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Abraham Lincoln to John J. Hardin, 7 February 18461
Genl J. J. Hardin:Dear Sir:
Your second letter was duly received and, so far as it goes, it is entirely satisfactory–2 I had set apart the leisure this day affords, to write you the long letter alluded to by me in my last;3 but on going to the Post-office, and seeing the communication in the Morgan Journal, I am almost discouraged of the hope of doing any good by it; especially when I reflect that most probably that communication was written with your knowledge, an ^in^ as much as it proceeds partly on information which could only have been furnished by you–4
However, as I suppose it can do no harm, I will proceed– Your letter, admiting my right to seek, or desire, a nomination for congress, opens with an expression of dissatisfaction with the manner in which you think I have endeavoured to obtain it– Now, if I have, sought the nomination in an improper manner; you have the right, to the extent, to be dissatisfied– But I deny all impropriety on my part, in the matter–
In the early part of your letter, you introduced the proposition made by me to you and Baker, that we should take a turn a piece; and alluding to the principle you suppose be involved in it, in an after part of your letter, you say– "As a whig I have constantly combatted such practices when practiced among the Locos; & I do not see that they are
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any more praise worthy, or less anti-republican, when sought to be adopted by whigs"– Now, if my proposition had been that we (yourself, Baker & I) should be candidates by turns, and that we should unite our strength throughout to keep down all other candidates, I should not deny the justice of the censurable language you employ; but if you so understood it, you wholly misunderstood it– I never expressed, nor meant to express, that by such an arrangement, any one of us should be, in the least restricted in his right to support any person he might choose, in the District; but only that he should not himself, be a candidate out of his turn– I felt then, and it seems to me I said then, that even with such an arrangement, should Governor Duncan be a candidate, when you were not, it ^would^ be your previlege and perhaps your duty to go for him–
In this, the true sense of my proposition, I deny that there is any thing [...?] censurable in it—any thing but ^a spirit of^ mutual concession, for harmony's sake–
In this same connection you say, "It is, in effect, acting upon the principle that the District is a horse which each candidate may mount and ride a two mile heat without consulting any body but the grooms & Jockeys"–5 Well, of course, you go the contrary of this principle; which is, in effect acting on the principle that the District is a horse which, the first jockey that can mount him, may whip and spur round and round, till jockey, or horse, or both, fall dead on the track– And upon your principle, there is a fact
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as fatal to your claims as mine, which is, that neither you nor I, but Baker is the jockey now in the stirrups–
"Without consulting any body but the grooms & Jockeys" is an implied charge that I wish, in some way to interfere with the right of the people to select their candidate—I do not understand it so– I, and my few friends say to the people that "Turn about is fair play"– You and your friends do not meet this, and say "Turn about is not fair play"– but insist the argument itself, ought not to be used– Fair or unfair, why not trust the people to decide it?
In the early part of your letter you say, "It is also true as stated by ^that^ you did come to my house early in September to know whether I desired to run, stating that you wanted to give Baker a race"– In this you are mistaken– I did not state to you that I wanted to give Baker a race; but on the contrary I told you I believed I could get Baker off the track– I do not know that you attached any importance to what I am disavowing; but, on the contrary, I do not know but you mean it as the basis of an inference that I acted deceitfully with you, in pretending to expect a contest with Baker, when in fact I did not expect it–
It is true, that after Baker's interview with you in September, he did send a letter, by a messenger, to me at
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Tremont;6 in which letter he detailed what passed at the interview, and the result, precisely as you do, in substance; and in which letter he did urge me to relinquish my my pretensions– He had before told me that he would not be a candidate, if I desired he should not; and he then repeated it; but at the same time argued that you, by having been in congress, and ^having^ taken a high stand then, would in all probability beat me; so that the sacrafice he made for me, in declining, would, in the end, do me no good– And this is as near as I ever came of hearing Baker express the determination that I should beat you, if he could not; which you say you have learned he did– When he finally determined to decline, he did express the wish that I might succeed; and he has since written his letter of declension;7 and when that is told; all I know, or believe, as to him, is told– If he has ever, in any way, attempted to dictate to any friend of his to go for me in preference of you, it is more than I know or believe– That he has a part assigned him to act in the drama, I know to be untrue– What I here say, is not in its nature capable of very certain proof; but it may be said, that being where he is, he can only opperate against you by letters– If he attempts this to any considerable extent, some of them will fall into the hands of your friends who will apprize you of
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them– Have you yet seen or heard of any?
