Abraham Lincoln to Benjamin F. James, 9 February 18461Springfield, Feb. 9. 1846Dear James:
You have seen, or will see what I am inclined to think you will regard as rather an extraordinary communication in the Morgan Jour^nal^.–2 The "excessive modesty" of it's tone is certainly admirable– As an excuse for getting before the public, the writer sets out with a pretence of answering an article which I believe appeared in the Lacon paper some time since; taking the ground that the Pekin convention had settled the rotation principle– Now whether the Pekin convention did or did not settle that principle, I care not– If I am not, in what I have done, and am able to do, for the party, near enough the equal of Genl Hardin, to entitle me to the nomination, now that he has one, I scorn it on any and all other grounds–
So far then, as this Morgan Journal communication may relate to the Pekin convention, I rather prefer that your paper shall let it "stink and die" unnoticed– There is, however, as you will see, another thing in the communication which is, an attempt to injure me because of my declining to reccommend the adoption of a new plan, for the selecting a candidate– The attempt is to make it appear that I am unwilling to have a fair expression of the whigs of the District upon our respective ^claims–^–3 Now, nothing can be more false in fact; and if Genl[General] Hardin, had chosen, to furnish his friend with my written reason for declining that part of his plan; and that friend had chosen to publish that reason, instead of his own construction of the act, the falsehood of his insinuation would have been most apparent– That written reason was as follows, towit: "As to your proposals that a poll shall be opened in
<Page 2>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–"4
I send you this as a weapon with which to demolish, what I can not ^but^ regard as a mean insinuation against me– You may use it as you please; I prefer however that you should show it to some of our friends, and not publish it, unless in your judgment it becomes rather urgently necessary–5
The reason I want to keep all points of controversy out of the papers, so far as possible, is, that it will be just all we can do, to keep out of a quarrel—and I am resolved to do my part to keep peace–Yours trulyA. Lincoln
<Page 3>SPRINGFIELD Ill.[Illinois]
PAID5B. F. James Esqr[Esquire]TremontIllinois–
Feby[February] 9– 46
Feby[February] 9– 46
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. Benjamin F. James penned the docketing on the last page.
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 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.
No 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.
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.
4For Lincoln’s entire response to Hardin, see Abraham Lincoln to John J. Hardin.
5James did not publish this letter in the Tazewell Whig.
Autograph Letter Signed, 3 page(s), Alexander Calvin and Ellen Morton Washburn Autograph Collection, Massachusetts Historical Society (Boston, MA).