Abraham Lincoln to Ichabod Codding, 27 November 18541
(Copy)Springfield, Novr 27. 1854I. Codding, Esq[Esquire]Dear Sir
Your note of the 13th requesting my attendance of the Republican State Central Committee, on the 17th Inst at Chicago, was, owing to my absence from home, received on the evening of that day (17th) only–2 While I have pen in hand allow me to say I have been perplexed some to understand why my name was placed on that committee. I was not consulted on the subject; nor ^was I^ apprized of the appointment, until I discovered it by accident two or three weeks afterwards– I suppose my opposition to the principle of slavery is as strong as that of any member of the Republican party;3 but I had also supposed that the extent to which I felt ^feel^ authorized to carry that opposition, practically; was not at all satisfactory to that party–4 The leading men who organized that party, were present, on the 4th of Oct[October] at the discussion between Douglas and myself at Springfield, and had full oppertunity to not misunderstand my position–5 Do I misunderstand theirs? Please write, and inform me–Yours trulyA. Lincoln–
2Lincoln left Springfield for Clinton, Illinois, on November 8 for a special term of the Dewitt County Circuit Court. He returned to Springfield for the weekend, again leaving for Clinton on November 13. Lincoln returned home to find Ichabod Codding’s letter on the evening of November 17.
Codding’s request came in the aftermath of the state and congressional elections of 1854, which witnessed Lincoln’s return to politics after a brief hiatus concentrating on his law practice. 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.
The Lincoln Log: A Daily Chronology of the Life of Abraham Lincoln, 8 November 1854, http://www.thelincolnlog.org/Results.aspx?type=CalendarDay&day=1854-11-08; 11 November 1854, http://www.thelincolnlog.org/Results.aspx?type=CalendarDay&day=1854-11-11; 13 November 1854, http://www.thelincolnlog.org/Results.aspx?type=CalendarDay&day=1854-11-13; 17 November 1854, http://www.thelincolnlog.org/Results.aspx?type=CalendarDay&day=1854-11-17; David Herbert Donald, Lincoln (New York: Touchstone, 1995), 167-73; Autobiography of Abraham Lincoln Written for John L. Scripps; Abraham Lincoln to Orville H. Browning.
3The Republican Party movement in Illinois at this time contained myriad abolitionists, and they were contemporaneously called “fusionists.” Lincoln cooperated with the movement but refused to join it. For more on the demise of the Whig party and the newly formed Republican Party, see 1854 Federal Election.
Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1953), 2:288.
4When Lincoln’s name arose as the possible twelfth member of the Republican State Central Committee, some voters—delegates to the October 4 anti-Nebraska convention—questioned the extent of his antislavery position. However, Owen Lovejoy defended Lincoln, and he was added to the committee.
Victor B. Howard, “The Illinois Republican Party: Part I: A Party Organizer for the Republicans in 1854,” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 64 (Summer 1971), 150.
5Lincoln covered much of the same ground in his more famous speech at Peoria, Illinois, on October 16. At Springfield, Peoria, and other locations, Lincoln bemoaned the injustice of slavery and the Kansas-Nebraska Act, but Lincoln did not go far enough to appease abolitionists. At Peoria he exclaimed, “But Nebraska is urged as a great Union-saving measure. Well I too, go for saving the Union. Much as I hate slavery, I would consent to the extension of it rather than see the Union dissolved, just as I would consent to any GREAT evil, to avoid a GREATER one.”
Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, 2:240-47, 270.
Autograph Letter Signed, 1 page(s), Abraham Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress (Washington, DC).