I now quote from your letter again– "You well knew I would not be a candidate for Governor. Yet during the fall courts, whilst I learn you were obtaining pledges from all the whigs you could to support you for the next candidate, my name was run up as a candidate for Governor by one of your friends under circumstances which now leave no room for doubt that the design was to keep my name out of view for congress, so that the whigs might be more easily influenced to commit themselves to go for you–" Now this is a direct imputation that I procured, or winked at, or in some way directly or indirectly, had a hand in, the nominating of you for Governor; and the imputation is to the utmost hair-breadth of it, unjust– I never knew, or believed, or had any suspicion, that it was done, or was to be done, until it was out, had gone to Alton, and been commented upon in the Alton paper, and came back to Springfield, and my attention was called to it by Stuart, in our circuit court room, a few days, as I remember it, after you had been here attending to the case of Thayer vs Farrell, and had left–8 I went immediately to the Journal office, and told them it was my wish that they should not fall in with the nomination for Governor– They showed me a little paragraph, which they
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had already prepared, and which was published, and seen by you, as I suppose–9
The reason I had not seen the nomination in the Tazewell paper was, as I suppose, because I did not then, as I do not now, take that paper– That I was wholly innocent and ignorant of that movement, I believe, if need be, I can prove more conclusively than is often in the power of man to prove any such thing–
In the paragraph last quoted you say that the design was to keep your name out of view &c.[etc.] In the general disavowal I have made, this last is, of course included; and I now go farther, and declare, that to my recollection, I have not, in a single instance, presented my name as a candidate for congress, without, at the same time presenting yours for the same place– I have some times met a man who would express the opinion that you would yield the track to me; and some times one who believed you would be a candidate for Governor; and I invariably assured them ^such,^ that you would, in my opinion, be a candidate for congress– And while I have thus kept your name in view for congress, I have not reproached you for being a candidate, or for any thing else; on the contrary I have constantly spoken of you in the most kind and commendatory terms, as to your talents, your
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past services, and your goodness of heart– If I falsify in this, you can convict me– The witnesses live, and can tell–
And now tell me: If you think so harshly of me because a paper under the control of one of my friends nominated you for Governor, what, or how, ought I to think of you because of your paper at Jacksonville doing the same thing for me twice?10 Why, you will say you had nothing do with it; and I shall believe ^you;^ but why am I to be judged less charatably?
In another part of your letter you attempt to convict me of giving ^a^ double account as to my motive in introducing the resolution to the Convention at Pekin– You say "You then told me the object was to soothe Baker's mortified feelings, and that it did not amount to a committal of any body"– "Now you say the object was to give Baker the field for the next race, so as to keep the party together"– I kept no copy of my letter; but I guess if you will turn to it, you will find that I have not, any where in it, said "the object was to give Baker the field for the next race &c” and then if you will allow that you may have committed as great a mistake, as to what I told you at Pekin, you will find yourself a good deal short of the conviction you intended. What I told ^you^ at Pekin I do not precisely rember recollect; but I am sure of some
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things I did not tell you or any one else– If you shall say that I told you it was an object with me, in introducing the resolution, to soothe Baker's feelings, I shall admit it; but if you shall say I told ^you that,^ that was the sole object, I deny it–
If you shall say I then told you that the passage of the resolution amounted to a committal of no one, I deny that also; but if you shall say I then told you, it amounted to a committal of no one, except the delegates, generally who voted for it, and me, particularly, who introduced it, I shall not deny it–
This much, and no more, as a committal, I always supposed it to amount to; and I guess you will be able to find nothing in my late letter to you that is inconsistent with this– And I here add, that I have not since entering this contest with you, or at any time, sought to appropriate to myself any benefit from that resolution, ether as settling the succession to pass through me, or as settling a principle that shall give the succession that direction– I have said that "Turn about is fair play"; but this I have said just as I would, if that resolution [h?] had never been thought of– I should not hesitate to say publicly, that I claim nothing, in any form, through the Pekin convention, were it not that some friends that have thought and spoken differently, and I dislike to rebuke them
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for what they have not supposed to be injustice to you, while they have meant it in kindness to me—yet, rather than be over-delicate, if you desire it, I will do it any how– I repeat, I desire nothing from the Pekin convention– If I am not, (in services done the party, and in capacity to serve in future) near enough your equal, when added to the fact of your having had a turn, to entitle me to the nomination, I scorn it on any and all other grounds– The question of capacity, I opine your Morgan Journal correspondent will find little difficulty in deciding; and probably the District may concur, with quite as little–
A good long paragraph of your letter is occupied in an argument to prove that struggles for the succession will break down the party– It is certain that struggles between candidates, do not strengthen a party; but who are most responsible for these struggles, those who are willing to live and let live, or those who are resolved, at all hazzards, to take care of "number one"?– Take, as an example, the very case in hand– You have (and deservedly) many devoted friends; and they have been gratified by seeing you in congress, and taking a stand that did high credit to you and to them– I also have a few friends (I fear not enough) who, as well as your own, aided in giving you that distinction– Is it natural that they shall be greatly pleased at hearing what they helped to build up, turned into an argument, for keeping their own favourite
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down? Will they grow, and multiply on such grateful food? Is it by such exclusiveness that you think a party will gain strength?
