Abraham Lincoln to Joseph Gillespie, 1 December 18541Springfield, Dec: 1– 1854J. Gillespie, Esq[Esquire]My dear Sir:
I have really got it into my head to try to be United States Senator; and if I could have your support my chances would be reasonably good–2 But I know, and acknowledge, that you have as just claims to the place as I have; and therefore I do not ask you to yield to me, if you are thinking of becoming a candidate yourself– If, however, you are not, then I should like to be remembered affectionately by you; and also to ^have you^ make a mark for me with the Anti-Nebraska members down your way–3 If you know, and have no objection to tell, let me know whether Trumbull intends to make a push–4 If he does, I suppose the two men in St Clair, and one or both [
...?] in Madison will be for him–5
We have the Legislature clearly enough on joint ballot; but the Senate is very close; and Calhoun told me to-day that the Nebraska men will stave off the election if they can– Even if we get into joint vote, we shall have difficulty to unite our forces–6
Please write me, and let this be confidentialYour friend as everA. Lincoln–
A Lincoln to J Gillespie
Dec[December] 1 18547
Dec[December] 1 18547
2Passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act and its effective repeal of the Missouri Compromise reawakened Lincoln’s 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. 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. In November and December 1854, Lincoln wrote confidential letters to Joseph Gillespie and other political allies seeking support for his candidacy and information about his prospects.
3In his reply, Gillespie wrote: “I am not not a candidate however and do not expect to be but I will not say that I will not be.” Gillespie wrote further that he had received a similar letter from Cyrus Edwards at the same time as this letter and, due to their friendship, Gillespie had chosen to support Edwards over Lincoln. Gillespie did, however, write that if Edwards’ candidacy failed and he did not become a candidate himself, that he would support Lincoln’s run.
4Anti-Nebraska Democrat Lyman Trumbull eventually became a leading contender for the seat. See the 1854 Federal Election.
5Albert H. Trapp and William C. Kinney represented St. Clair County in the Illinois House of Representatives. George T. Allen and Henry S. Baker represented Madison County.
Louis L. Emmerson, ed., Blue Book of the State of Illinois, 1923-1924 (Springfield: Illinois State Journal, 1923), 680.
6The 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 Trumbull instead. Gillespie cast his vote for Edwards on the first ballot, but Edwards dropped out after the first vote, and Gillespie shifted his allegiance to Lincoln. Gillespie supported Lincoln until the ninth ballot, when he transferred his vote to Trumbull. Allen and Baker cast their votes for Trumbull on all the ballots. Trapp and Kinney both voted for Gustave P. Koerner until the seventh ballot, when Trapp switched to Joel A. Matteson. Kinney switched from Koerner to Matteson on the ninth ballot. See the 1854 Federal Election.
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; David Herbert Donald, Lincoln, 167-73; Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 1:392, 401-2; 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; Illinois Senate Journal. 1855. 19th G. A., 1st sess., 242-55.
Autograph Letter Signed, 2 page(s), Abraham Lincoln Collection, Missouri Historical Society (St. Louis, MO).