Abraham Lincoln to Benjamin F. James, 6 December 18451Springfield, Decr 6– 1845Friend James:
Yours of the 4th, informing me of Hardin's communication and letter, is received–2 I had ascertained that such documents had been sent you, even before I received your letter– Nor is the conclusion they lead to—the certainty that he intends to run for Congress—matter of surprise to me–3 I was almost confident of it before– Now as to the probable result of a contest with him– To succeed, I must have 17 votes in convention– To secure these, I think I may safely claim—Sangamon 8– Menard 2– Logan 1, making 11, so that, if you and other friends can secure Dr Boal's entire senatorial district—that is– Tazewell 4– Woodford 1 and Marshall 1, it just covers the case– Besides this, I am not without some chance in Putnam and Mason, the latter of which I verily believe I can secure by close attention– The other counties—that is to say– Morgan, Scott and Cass, he will undoubtedly get– Some of Baker's particular friends in Cass, and who are now my friends, think I could carry that county; but I do not think there is any chance for it– Upon the
<Page 2>whole, it is my intention to give him the trial, unless clouds should rise, which are not yet discernable– This determination you need not however, as yet, announce in your paper—at least not as coming from me– If Tazewell, Woodford & Marshall, can be made safe, all will be safe– Of the first, Tazewell, I suppose there is little or no doubt– and while I believe there is good ground of hope in Woodford & Marshall, still I am not quite so easy about them– It is desireable that a sharp look-out should be kept, and every whig met with from those counties, talked to, and initiated– If you and John H. Morrison and Niel Johnson, Dr Shaw, and others, will see to this; together with what I have done, and will do, those counties can be saved– ^In^ It doing this, let nothing be said against Hardin—nothing deserves to be said against him– Let the pith of the whole argument be "Turn about is fair play"4
More than this, I want you to watch, and whenever you see a "moccason track" as indian fighter's say, notify me of it– You understand–
I fear I shall be of a great deal of
<Page 3>trouble to you in this matter; but rest assured, that I will be grateful when I can– The Lacon paper you sent me I never got, but I learned it's contents from David Dickinson, formerly of our town, but now residing in Lacon– After I left Tremont last fall, I went up to Lacon and saw Dr Boal, who said to me that it had always been his understanding since the Pekin Convention, that the race of 1846 was to be mine– I have reason to believe, tho[though], I d[o] not know, that he induced the arctic[le] in the Lacon paper– I am sure al[so] that he or Dickinson one did, as I have never spoken to the editor on the subject– This letter is, of course, confidential; tho I should have no objection to it's being seen by a few friends, in your discretion, being sure first that they are friends–
Write me frequently if you can find spare time–Yours as everA. LincolnP. S. Will you not visit Springfield this winter? I should be glad of a personal interview with youA. L.
<Page 4>SPRINGFIELD Ill.[Illinois]
3B. F. James Esqr[Esquire]TremontIllinois–
1Abraham Lincoln wrote and signed the letter. He also authored the address on the back page, which was folded to create an envelope for mailing.
2Benjamin F. James’ December 4, 1845 letter to Lincoln has not been located. For Lincoln’s previous letter to James, see Abraham Lincoln to Benjamin F. James.
3At a Whig convention in Pekin in May 1843, an agreement was made between Lincoln, Edward D. Baker, and John J. Hardin that seemed to establish a one-term limit on the prospective Whig congressmen. Hardin and Baker having already served, Lincoln believed that the 1846 nomination should have been his. In September 1845, Lincoln inquired of Hardin’s plans, but Hardin would not answer definitively one way or the other.
Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 2:218, 231.
4On December 27, 1845, Benjamin F. James’ paper, the Tazewell Whig, issued an editorial recommending Lincoln receive the nomination over Hardin, citing the Pekin convention and the principle of “turn about is fair play.”
The Tazewell Whig (Tremont, IL), 27 December 1845, 2:2.
Autograph Letter Signed, 4 page(s), Yale University, The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library (New Haven, CT).