In my letter to you, I reminded you that you had firs first at Washington, and afterwards at Pekin, said to me that if Baker succeeded he would most likely hang on as long as possible, while with you it would be different– If I am not mistaken in your having said this (and I am sure I am not) it seems you then thought a little more favourably of "turn about" than you seem to now– And in writing your letter you seem to have felt this; for that is about the only part of mine, that you have failed to notice–
After, by way of imputations upon me, you have used the [...?] the terms "management" "manoevering" and "combination" quite freely, you, in your closing paragraph say: "For it is mortifying to discover that those with whom I have long acted & from whom I expected a different course, have considered it all fair to prevent my nomination to congress"– Feeling, as I do, the utter injustice of these imputations, it is somewhat difficult to be patient under them– yet I content myself with saying that if there is cause for mortification any where, it is in the readiness with which you believe, and make such charges, against one with whom you truly say you have long acted; and in whose conduct, you
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have heretofore marked nothing as dishonorable–
I believe you do not mean to be unjust, or ungenerous; and I, therefore am slow to believe that you will not yet think better and think differently of this matter–
Yours trulyA. Lincoln.
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SPRINGFIELD Ill.[Illinois]
FEB[February] 11
Genl[General] J. J. HardinJacksonvilleIllinois–
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.
2John J. Hardin’s letter to Abraham Lincoln has not been located.
At a Whig convention in Pekin in May 1843, an agreement was made between Lincoln, Edward D. Baker, and Hardin that seemed to establish a one-term limit on the prospective Whig congressmen. Hardin and Baker having each served one term, Lincoln believed that the 1846 nomination should have been his. While Lincoln set out to solidify his support in the district, Hardin proposed that the convention system for the nomination be thrown out in favor of a primary election. Lincoln rejected Hardin’s proposal on January 19, 1846, and Hardin subsequently declined the nomination entirely.
Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 2:218, 231; Sangamo Journal (Springfield, IL), 26 February 1846, 2:1-2.
3February 7 was a Saturday.
4No issues of the Morgan Journal for February 1846 are extant; however, the article was copied in the February 14 issue of the Illinois Gazette. The author, who signed as “A Member of the Pekin Convention of 1843,” made public for the first time Hardin’s proposal to change from a nominating convention to a primary election, and also Lincoln’s rejection of the proposal.
The Illinois Gazette (Lacon), 14 February 1846, 2:3-4.
5Lincoln 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.
6Baker’s letter to Lincoln has not been located.
7Sometime between September and February, Baker officially declined re-nomination for the seat in the House of Representatives.
Sangamo Journal (Springfield, IL), 5 February 1846, 2:2.
8Benjamin F. James’ newspaper, the Tazewell Whig, proclaimed Hardin for governor in at least three November issues. On November 15, the Alton Telegraph and Democratic Review noted that the Tazewell Whig had put forth Hardin’s name for governor. It implied first-hand knowledge that Hardin would not run for governor, and posited that while no Whig could win statewide office, the congressional race would be an opportunity with a greater chance of success.
Abraham Lincoln to Benjamin F. James; Abraham Lincoln to Henry E. Dummer; Abraham Lincoln to Benjamin F. James; The Tazewell Whig (Tremont, IL), 1 November 1845, 2:1; 8 November 1845, 2:1; 15 November 1845, 2:1; Alton Telegraph and Democratic Review (IL), 15 November 1845, 2:3.
9On November 26, 1845, Hardin wrote the Tazewell Whig, declining his nomination as a candidate for governor. On December 18, 1845, the Sangamo Journal also published the letter.
Sangamo Journal (Springfield, IL), 18 December 1845, 2:1, 4.
10Hardin edited the Morgan Journal’s predecessor, The Illinoisan.
History of Morgan County, Illinois (Chicago: Donnelley, Loyd, 1878), 399.

Autograph Letter Signed, 12 page(s), Lincoln Collection, Chicago Historical Society (Chicago, IL)