Abraham Lincoln to Lyman Trumbull, 7 June 18561Springfield, June 7. 1856Hon: Lyman TrumbullMy dear Sir:
The news of Buchanan’s nomination came yesterday; and a good many whigs, of conservative feelings, and slight pro-slavery proclivities, withal, are inclining to go for him, unle and will do it, unless the Anti-Nebraska nomination shall be such as to divert them–2 The man to effect that object is Judge McLean; and his nomination would save every whig, except such as have already gone over hook and line, as Singleton, Morrison, Constable, & others– J. T. Stuart, Anthony Thornton, James M. Davis (the old settler) and others like them, will heartily go for McLean, but will every one go for Buchanan, as against Chase, Banks, Seward, Blair or Fremont– I think they would stand Blair or Fremont for Vice-President– but not more–3
Now there is a grave question to be considered. Nine tenths of the Anti-Nebraska votes have to come from old whigs– In setting stakes, is ^it^ safe to totally disregard them? Can we possibly win, if we do so?4 So far they have been disregarded– I need not point out the
I think I may trust you to believe I do not say this on my own personal account– I am in, and shall go for any one nominated unless he be “platformed” expressly, or impliedly, on some ground which I may think wrong–5
Since the nomination of Bissell we are in good trim in Illinois, save at the point I have indicated– If we can save pretty nearly all the whigs, we shall elect him, I think, by a vey ^very^ large majority–6
I address this to you, because your influence in the Anti-Nebraska nomination will be greater than that of any other Illinoisan–7
Let this be confidentialYours very trulyA. Lincoln
2The Illinois State Journal of the preceding day had announced that the 1856 Democratic National Convention had nominated James Buchanan for president.
While the Republican-leaning newspaper scorned the choice as unlikely to be popular among Democrats due to Buchanan’s age and political record, the delegates to the Democratic National Convention chose Buchanan in the belief that he would be a less controversial alternative to both incumbent president Franklin Pierce and to Stephen A. Douglas. Throughout the 1856 Federal Election, many Republicans—including Lincoln—worried that conservative former Whigs who had been drawn to the nascent Republican Party by their opposition to the Kansas-Nebraska Act might vote for Buchanan if the Republican presidential candidate was too radical.
Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield), 6 June 1856, 2:1; David Herbert Donald, Lincoln (New York: Touchstone, 1995), 192; Franklin William Scott, Newspapers and Periodicals of Illinois, 1814-1879, vol. 6 of Collections of the Illinois State Historical Library (Springfield: Illinois State Historical Library, 1910), 321; Jean H. Baker, James Buchanan (New York: Times Books, 2004), 69; Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 1:421-22; Joseph Gillespie to Abraham Lincoln.
3James W. Singleton, James L. D. Morrison, Charles H. Constable, John T. Stuart, Anthony Thornton, and James M. Davis had all been affiliated with the Whig Party in Illinois prior to its dissolution. Despite Lincoln’s hope to lure Stuart, Thornton, and Davis to the Republican Party with a conservative candidate in the 1856 presidential election, the 1856 Republican National Convention nominated John C. Fremont for president and William L. Dayton for vice president. Stuart subsequently supported American Party candidate Millard Fillmore and both Thornton and Davis spoke publicly in support of the Democratic Party during the 1856 campaign and ultimately became Democrats.
James Garfield Randall, “Singleton, James Washington,” Dictionary of American Biography (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1935), 17:191; Biographical Directory of the American Congress 1774-1996 (Alexandria, VA: CQ Staff Directories, 1997), 1557; William Henry Perrin, ed., History of Crawford and Clark Counties, Illinois (Chicago: O. L. Baskin, 1883), 291-92; Sylvia B. Larson, “Stuart, John Todd,” American National Biography, 21:78-79; Portrait and Biographical Record of Shelby and Moultrie Counties, Illinois (Chicago: Biographical, 1891), 240-42; John M. Palmer, ed., The Bench and Bar of Illinois: Historical and Reminiscent (Chicago: Lewis, 1899), 2:967-69; Proceedings of the First Three Republican National Conventions of 1856, 1860 and 1864 (Minneapolis, MN: Charles W. Johnson, 1893), 58-59, 65-66; Summary of Speech at Shelbyville, Illinois; Report of Speech at Vandalia, Illinois.
4Buchanan won the presidency in 1856. In Illinois, he won 44.1 percent of the vote to Fremont’s 40.2 percent and Fillmore’s 15.7 percent.
Howard W. Allen and Vincent A. Lacey, eds., Illinois Elections, 1818-1990 (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1992), 10.
5Despite his initial preference for U.S. Supreme Court Justice John McLean as the Republican candidate for president in 1856, Lincoln campaigned vigorously throughout Illinois on behalf of Fremont once he was selected as the party’s nominee.
Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life, 1:422, 426-32.
6Lincoln had recently attended the Illinois Anti-Nebraska Convention on May 29, 1856, when William H. Bissell was nominated for governor. In the 1856 Illinois gubernatorial election, Bissell earned 47 percent of the vote, beating Democrat William A. Richardson, who garnered 45 percent of the vote, and American Party candidate Buckner S. Morris, who received 8 percent, and thus became the first Republican governor of Illinois.
David Herbert Donald, Lincoln, 191; Howard W. Allen and Vincent A. Lacey, eds., Illinois Elections, 1818-1990, 10; Robert P. Howard, Mostly Good and Competent Men: Illinois Governors, 1818-1988 (Springfield: Illinois Issues, Sangamon State University and Illinois State Historical Society, 1988), 109.
7Trumbull responded to this letter to inform Lincoln that it had convinced him to attend the 1856 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia, which he did as a guest and not as a voting member of the Illinois delegation. Trumbull initially leaned towards McLean for president but considered McLean’s chances and decided to support Fremont’s candidacy before arriving at the convention. Following Fremont’s nomination, Trumbull campaigned for him in Illinois in the autumn of 1856.
Lyman Trumbull to Abraham Lincoln; Ralph J. Roske, His Own Counsel: The Life and Times of Lyman Trumbull (Reno, NV: University of Nevada Press, 1979), 36-37, 39-40; Proceedings of the First Three Republican National Conventions of 1856, 1860 and 1864, 41.
Autograph Letter Signed, 3 page(s), Huntington Library (San Marino, CA).