Abraham Lincoln to Orville H. Browning, 12 November 18541Springfield, Nov. 12, 1854Dear Browning:
At day light the morning after the election, I had to go to court at DeWitt county, and I then had nothing of any account to write you–2 On my return last night I found your letter.3 Yates is beaten from 100 to 150– The whole thing was done in Morgan & Scott counties; in all the rest of the District we did better than we expected– The quarrel over the Insane Asylum & the turning of about 200 english whigs in the two counties against him, because of Know-Nothingism, was what did the work for him– He now has in the two counties only about 100 majority; whereas two years ago, he had 521–4We now understand here that Mr Williams is beaten also– Schuyler and Brown are said to have played thunder–5
By the returns in, Miller appears to have beaten Moore for Treasurer– The only thing that throws doubt upon this is, that there is not much in from the South yet; and among the little that is in, there are some favorable signs to Moore– For instance, in Greene, Harris beats Yates over 400 while Moore beats Miller over 900–6
Also, in StClair Moore has over 900 majority while, on the contrary, Trumbull, and Anti Nebraska generally, has have about 900 majority– In all other places heard from Moore is getting along about like Nebraska– From what I see I think he must be beaten an average of 2500 in each of the four Northern congressional Districts–7 Washburne, Woodworth, Norton and Knox are certainly elected– It is believed Norton has a majority in every county of his District— in Vermillion alone 1120–8 Trumbull's election is sure by a very large majority– The Democrats here claim that Allen is re-elected; and I fear it is so; though it is not quite certain In the four Northern counties old Col. Archer gains over 400 on him; and I can hear nothing from any other county, though it is probable the dems– have something– I believe this is all I know–9Yours trulyA. Lincoln–
<Page 4>SPRINGFIELD Ill.
PAID 3Hon: O. H. BrowningQuincyIllinois–
1Abraham Lincoln wrote and signed this letter, including the address on the last sheet, which was folded to create an envelope.
2The election of 1854 took place November 7. Lincoln was in Springfield, Illinois that day, but left for Clinton, Illinois early in the morning on November 8 to attend a special term of the DeWitt County Circuit Court.
The Lincoln Log: A Daily Chronology of the Life of Abraham Lincoln, 7 November 1854, http://thelincolnlog.org/Results.aspx?type=CalendarDay&day=1854-11-07; 8 November 1854, http://thelincolnlog.org/Results.aspx?type=CalendarDay&day=1854-11-08.
4In the congressional election of 1854, Whig Richard Yates, the incumbent, vied against Democrat Thomas L. Harris, to see who would represent the Illinois Sixth Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. Harris defeated Yates by 200 votes, garnering 50.5 percent of the vote to Yates’ 49.5 percent.
Controversy erupted in 1853 when the board of trustees of the Illinois State Asylum and Hospital for the Insane relieved Superintendent James M. Higgins of his duties. Higgins contested his removal, and the trustees sued Higgins in the Morgan County Circuit Court to enforce the removal. Yates, who had sponsored the bill that established the Illinois State Asylum and Hospital for the Insane in 1847, represented the trustees in this lawsuit. The court ruled for Higgins, and the trustees appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court. Lincoln represented Higgins before the Supreme Court, which in March 1854, reversed the lower court ruling and upheld the trustees’ decision to remove Higgins.
In a letter to Yates dated October 30, Lincoln warned Yates that certain “English” in Morgan County might turn against Yates over rumors that he was a Know Nothing and offered a campaign letter to assist Yates--to no avail.
In the congressional election of 1852, Yates had 1,677 votes in Morgan County to 1,288 votes for John Calhoun, his Democratic opponent. In Scott County, Yates garnered 780 votes to Calhoun’s 648 votes. In 1854, Yates received 1,591 votes in Morgan County to 1,409 for Harris. In Scott County, Harris garnered 744 votes to 665 for Yates. In the rest of the district, Yates won Jersey, Menard, and Sangamon counties, and Harris won Cass, Christian, Greene, Macoupin, Montgomery, and Shelby counties.
David Herbert Donald, Lincoln (New York: Touchstone, 1995), 171; Michael F. Holt, The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party: Jacksonian Politics and the Onset of the Civil War (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 841; Charles M. Eames, Historic Morgan and Classic Jacksonville (Jacksonville, IL: 1885), 123; “An Act to Establish the Illinois State Hospital for the Insane,” 1 March 1847, Laws of Illinois (1847), 52; People ex rel. Stevenson et al. v. Higgins, Martha L. Benner and Cullom Davis et al., eds., The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln: Complete Documentary Edition, 2d edition (Springfield: Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, 2009), http://www.lawpracticeofabrahamlincoln.org/Details.aspx?case=137942, http://www.lawpracticeofabrahamlincoln.org/Details.aspx?case=137943; Abraham Lincoln and Stephen T. Logan to David A. Smith; Howard W. Allen and Vincent A. Lacey, eds., Illinois Elections, 1818-1990 (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1992), 9-10, 132-35.
5Archibald Williams vied with Democrat William A. Richardson to represent Illinois’ Fifth Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. Richardson defeated Williams, winning 52.4 percent of the district’s votes to Williams’ 47.6 percent. In Schuyler County, Williams won just 37.3 percent of the vote, compared to 62.7 percent for Richardson. In Brown County, the results were similarly disappointing for Williams; he garnered only 39.1 percent of the vote to Richardson’s 60.9 percent.
