Abraham Lincoln to Thomas A. Marshall, 23 April 18581Urbana, Ills. April 23. 1858 Hon: T. A. Marshall. Charleston. Ills. My dear Sir
I wish you, G. W. Rives of Edgar, and O. L. Davis, of Vermilion, to cooperate in getting a Senatorial candidate on the track, in your District–2 Davis is here, and agrees to do his part– The adversary3 has his eye upon that district, and will beat us, unless we also are wide awake– Under the circumstances, a District convention may, or may not be the best way—4 you three to judge of that– I think you better take some good reliable Fillmore men into conference with you, and also some proper person or persons from Cumberland.5 Indeed, it may appear expedient to select a Fillmore man as the candidate– I also write to Rives–6 I am most anxious to know that you will not neglect the matter, not doubting that you will do it rightly, if you only take hold of it–
I was in Springfield during the sitting of the two democratic conventions day-before-yesterday–7 Say what they will, they are having an abundance of trouble– Our own friendsYour friend as ever, A. Lincoln
<Page 2>were also there, in considerable numbers from different parts of the State– They are all in high spirits, and think, if we do not win, it will be on our own fault–8 So I really think–
2Lincoln is referring to the 1858 Illinois Senate race and looking for supporters of his U.S. Senate run against Stephen A. Douglas; at the time, state legislatures chose members of the U.S. Senate. Edgar and Vermilion counties, as well as Thomas Marshall’s Coles County, were all part of the Eighteenth Illinois State Senate District in 1858.
Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008),1:547; Allen C. Guelzo, “Houses Divided: Lincoln, Douglas, and the Political Landscape of 1858,” The Journal of American History 94 (September 2007), 392; The History of Coles County, Illinois (Chicago: Wm. Le Baron, Jr., 1879), 526.
5Lincoln is referring back to the 1856 Federal Election, when Republicans nominated John C. Fremont as their first presidential candidate, Democrats nominated James Buchanan, and the American Party, in its final participation in a presidential election, nominated Millard Fillmore. Lincoln and the Republicans, concerned about having two opposition parties, attempted to work together with the American Party to defeat Buchanan. Had their plan worked, and the Republicans and Americans had united, the Republican candidate, Fremont, would have been victorious in Illinois instead of Buchanan.
Cumberland County was the fourth county—along with Edgar, Vermilion, and Coles counties—in the Eighteenth District.
Thomas F. Schwartz, “Lincoln, Form Letters, and Fillmore Men,” Illinois Historical Journal 78 (Spring 1985), 66; Howard W. Allen and Vincent A. Lacey, eds., Illinois Elections, 1818-1990 (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1992), 10; Allen C. Guelzo, “Houses Divided: Lincoln, Douglas, and the Political Landscape of 1858,” 392.
6Lincoln undoubtedly sent a similar letter to Rives, which has not been located. Rives responded to Lincoln on May 15, 1858, stating that Oliver L. Davis should be the candidate. Rives’ concern about Thomas A. Marshall being the candidate was that Marshall was “objectionable to the masses” because he was a banker.
The History of Coles County, Illinois , 526.
7The two Democratic conventions began on April 21, 1858, at the Illinois State House. The Douglas supporters, which was the larger group, met in the hall of the Illinois House of Representatives, and the supporters of James Buchanan met in the Senate Chamber.
The ever-growing rift between the Douglas and Buchanan wings of the Democratic Party centered around differences over the Lecompton Constitution and expansion of slavery into Kansas.
Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield), 20 April 1858, 2:1; Chicago Daily Tribune (IL), 23 April 1858, 2:2; Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life, 1:454-56.
Autograph Letter Signed, 2 page(s), Abraham Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress (Washington, DC).