Abraham Lincoln to Jesse A. Pickrell, 15 September 18561Springfield, Sept 15– 1856Jesse A. Pickrell, Esq[Esquire]My dear Sir:
Will you please make out and send me, as soon as you can, a list of fifteen or twenty names of good, steady Fillmore men, round about you– Let them be scattered about in the neighborhoods, with the Post-office of each indicated– I want to send letters to them– Please do this quietly, and say nothing about it–2Your friend as everA. Lincoln–P.S. Send to Springfield
2Lincoln asked for a list of supporters of Millard Fillmore for his plan to secure a win for Republican John C. Fremont in Illinois in the 1856 Federal Election. Although a response from Jesse A. Pickrell, if one existed, has not been found, Lincoln did receive names from Thomas A. Marshall and others.
The end of the Whig Party and the rise of the American—or “Know-Nothing”—Party added a third-party element to the 1856 election. The American Party, in its final participation in a presidential election, nominated Fillmore. Lincoln and the Republicans believed they could create an alliance with the American Party against the Democratic Party nominee James Buchanan over the issue of the extension of slavery in the territories, which the Democrats supported. Lincoln sent lithographed form letters to the names he was provided, informing the Fillmore supporters that every vote for their candidate in Illinois lessened Fillmore’s chance of becoming president.
Lincoln and his fellow Republicans failed to convince Fillmore’s supporters to unite, allowing Democrats to label their opponents as both nativists and worshippers of African Americans. Buchanan captured Illinois with 44.1 percent of the vote to 40.2 percent for Fremont and 15.7 for Fillmore, and Buchanan defeated Fremont and Fillmore to become fifteenth president of the United States. Indeed, if the votes received by Fremont and Fillmore in Illinois had been combined, Buchanan’s vote would not have been sufficient to carry the state.
Thomas F. Schwartz, “Lincoln, Form Letters, and Fillmore Men,” Illinois Historical Journal 78 (Spring 1985), 68; Abraham Lincoln to Thomas Hull; Abraham Lincoln to Edward Lawrence; Abraham Lincoln to William Ryan; Abraham Lincoln to Harrison Maltby; Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1953), 2:374; The Dewitt Courier (Clinton, IL), 15 October 1856, 2:3; Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 1:432-33; Philip G. Auchampaugh, “Campaign of 1856,” Dictionary of American History, rev. ed. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1976), 1:420-21; Howard W. Allen and Vincent A. Lacey, eds., Illinois Elections, 1818-1990 (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1992), 10.
Autograph Letter Signed, 1 page(s), Lincoln Room, Illinois Historical Survey, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Urbana, IL).