Abraham Lincoln to Jacob Harding, 11 November 18541Clinton, DeWitt Co. Nov. 11. 1854Harding, Esq[Esquire]My dear Sir
I have a suspicion that a whig has been elected to the Legislature from Edgar2– If this is not so, why then "nix cum arous"3 but if it is so, then could you not make a mark with him for me, for U.S. Senator? – I really have some chance– Please write me at Springfield, giving me the names, post offices, and political positions, of your representative and senator, whoever they may be–
Let this be confidential–4Yours trulyA. Lincoln
2William D. Watson, a Whig representing Vermilion, Edgar, Coles, and Cumberland counties, won election to the Illinois Senate in November 1854. Dudley McClain, member of the Illinois House of Representatives from Edgar County in 1855, supported the Democratic Party.
Illinois Senate Journal. 1855. 19th G. A., 1st sess., 4; Louis L. Emmerson, Ed., Blue Book of the State of Illinois (Springfield: Illinois State Journal, 1923), 680-81; List of Members of the Illinois Legislature in 1855.
Paul Schach, “Comments on Some Pennsylvania-German Words in the Dictionary of Americanisms,” American Speech 29 (February 1954): 50.
4Jacob Harding’s response has not been located.
Passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act and its effective repeal of the Missouri Compromise had reawakened Lincoln’s passion for politics, and he threw himself into the election campaign in the fall of 1854, crisscrossing Illinois to deliver speeches against the Kansas-Nebraska Act and in support of anti-Nebraska candidates. He even allowed himself to become a candidate for the Illinois General Assembly (albeit unwillingly at first). As the election campaign reached its climax, Lincoln’s name began to circulate as a possible nominee for one of the state’s U.S. Senate seats. Lincoln began quietly seeking support for a Senate candidacy, writing confidentially to Harding and other political allies and friends.
The state’s voters sent an anti-Nebraska majority to the Illinois General Assembly, in which Lincoln also won a seat. However, in late-November 1854, he declined to serve in order to run for the U.S. Senate. Ultimately, Lincoln did not win election to the U.S. Senate; the Illinois General Assembly selected anti-Nebraska Democrat Lyman Trumbull instead. Watson cast his ballot for Lincoln until the eighth ballot, when he switched to Trumbull. See the 1854 Federal Election.
Abraham Lincoln to Hugh Lamaster; Abraham Lincoln to Joseph Gillespie; Abraham Lincoln to Herbert W. Fay; David Herbert Donald, Lincoln (New York: Touchstone, 1995), 167-73; Autobiography of Abraham Lincoln Written for John L. Scripps; William H. Randolph to Abraham Lincoln; Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 1:392, 401-2; Abraham Lincoln to Noah W. Matheny; John Clayton, comp., The Illinois Fact Book and Historical Almanac, 1673-1968 (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1970), 220-21; Illinois Daily Journal (Springfield), 10 November 1854, 2:5; Stephen Hansen and Paul Nygard, “Stephen A. Douglas, the Know-Nothings, and the Democratic Party in Illinois, 1854-1858,” Illinois Historical Journal 87 (Summer 1994), 114; Illinois Senate Journal. 1855. 19th G. A., 1st sess., 242-55.
Autograph Letter Signed, 1 page(s), Minnesota Historical Society (St. Paul, MN).