Abraham Lincoln to Elihu B. Washburne, 14 December 18541Springfield, Dec: 14. 1854Hon: E. B. WashburneMy dear Sir:
So far as I am concerned, there must be something wrong about U.S. Senator, at Chicago–2 My most intimate friends there do not answer my letters; and I can not get a word from them–3 Wentworth has a knack of knowing things better than most men– I wish you would pump him, and write me what you get from him–4 Please do this as soon as you can, as the time is growing short–5 Dont let any one know I have written you this; for there may be those opposed to me, nearer about you than you think–6Very truly Yours &c[etc.]A. Lincoln
Dec[December] 14th 18547
Dec[December] 14th 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 political allies seeking support for his candidacy and information about his prospects. Lincoln won election to the Illinois House of Representatives in the 1854 election, but declined the seat in late November in order to run for U.S. Senate.
David Herbert Donald, Lincoln (New York: Touchstone, 1995), 167-73; William H. Randolph to Abraham Lincoln; Autobiography of Abraham Lincoln Written for John L. Scripps; Abraham Lincoln to Hugh Lamaster; Abraham Lincoln to Joseph Gillespie; Abraham Lincoln to Horace W. Fay; Illinois Daily Journal (Springfield), 10 November 1854, 2:5.
3Lincoln supporter David Davis wrote to him on December 15, 1854, “I was in Chicago, Tuesday,– Heard no body say any thing on the subject, except J. S. Wright, the Editor Prairie Farmer– He thought there must be a new man &c &c– I expressed to him pretty clearly my views– He said you stood high in Chicago— and that, Dunlap a member, was favorably impressed towards you– On the whole, I, don't like the air of Chicago–” The next day, December 16, J. Young Scammon of Chicago wrote to Lincoln, “Illness and absence must be my apology for not replying to your letter before.”
4In Elihu B. Washburne’s reply to Lincoln on December 19, 1854, he wrote that Wentworth was “away now and will be for two weeks. He told me coming on that you would be the Senator.”
5Though still a Democrat, John Wentworth by late 1854 identified more closely with the anti-Nebraska coalition that arose in the aftermath of the Kansas-Nebraska Act. As reflected in editorials in his Chicago Democrat, Wentworth wavered on a candidate for U.S. Senate, exhibiting cordiality toward the incumbent James Shields while not endorsing any one candidate.
Don E. Fehrenbacher, Chicago Giant: A Biography of “Long John” Wentworth (Madison, WI: The American History Research Center, 1957), 134-35.
6Lincoln was among the leading contenders when the Illinois General Assembly met in joint session on February 8, 1855, to elect a U.S. Senator. After ten rounds of balloting, the General Assembly elected Lyman Trumbull as Illinois’s new U.S. Senator. See the 1854 Federal Election. Matthias L. Dunlap cast his ballot for Lincoln in the first three rounds, switched to Trumbull in the fourth, back to Lincoln in the fifth, and finally settled on Trumbull on the eighth ballot. Among the other legislators representing Chicago and Cook County, Norman B. Judd voted for Trumbull on all ten ballots. Thomas Richmond supported Lincoln until the ninth ballot, when he switched to Trumbull. George F. Foster and Robert H. Foss supported Lincoln in the first three ballots before shifting between Trumbull, Archibald Williams, William B. Ogden, and Lincoln, before siding with Trumbull in the eighth and ninth ballots, respectively.
Illinois Senate Journal. 1855. 19th G. A., 1st sess., 242-55.
Autograph Letter Signed, 2 page(s), Box 4, Lincoln Collection, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (Springfield, IL).