Abraham Lincoln to John J. Hardin, 19 January 18461Springfield, Jany. 19th 1846Dear Genl
I do not wish to join in your proposal of a new plan for the selection of a whig candidate for congress, because2
1st I am entirely satisfied with the old system under which you and Baker were successively nominated and elected to congress; and because the whigs of the District are well acquainted with that system, and, so far as I know or believe, are universally satisfied with it–3 If the old system be thought to be vague, as to all the delegates of a county, voting the same way; ^or^ as to instructions to them, as to whom they are to vote for; or as to filling vacancies, I ^am^ willing to join in a provision to make these matters certain–
2nd As to your proposals that a poll shall be opened in every precinct, and that the whole shall take place on the same day, I do not personally object– They seem to me to not be unfair; and I forbear to join in proposing them, only because I rather choose to leave the decision in each county to the whigs of the county, to be made as their own judgment and convenience may dictate–
3rd As to your proposed stipulation that all the candidates shall remain in their own counties, and restrain their friends to the same, it seems to me ^that on reflection you will see, that the fact of your having been in congress, has, in various ways, so spread your name in the district, as to give you a decided advantage in such a stipulation–^ (though doubtless not so intended by you) ^it^ would be nothing other than a stipulation in favour of the horse that has got the start, that the others shall do nothing to catch up– I appreciate your desire to keep down excitement; and I promise you to "keep cool" under all circumstances–
4th I have already said I am satisfied with the
<Page 2>old system, under which such good men have been triumphed; and that I desire no departure from its principles– But if there must be a departure from it, I shall insist upon a more accurate and just apportionment of delegates, or representative votes, to the constituent body, than exists by the old; and which you propose to retain in your new plan–
If we take the entire population of the counties as shown by the last ^late^ census, we shall see that by the old plan, and by your proposed new plan that
|Morgan county with a population of 16541 has e||8 votes|
|while Sangamon with 18.697—2156 greater has but||8 do[ditto]|
|So, Scott, with 6553—has||4 do|
|while Tazewell with 7615—1062 greater– has but||4 do–|
|So, Logan^Mason^ with 3907 3135 has||1. do|
|while Logan with 3907—772 greater has but||1. do–|
And so, in a less degree, the matter runs through all the counties; being not only wrong in principle, but the advantage of it being all manifestly in your favour, with one slight exception in the comparison ^comparison^ of two counties not here mentioned–
Again: If we take the whig voters of the counties ^as shown by the late presidential election^ as a basis, the thing is still worse– Take a comparison of the same six counties–
|Morgan,||with her||1443||whig votes has||8 votes|
|Sangamon||with her||1837—||394 greater only||8 do.|
|Mason||with her||255—||has||1 do|
|Logan||doh do||310—||55 greater only.||1. do|
|Scott||doh do||670—||has||4. do|
|Tazewell||doh do||1011.||341 greater– only||4. do–|
It seems to me most obvious that the old system needs adjustment in nothing so much as in this; and still by your proposal, no notice is taken of it–
I have always been in the habit of exceed acceeding
<Page 3>to almost any proposal that a friend would make; and I am truly sorry I can not in this–
I perhaps ought to mention that some friends at different places, are endeavouring to secure the honor of the sitting of a convention at their towns respectively; and I fear they would not feel much complimented, if we were to make a bargain that it shall sit no where–4Yours as everA. Lincoln
<Page 4>Genl[General] J. J. HardinPresent–
1Abraham Lincoln wrote and signed the letter. He also authored the address on the back page, which was folded to create an envelope.
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. While Hardin delayed officially announcing his candidacy, Lincoln set out to solidify his own support. In response, Hardin proposed that the convention system for the nomination be thrown out in favor of a primary election between himself and Lincoln. This letter was Lincoln’s response. It was published in the Sangamo Journal on February 26, 1846, alongside Hardin’s proposal and his subsequent rejection of the nomination.
Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 1:218, 231, 233; Abraham Lincoln to Henry E. Dummer; Sangamo Journal (Springfield, IL), 26 February 1846, 2:1-2.
3Lincoln 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.
Autograph Letter Signed, 4 page(s), Lincoln Collection, Chicago Historical Society (Chicago, IL).