Abraham Lincoln to Noah W. Matheny, 25 November 18541Springfield, Novr 25– 1854N. W. Matheny:Clerk of the county courtof Sangamon County, IllinoisSir:
I hereby decline to accept the office of Representative in the General Assembly, for the said county of Sangamon, to which office I am reported to have been elected on the 7th of Novr[November] Inst. I therefore desire that you notify the Governor of this vacancy, in order that legal steps be taken to fill the same–2Your Obt Servt[Obedient Servant]A– Lincoln–
2During the 1854 Federal Election, the voters of Sangamon County elected Lincoln to the Illinois General Assembly. Although he was an unwilling candidate for this position at first, passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act and its effective repeal of the Missouri Compromise had reawakened his passion for politics, and 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. As the election campaign reached its climax, his name began circulating as a possible nominee for one of the state’s U.S. Senate seats. In November and December 1854, he wrote confidential letters to political allies, seeking support for his candidacy and information about his prospects. Per Article III, Section seven of the 1848 Illinois Constitution, however, state legislators were ineligible for election to the U.S. Senate. Lincoln’s decision not to accept his General Assembly seat freed him to pursue a seat in the U.S. Senate.
In the special election held on December 23, 1854 to fill his vacancy in the General Assembly, Democrat Jonathan McDaniel triumphed over Whig Norman M. Broadwell by nearly 100 votes.
Ultimately, Lincoln did not win election to the U.S. Senate; the General Assembly selected anti-Nebraska Democrat Lyman Trumbull instead. See the 1854 Federal Election. Stung and disappointed by his loss, Lincoln made no political speeches or public statements for an entire year after his defeat and reinvested his energies in his law practice.
Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 1:392, 401-2; David Herbert Donald, Lincoln (New York: Touchstone, 1995), 167-73, 185; Autobiography of Abraham Lincoln Written for John L. Scripps; Abraham Lincoln to Hugh Lamaster; Abraham Lincoln to Joseph Gillespie; Abraham Lincoln to Herbert W. Fay; William H. Randolph to Abraham Lincoln; Illinois Daily Journal (Springfield), 10 November 1854, 2:5; Ill. Const. of 1848, art. III, § 7; Illinois State Register (Springfield), 6 January 1855, 4:1.
Autograph Letter Signed, 1 page(s), Box 4, Lincoln Collection, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (Springfield, IL).