 1839. 11th G. A., special sess., 175-76.
6On December 26, 1838, the House of Representatives passed a resolution instructing the Committee on Finance, of which Lincoln was a member, to report on the subject of unsold federal lands. On January 17, 1839, Lincoln, speaking on behalf of the committee, reported back the resolution with a lengthy report, together with a set of resolutions. On February 2, the House then adopted the resolutions and sent them to the Senate requesting the latter’s concurrence. On March 2, the Senate concurred with the resolutions. Congress took no action on the resolutions.
Two hand-written copies of these resolutions exist: one entirely in Abraham Lincoln‘s hand that Lincoln introduced in the House of Representatives, and a second partially in Lincoln’s hand that the House of Representatives submitted to the Senate. The latter copy included after the last resolution the phrase “in the adoption of which resolutions, they ask the concurrence of the Senate.”
Illinois House Journal. 1838. 11th G. A., 1st sess., 142, 151, 152, 223-25, 299, 328-29, 600; Illinois Senate Journal. 1838. 11th G. A., 1st sess., 266, 330, 499; Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 1:144.
Handwritten Letter, 2 page(s), Lincoln Collection, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (Springfield, IL)