Abraham Lincoln to Friedrich K. F. Hecker, 14 September 18561Springfield, Sept. 14, 1856.Frederick Hecker, Esq.[Esquire]My dear Sir,
Your much valued letter of the 7th is received–2 Could you not be with us here on the 25th of this month, when we expect to have a large mass-meeting?3 We cannot dispense with your services in this contest; and we ought, in a pecuniary way, to give you some relief in the difficulty of having your house burnt– I have started a proposition for this, among our friends, with a prospect of some degree of success–4 It is but fair and just; and I hope you will not decline to accept what we may be able to do–
Please write me whether you can be here on the 25th.5Very truly yours,A. Lincoln.
1This transcription appeared in Emanuel Hertz’ 1931 book, Abraham Lincoln: A New Portrait. A manuscript version in Abraham Lincoln’s hand is not extant.
3On September 25, 1856, delegates to the Illinois Anti-Nebraska Convention, which had met in Bloomington in May, convened again in Springfield. Thousands gathered in the afternoon for speeches; Lincoln spoke that evening at the state house.
The Lincoln Log: A Daily Chronology of the Life of Abraham Lincoln, 29 May 1856, http://www.thelincolnlog.org/Results.aspx?type=CalendarDay&day=1856-05-29; 25 September 1856, http://www.thelincolnlog.org/Results.aspx?type=CalendarDay&day=1856-09-25.
4Hecker supported the Republican Party and had high standing amongst German immigrants, of which there were a good number in the United States: between 1850 and 1854, more than 650,000 Germans arrived in the U.S. In 1854 alone, there were 215,009 immigrants to the U.S. from Germany.
Opponents 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. At the Illinois Anti-Nebraska Convention, delegates nominated Francis A. Hoffman, a prominent German American politician, as their candidate for lieutenant governor to that end. They also selected Hecker as a presidential elector. Hecker’s selection obligated him to make political speeches to German American audiences on behalf of John C. Fremont, the Republican candidate for president, and other Republican candidates for office. Hecker made his first speech at Mascoutah, Illinois, on June 28, 1856.
On August 12, Hecker’s house near Belleville burned to the ground. Hecker and others suspected arson in retribution for his political activism on behalf of the Republican Party. On September 8, Lincoln wrote to Charles H. Ray regarding Hecker’s house fire, noting, “It would be no more than just for us to raise him a thousand dollars in this emergency... We can not spare his services.” Lincoln donated $100 to the cause.
William T. Page to Abraham Lincoln; What's in the Wind?; 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; Sabine Freitag, Friedrich Hecker: Two Lives for Liberty, trans. by Steven Rowan (St. Louis: University of Missouri–St. Louis, 2006), 167-68, 171, 174-75; Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield), 14 August 1856, 3:1.
5Hecker’s reply, if he wrote one, has not been located.
Although less inclined to travel after the fire, Hecker was not dissuaded from participating in the campaign. German-language newspapers published portions of his “Address to the German Population of the United States” in mid-August, and within six weeks of the fire, he was speaking on the East Coast. He did not appear in Springfield on September 25, having traveled to Pennsylvania to campaign for Fremont.
Sabine Freitag, Friedrich Hecker: Two Lives for Liberty, 169, 178, 189; Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield), 26 September 1856, 2:2.
Printed Transcription, 1 page(s), Emanuel Hertz, Abraham Lincoln: A New Portrait (New York: Horace Liveright, 1931), 2:690.