Abraham Lincoln to Elihu B. Washburne, 15 May 18581
Hon. E. B. WashburneMy dear Sir
Yours of the 6th accompanied by yours of April 12th to C. L. Wilson was received day-before-yesterday–2 There certainly is nothing in the letter to Wilson, which I, in particular, or republicans in general, could complain of– Of that, I was quite satisfied before I saw the letter– I believe there has been no malicious intent to misrepresent you; I hope there is no longer any misunderstanding, and that the matter may drop–
Eight or ten days ago I wrote Kellogg from Beardstown3 Get him to show you the letter– It gave my view of the field, as it appeared then– Nothing has occurred since, except that it grows more and more quiet since the passage of the English contrivance.4

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The State Register, here, is evidently laboring to bring it’s old friends into what the doctors call the “comatose state”— that is, a sort of drowsy, dreamy condition, in which they may not perceive or remember that there has ever been, or is, any difference between Douglas & the President– This could be done, if the Buchanan men would allow it— which, however, the latter seem determined not to do–5
I think our prospects gradually, and steadily, grow better; though we are not yet clear out of the woods by a great deal– There is still some effort to make trouble out of “Americanism”–6 If that were out of the way, for all the rest, I believe we should be “out of the woods”
Yours very trulyA. Lincoln7
1Abraham Lincoln wrote and signed this letter.
2Elihu B. Washburne had written to Lincoln on both May 2 and May 6, 1858 in response to a rumor that he was encouraging Illinois Republicans to support Stephen A. Douglas’ bid for re-election to the U.S. Senate in the election of 1858.
In a letter of April 19, 1858 to Lincoln, John Wentworth conveyed a report that one of the Republican members of the U.S. Congress from Illinois had written a letter urging Republicans to back Douglas. Lincoln wrote Washburne regarding the rumor on April 26, assuring Washburne that although suspicion centered on him, Lincoln was confident the matter was a misunderstanding. Washburne responded to Lincoln on May 2, denying the rumor, then wrote again on May 6, enclosing the letter in controversy for Lincoln to peruse himself.
This controversial letter was one written by Washburne to Charles L. Wilson on April 12, 1858. The manuscript original of Washburne’s letter to Wilson has not been located, but it was subsequently published in the Polo Advertiser in 1860. In this letter, Washburne discussed his confusion over the current state of politics in Illinois in light of the rift in the Democratic Party between supporters of Douglas and supporters of President James Buchanan, which was caused by Douglas’ criticism of the Lecompton Constitution and of the president’s support of it. Washburne stated that despite his dislike of Douglas, he would welcome him as an ally to the Republican Party, but expressed concern over whether there was a movement to create a Douglas party in Illinois and an attempt to reelect Douglas. Republicans should not abandon their platform, wrote Washburne, and their candidate for U.S. Senate in the election of 1858 must be Lincoln.
Russell K. Nelson, “The Early Life and Congressional Career of Elihu B. Washburne” (PhD dissertation, University of North Dakota, August 1953), 159-62; Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 1:445-50.
3Lincoln was in Beardstown on May 6 and 7, 1858 to attend the Cass County Circuit Court. No letter written by Lincoln to William Kellogg from Beardstown during this time period has been located.
4Lincoln is referring to a congressional bill proposed by Indiana Congressman William H. English and others to send the Lecompton Constitution back to the Kansas Territory for a vote, avoiding a direct resubmission of the constitution to the people of Kansas by attaching it to an adjusted land grant. The bill passed the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives on April 30, 1858, but Kansans overwhelmingly voted against the constitution and updated provisions on August 2.
David M. Potter and Don E. Fehrenbacher, The Impending Crisis, 1848-1861 (New York: Harper & Row, 1976), 323-25.
5The rift between Douglas and Buchanan had recently led to their supporters holding two separate Democratic Party conventions in Illinois. The two factions of the Illinois Democratic Party held their April 21, 1858 conventions at the Illinois State House, with Douglas supporters in the hall of the Illinois House of Representatives, and the Buchanan supporters in the Senate Chamber. Both groups claimed to be answering the same call to meeting issued by the Democratic State Executive Committee. The Democratic Illinois State Register seemed to be downplaying the significance of the split around the date of this letter, dismissing the Buchanan Democrats as self-serving office seekers or bolters from the Democratic Party, of which the Douglas supporters in Illinois were depicted as being in the mainstream. The Illinois State Register argued that these bolters from the Democratic Party were few in number, and suggested that Buchanan denounce them to preserve the Democratic Party. Following the passage of the English bill, the newspaper signaled that it and Douglas were moving on from opposition to this administration measure now that it was settled, and a reconciliation between Douglas and the administration seemed possible.
Daily Illinois State Register (Springfield), 30 April 1858, 2:1; 3 May 1858, 2:2; 6 May 1858, 2:2; 8 May 1858, 2:1; Franklin William Scott, Newspapers and Periodicals of Illinois, 1814-1879, vol. 6 of Collections of the Illinois State Historical Library (Springfield: Illinois State Historical Library, 1910), 323; Abraham Lincoln to Elihu B. Washburne; Robert W. Johannsen, Stephen A. Douglas (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1997), 624-25.
6Illinois Republicans and Democrats both sought to win the votes of former Whigs in the election of 1858. Among the former Whigs whose votes were courted were those who had moved into the American Party following the dissolution of the Whig Party. Recent articles in the Illinois State Register reported discontent on the part of American Party members in Illinois who resented efforts to subsume them into the Republican Party.
Allen C. Guelzo, “Houses Divided: Lincoln, Douglas, and the Political Landscape of 1858,” The Journal of American History 94 (September 2007), 400-401; Daily Illinois State Register (Springfield), 7 May 1858, 2:1; 14 May 1858, 2:1-2.
7Washburne responded to this letter on May 22, and he and Lincoln exchanged two further letters on the subject of the political situation in Illinois in 1858.

Autograph Letter Signed, 2 page(s), Lincoln Collection, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (Springfield, IL).