Abraham Lincoln to Elihu B. Washburne, 10 May 18581
Hon. E. B. Washburne.My dear Sir:
I have just reached home from the circuit,2 and found your letter of the 2nd and for which I thank you. My other letter to you was meant for nothing but to hedge against bad feeling being gotten up, between those who ought to be friends, out of the incident mentioned in that letter. I sent you an extract from the Chicago letter in order to let you see that the writer did not to profess to know anything himself;3 and I now add, that his informant4 told me that he did tell him exactly what he wrote me— at least I distinctly so understood him. The informant is an exceedingly clever fellow; and I think he, having had a hasty glance at your letter to Charley Wilson, misconstrued it, and consequently, misreported it to the writer of the letter to me. I must repeat that I think the thing did not originate in malice to you, or to any one; and that the best way all round is to ^now^ forget it entirely. Will you not adjourn in time to be here at our State convention in June?5
Your friend as ever,A. Lincoln.6
1This letter is attributed to Abraham Lincoln, but no manuscript version has been located.
2Lincoln had been absent from Springfield between April 22 and May 8, 1858, attending the Champaign County and Vermilion County circuit courts in the Eighth Judicial Circuit and the Cass County Circuit Court in the Twenty-First Judicial Circuit.
The Lincoln Log: A Daily Chronology of the Life of Abraham Lincoln, April 1858, https://www.thelincolnlog.org/Results.aspx?type=CalendarMonth&year=1858&month=4; May 1858, https://www.thelincolnlog.org/Results.aspx?type=CalendarMonth&year=1858&month=5; “Eighth Judicial Circuit, 1857-1861,” Martha L. Benner and Cullom Davis et al., eds., The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln: Complete Documentary Edition, 2d edition (Springfield: Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, 2009), https://www.lawpracticeofabrahamlincoln.org/Reference/Reference%20html%20files/Maps--8th%20Circuit%201857-61.html; “An Act Establishing the Twenty-First Judicial Circuit,” 7 February 1857, Laws of Illinois (1857), 8-9.
3In a letter to Lincoln written April 19, 1858 from Chicago, John Wentworth conveyed a rumor that one of the Republican members of the U.S. Congress from Illinois had written a letter encouraging Illinois Republicans to support Stephen A. Douglas’ bid for re-election to the U.S. Senate in the federal election of 1858. Douglas had criticized the Lecompton Constitution and President James Buchanan’s support of it in December 1857, causing a rift in the Democratic Party. Some Republicans were excited by Douglas’ repudiation of the Lecompton Constitution to the extent that they considered backing him for reelection to the U.S. Senate. Although Douglas later denied it, he courted Republican support. Lincoln and other Republicans were concerned by these developments and urged fellow party members to remain loyal to the Republican Party. Lincoln wrote Washburne regarding the rumor on April 26, excerpting a portion of Wentworth’s letter, and assuring Washburne that although suspicion centered on him, Lincoln was confident the matter was a misunderstanding.
The letter causing the controversy was written by Washburne to Charles L. Wilson on April 12, 1858. In it, Washburne wrote that in light of Douglas’ differences with the Democratic Party over the Lecompton Constitution, Washburne would consider welcoming Douglas as an ally to the Republican Party, but that Lincoln must be the Republican Party’s candidate for the U.S. Senate in Illinois in 1858. Washburne wrote to Lincoln explaining the matter in letters of May 2 and May 6, 1858, enclosing his letter to Wilson in the latter for Lincoln’s review.
Russell K. Nelson, “The Early Life and Congressional Career of Elihu B. Washburne” (PhD dissertation, University of North Dakota, August 1953), 158-62; Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 1:445-50.
4According to a letter that Charles H. Ray wrote Washburne about the affair, Samuel L. Baker was the informant who told Wentworth about Washburne’s April 12, 1858 letter to Charles L. Wilson.
Charles H. Ray to Elihu B. Washburne, 2 May [1858], E. B. Washburne Papers: Bound Volumes, Letters Received; 1861; Mar. 21-May 31, Manuscript/Mixed Material, https://www.loc.gov/resource/mss44651.017/?sp=227&st=image, accessed 2 April 2024.
5In a subsequent letter, Washburne informed Lincoln that he would be in New England with his family at the time of the Illinois Republican Convention on June 16, 1858.
Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield), 17 June 1858, 2:2-6.
6Lincoln responded to Washburne again on May 15, and the pair exchanged several further letters on the subject of the political situation in Illinois in 1858.

Typed Transcription, 1 page(s), Abraham Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress (Washington, DC).