Abraham Lincoln to Henry C. Whitney, 7 June 18551Springfield June 7, 1855H. C. Whitney, Esq[Esquire]My dear Sir:
Your note containing election news is received; and for which I thank you–2 It is all of no use, however– Logan is worse beaten than any other man ever was since elections were invented— beaten more than 1200 in this county–3
It is conceded on all hands that the Prohibitory law is also beaten–4Yours trulyA Lincoln–
3Stephen T. Logan had been a candidate for a seat on the Illinois Supreme Court made possible by the resignation of Samuel H. Treat, who resigned as chief justice of the Illinois Supreme Court in March 1855 in order to become judge of the newly created U.S. Circuit Court, Southern District of Illinois. Lincoln had endorsed Logan’s candidacy in a letter to Henry E. Dummer on March 19, 1855, and he joined Benjamin S. Edwards and John T. Stuart in endorsing Logan in a letter to Orville H. Browning on March 23. Onius C. Skinner defeated Logan to succeed Treat on the Illinois Supreme Court as an associate justice. Walter B. Scates took over the role of chief justice.
“Illinois Supreme Court Terms and Justices,” Reference, Chronologies, Martha L. Benner and Cullom Davis et al., eds., The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln: Complete Documentary Edition, http://www.lawpracticeofabrahamlincoln.org/Reference/Reference%20html%20files/Chronology--ISC.html; John M. Palmer, ed., The Bench and Bar of Illinois: Historical and Reminiscent (Chicago: Lewis, 1899), 1:35, 54; John Dean Caton, Early Bench and Bar of Illinois (Chicago: The Chicago Legal News, 1893), 94; Abraham Lincoln to Henry C. Whitney.
4By the 1850s, temperance advocates in the United States had moved from campaigns to reduce the consumption of alcohol to the prohibition of alcohol by statute. In 1845, the New York State Legislature enacted a law prohibiting the sale of alcohol, but it was repealed in 1847. In 1846, the Maine Legislature prohibited the retail sale of intoxicating beverages in less than twenty-eight gallon lots, and in 1851, it followed with a law prohibiting the manufacture and sale of intoxicants in the state. Other states in New England and the Midwest enacted similar prohibitions. In April 1851, the Illinois General Assembly passed its own prohibitory law, prohibiting the retail sale of intoxicating drinks in quantities less than one quart unless by druggists and physicians, forbidding consumption where purchased, and banning the sale to anyone under the age of eighteen. This law proved unpopular and unenforceable, and the General Assembly repealed it in February 1853. In the state elections of 1854, anti-Nebraska candidates, many running on fusion tickets endorsed by temperance advocates, won a majority, rising hopes for total prohibition. In February 1855, anti-Nebraska and temperance legislators pushed through a law for the suppression of intemperance--a law one historian has claimed was Lincoln’s handiwork, though there is scant evidence for this contention. The act provided for a popular referendum on prohibition to be conducted at a special election on the first Monday in June. Voters in the special election rejected the prohibition law.
“An Act to Prohibit the Retailing of Intoxicating Drinks,” 18 April 1851, General Laws of Illinois (1851), 18-19; “An Act to Repeal an Act Entitled ‘An Act to Prohibit the Retailing of Intoxicating Drinks,’ Approved February 1st 1851,” 7 February 1853, General Laws of Illinois (1853), 127; “An Act for the Suppression of Intemperance, and to Amend Chapter 30 of the Revised Statutes,” 12 February 1855, Laws of Illinois (1855), 1-30; Arthur Charles Cole, The Era of the Civil War 1848-1870, vol. 3 of The Centennial History of Illinois (Springfield, IL: Illinois Centennial Commission, 1919), 209-10; Ronald G. Walters, American Reformers 1815-1860, rev. ed. (New York: Hill and Wang, 1997), 139; John A. Krout, “Temperance Movement,” Dictionary of American History, rev. ed. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1976), 7:23; Charles T. White, Lincoln and Prohibition (New York and Cincinnati: Abingdon, 1921), 147, 155-56, 176.
Copy of Autograph Letter Signed, 1 page(s). Abraham Lincoln Association Files, Lincoln Collection, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (Springfield, IL).