Abraham Lincoln to Benjamin F. James, 14 January 1846Springfield, Jany 14– 1846.Friend James:
Yours of the 10th was not received until this morning–1 I can not but be pleased with it's contents– I saw Henry's communication in your paper, as also your editorial remarks, neither of which, in my opinion, was in any way misjudged—both quite the thing–2 I think just as you do concerning the dictation of the course of the Alton paper, and also, concerning it's utter harmlessness–3
As to the proposition to hold the convention at Petersburg, I will at once tell you all I know, and all I feel– A good friend of ours there, John Bennett, wrote me that he thought it would do good with the whigs of Menard, to see a respectable convention conducted in good style– They are a little disinclined, to adopt the convention system; & Bennett thinks some of their prejudices would be done away by their having the convention amongst them–4 At his request, therefore I had the little paragraph put in the Journal–5 This is all I know– Now, as to what I feel,– I feel a desire that they of Petersburg should be gratified, if it can be done without a sacrafice of the wishes of others, and without detriment to the cause—nothing more– I can gain nothing in
<Page 2>the contest by having it there– I showed your letter to Stuart, and he thinks there is something in your suggestion of holding it at your town– I should be pleased if I could concur with you in the hope that my name would be the only one presented to the convention ^but I can not–^– Hardin is a man of desparate energy and perseverance; and one that never backs ^out,^ and, I fear, to think otherwise, is to be deceived in the character of our adversary–
I would rejoice to be spared the labour of a contest; but "being in" I shall go it thoroughly, and to the bottom– As to my being able to make a break in the lower counties, I tell you that I can possibly get Cass, but I do not think I will– Morgan & Scott are beyond my reach– Menard is safe to me– Mason– neck and neck– Logan is mine– To make the matter sure, your entire Senatorial District must be secured– Of this I suppose Tazewell is safe; and I have much done in both the other counties– In Woodford I have Davenport, Simms,6 Willard, Bracken, Pery[,] Travis, Dr Hazzard, and the Clarks,7 & some others all specially committed– At Lacon, in Marshall the very most active friend I have in the District (If I except yourself) is at work–8
Through him I have procured their names, and written to three or four of
<Page 3>the most active whigs in each precinct of the county– Still I wish you all in Tazewell, to keep your eyes continually on Woodford and Marshall– Let no oppertunity of making a mark escape– When they shall be safe, all will be safe— I think.
The Beardstown paper is entirely in the hands of my friends– The editor is a whig, and personally dislikes Hardin– When this Supreme court shall adjourn, (which it is thought will be about the 15th of February) it is my intention to take a quiet trip through the towns and neighbourhoods of Logan county, Delevan, Tremont, and on to & through the upper counties–9 Don't speak of this, or let it relax any of your vigilance–
When I shall reach Tremont, we will talk over every thing at large–Yours truly A. Lincoln
1Benjamin F. James’ January 10 letter to Abraham Lincoln has not been located. For Lincoln’s previous letters to James concerning the 1846 Congressional race, see: Abraham Lincoln to Benjamin F. James, Abraham Lincoln to Benjamin F. James, Abraham Lincoln to Benjamin F. James.
2At 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. In the meantime, Lincoln worked to galvanize support within the district.
Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 2:218, 231; Abraham Lincoln to Henry E. Dummer.
On December 27, 1845, James’ paper, the Tazewell Whig, issued an editorial recommending Lincoln receive the Congressional nomination over Hardin, citing the Pekin convention and the principle of “turn about is fair play.” Roy P. Basler, editor of The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, claimed that Anson G. Henry wrote a communication favoring Lincoln, signed “A Whig,” which appeared in the Tazewell Whig on December 27, 1845. He makes this claim, however, without attribution. The original communication was printed in the Quincy Whig on December 17, 1845.
The Tazewell Whig (Tremont, IL), 27 December 1845, 2:2, 2:4; Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1953), 1:354; Quincy Whig (Illinois), 17 December 1845, 3:5.
3The Alton Telegraph ran an editorial on December 27, 1845, which put forth Hardin for Congress and Lincoln for governor.
Alton Telegraph and Democratic Review (Illinois), 27 December 1845, 2:4.
5The paragraph to which Lincoln refers read: “A whig of Menard county, speaking on behalf of himself and others, expresses a wish, that the Convention for the nomination of a Whig candidate for Congress in this District, be held at Petersburgh. We know no reason why it should not; and if others are agreed, so are we.”
Sangamo Journal (Springfield, IL), 1 January 1846, 2:2.
8Lincoln and Hardin were vying to represent the Seventh Congressional District, which included the counties of Cass, Logan, Marshall, Mason, Menard, Morgan, Putnam, Sangamon, Scott, Tazewell, and Woodford.
Howard W. Allen and Vincent A. Lacey, eds., Illinois Elections, 1818-1990 (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1992), 126.
9The Supreme Court adjourned on February 9, 1846.
The Lincoln Log: A Daily Chronology of the Life of Abraham Lincoln, 9 February 1846, http://thelincolnlog.org/Results.aspx?type=CalendarDay&day=1846-02-09.
Copy of Autograph Letter Signed, 3 page(s), Abraham Lincoln Association Files, Lincoln Collection, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (Springfield, IL)