Howard W. Allen and Vincent A. Lacey, eds., Illinois Elections, 1818-1990, 10, 134.
6The Democratic Party sustained sweeping losses in Illinois during the election of 1854. The state’s voters sent an anti-Nebraska majority to the Illinois General Assembly. Democrat John Moore, who was largely silent on the Kansas-Nebraska Act, was one of the few exceptions. Contrary to Lincoln’s prediction, Moore triumphed over anti-Nebraska candidate James Miller by a very narrow margin in the competition for state treasurer, emerging with 51 percent of the vote. His margin of victory was much larger in Greene County, however, where he secured an estimated 65 to 75 percent of the vote. Harris received 60.5 of the voters in Greene County to 39.5 for Yates
Arthur Charles Cole, The Era of the Civil War 1848-1870, vol. 3 of The Centennial History of Illinois (Springfield: Illinois Centennial Commission, 1919), 132-33; Howard W. Allen and Vincent A. Lacey, eds., Illinois Elections, 1818-1990, 134.
7In St. Clair County, Moore also won an estimated 65 to 75 percent of the vote. Lincoln was correct that Moore’s performance in Illinois’ four northern congressional districts was less impressive. In fact, Miller performed best in the state’s three northernmost districts. The only counties that Miller did not win by a significant majority were DeWitt, Grundy, and Iroquois counties in the Third Congressional District; in the former two he won 55 percent or less of the vote, and in the latter Moore won 55 percent or less of the vote.
Anti-Nebraska Democrat Lyman Trumbull ran against pro-Nebraska Democrat Phillip B. Fouke and Know Nothing candidate Nathaniel Buckmaster for the Eighth Congressional District’s seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Trumbull won 58.1 percent of the total vote to Fouke’s 38.9 percent and Buckmaster’s 2.9 percent.
Arthur Charles Cole, The Era of the Civil War 1848-1870, 132-33; Howard W. Allen and Vincent A. Lacey, eds., Illinois Elections, 1818-1990, 10, 134; David Osborn, “Trumbull, Lyman," American National Biography, ed. by John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 21:877.
8Lincoln was correct—Elihu B. Washburne, James H. Woodworth, Jesse O. Norton, and James Knox each won election to the U.S. House of Representatives. Washburne triumphed over anti-Nebraska Democrat Elisha P. Ferry and Democrat William M. Jackson in Illinois’ First Congressional District, winning 69.3 percent of the district’s total vote. Woodworth won 53.1 percent of the Second Congressional District’s total vote, over Democrat John B. Turner, Whig Robert S. Blackwell, and anti-Nebraska Democrat Edward L. Mayo. Norton won 62.8 percent of the Third Congressional District’s votes over Democrat John A. Drake. And in the Fourth Congressional District, Knox won 57 percent of the district’s votes to Democrat William McMurtry’s 42.6 percent.
Howard W. Allen and Vincent A. Lacey, eds., Illinois Elections 1818-1990, 9-10.
9In Illinois’ Seventh Congressional District, Democrat James C. Allen narrowly won an intensely competitive race against Republican William B. Archer. The contest came down to a single vote: Allen received 8,452 votes to Archer’s 8,451. Allen received the certificate of election, but Archer contested the outcome. Congress nullified the results and left the seat vacant until a new election could be held. In August 1856, Allen defeated Archer in a special election.
Lincoln, whose passion for politics was reawakened by the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act and its effective repeal of the Missouri Compromise, allowed himself to become a candidate for the Illinois General Assembly (albeit unwillingly at first). He threw himself into the congressional election campaign in the fall of 1854, crisscrossing Illinois to deliver speeches against the Kansas-Nebraska Act and in support of anti-Nebraska candidates, including Yates and Williams. As the election campaign reached its climax, his name began to circulate as a possible nominee for one of the state’s U.S. Senate seats. He won election to the Illinois General Assembly, but, in late-November 1854, declined to serve in order to run for the U.S. Senate. Ultimately, Lincoln did not win election to the U.S. Senate. In February 1855, the Illinois General Assembly— with its new anti-Nebraska majority—selected Trumbull instead. See the 1854 Federal Election.
Howard W. Allen and Vincent A. Lacey, eds., Illinois Elections, 1818-1990, 10, 11; Newton Bateman and Paul Selby, eds., Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of Clark County, ed. by H. C. Bell (Chicago: Middle West, 1907), 22; Abraham Lincoln to Hugh Lamaster; Abraham Lincoln to Joseph Gillespie; Abraham Lincoln to Horace W. Fay; David Herbert Donald, Lincoln, 167-73; Autobiography of Abraham Lincoln Written for John L. Scripps; William H. Randolph to Abraham Lincoln; Illinois Daily Journal (Springfield), 10 November 1854, 2:5; Abraham Lincoln to Noah W. Matheny; Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 1:392, 401-2; David Osborn, “Trumbull, Lyman," American National Biography, 21:877.
Autograph Letter Signed, 4 page(s), Box 4, Lincoln Collection, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (Springfield, IL).