[ docketing ]
What’s in the Wind?, 23 July 18561
W. J. Young2
[ endorsement ]
The editorial headed, “What’s in the Wind,” was written by Abraham Lincoln.
H H. Houghton
What’s in the Wind?
In the Buchanan paper of this city, we saw yesterday morning a labored communication, to prove that foreigners, who have not been naturalized, according to the laws of the United States, even though they resided here previous to the adoption of our new Constitution, cannot legally vote for Presidential electors.3
This is a grave error, and we presume the writer was led into it by assuming, that none but a citizen of the United States can vote for Electors; whereas, the US Constitution expressly provides, that “Each State may appoint, in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a number of Electors equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress;” * * Art. Sec. 2.4
Our Legislature has directed, that unnaturalized foreigners, who were here before the adoption of our late State Constitution, shall, in common with others, vote for and appoint Presidential Electors. There is no room for cavil in this: The whole is left to the State Legislature. The Legislature needs not to use voters at all as instruments in the appointment of Electors. So well is this understood everywhere, that several of the States heretofore appointed their Electors directly by the Legislatures; and we believe South Carolina does so yet.5
Let not this class of foreigners be alarmed. Our Legislature has directed that they may vote for Electors; and the US. Constitution has expressly authorized the Legislature to make that direction.
But, what’s in the wind? Why are Mr. Buchanan’s friends anxious to deprive foreigners of their votes? We pause for an answer.6
1This editorial, which Horace H. Houghton attributed to Abraham Lincoln, appeared in the July 29, 1856 edition of the Weekly Northwestern Gazette in Galena, Illinois. A manuscript in Lincoln’s hand is not extant. The editorial appeared under the incorrect date of “Wednesday, July 22, 1856.” The Wednesday in question was in fact July 23. The paper mistakenly dated both Tuesday and Wednesday as July 22.
Weekly Northwestern Gazette (Galena, IL), 29 July 1856, 1:5.
2W. J. Young, whose apparent signature appears at the top of the newspaper page, has not been identified.
3The communication referenced, a letter to the editors of the Galena Daily Courier from “No Candidate for Office,” argued that article six of the 1848 Illinois Constitution, in allowing “every white male citizen above the age of twenty-one years, having resided in the State one year next preceding any election” and “any white male inhabitant of the age aforesaid, who may be a resident of the State at the time of the adoption of this Constitution” to vote in national elections went against article one, section eight of the U.S. Constitution, which entrusted the U.S. Congress with the power to establish “an uniform rule of naturalization.” Therefore, the writer concluded, the provision in the Illinois constitution was unconstitutional.
Article six of the 1848 Illinois Constitution dealt with elections and the rights of suffrage. The framers did not include provisions for naturalized citizens. The election law of 1849, enacted by the Illinois General Assembly on February 12, provided for the method for voting by ballot and for the manner in which ballots were returned, collected, canvassed, and verified. Section ten prescribed the qualification for voters and the oath required of voters if election judges suspected a person was not a qualified voter. This law specifically repealed sections one, fifteen, eighteen, twenty-four, and thirty-nine of the revised statutes, entitled “Elections,” enacted on March 3, 1845. It retained section nineteen of the revised statutes, which required election judges to receive the vote of anyone taking the oath or affirmation, unless evidence convinced a majority of the judges in a precinct that the oath or affirmation was false; then the judges could reject the vote and charge the perpetrator with perjury. Judges could also reject the votes of those who refused to take the oath. Section eighteen of the revised statutes gave the right of suffrage to all white men twenty-one years or older having resided in Illinois six months preceding an election, regardless of whether they had been naturalized or not. The General Assembly in the election law of 1849 repealed this section, and in section ten of the new law changed the qualification for suffrage to all white men twenty-one years of age or older having resided in Illinois one year preceding an election, or all white men over the age of twenty-one who resided in the state on April 1, 1848--the date the 1848 Illinois Constitution went into effect.
Galena Daily Courier (IL), 22 July 1856, 3:1-2; U.S. Const. art. I, § 8; Ill. Const. of 1848, art. VI, § 1-8; “An Act to Provide for the Mode of Voting by Ballot, and for the Manner of Returning, Canvassing and Certifying Votes,” 12 February 1849, Laws of Illinois (1849), 71-75; “Chapter XXXVII: Elections,” 3 March 1845, Revised Statutes of Illinois (1845), 213-24; Janet Cornelius, Constitution Making in Illinois, 1818-1970 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1972), 44.
4This quote comes from the second paragraph of article two, section one, of the U.S. Constitution.
U.S. Const. art. II, § 1.
5Section one of the 1849 election law prescribed that voters elect presidential and vice-presidential electors on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November, preceding the expiration of the term of office for the president and vice president. By 1836, South Carolina alone chose its electors by legislative appointment rather than by popular vote.
“An Act to Provide for the Mode of Voting by Ballot, and for the Manner of Returning, Canvassing and Certifying Votes,” 12 February 1849, 71; John L. Moore, Jon P. Preimesberger, and David R. Tarr, eds., Congressional Quarterly’s Guide to U.S. Elections, 4th ed. (Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2001), 1:705.
6Opponents of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in Illinois hoped to enlist German Americans in the coalition they were building to challenge Democrats in the 1856 Federal Election. Between 1850 and 1854, more than 650,000 Germans arrived in the United States. In 1854 alone, there were 215,009 immigrants to the U.S. from Germany. Because the new arrivals generally supported the Republican Party, it would benefit James Buchanan, the Democrat nominee for president, and the Democrats to keep voting rights away from them.
Frank Baron, “Abraham Lincoln and the German Immigrants: Turners and Forty-Eighters,” Yearbook of German American Studies 4, Supplemental Issue (Lawrence, KS: Society of German-American Studies, 2012), 2-3; Philip G. Auchampaugh, “Campaign of 1856,” Dictionary of American History, rev. ed. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1976), 1:420-21.

Copy of Printed Document, 1 page(s), Weekly Northwestern Gazette (Galena, IL), 29 July 1856, 1:5.