Abraham Lincoln to Joseph Gillespie, 16 July 18581
Hon. Joseph GillespieMy dear Sir:
I write this to say that from the specimens of Douglas democracy we occasionally see here from Madison, we learn that they are making very confident ^calculation^ of beating both you, and your friends for the lower House in that county2– They offer to bet upon it– Billings and Job respectively, have been up here, and were both^each,^ as I learn, talking largely about it– If they do so, it can only be ^done^ by carrying the Fillmore men of 1856, very differently from what they seem to be going in other parts– Below is the vote of 1856, in your District–
Buc. Fre. Fill.
Bond 607 153. 659.
Madison 1451 1111 1658
Montgy 992 162. 686
3050. 1426. 3003
By this you will see, if you go through
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the calculation, that if they get one quarter of the Fillmore votes and you three quarters, they will beat you 125 votes– If they get one fifth and you four fifths, you beat them 179– In Madison alone if our friends get 1000 of the Fillmore votes, and their opponents the remainder— 658, we win by just two votes–3
This shows the whole field, on the basis of the election of 1856. Whether, since then, any Buchanan men, or Fremonters have shifted ground, and how the majority of new voters will go, you can judge better than I–4
Of course you, on the ground, can better determine your line of tactics, than any one off the ground; but it behooves you to be wide awake, and actively working– Dont neglect it, and write me at your first leisure–5
Yours as everA. Lincoln
1Abraham Lincoln wrote and signed this letter.
2Lincoln was interested in the outcome of the elections in Madison County because he was the Republican candidate from Illinois for the U.S. Senate. In the summer and fall of 1858, he crisscrossed Illinois delivering speeches and campaigning on behalf of Republican candidates for the Illinois General Assembly. At this time the Illinois General Assembly elected the state’s representatives in the U.S. Senate, thus the outcome of races for the Illinois House of Representatives and Illinois Senate were of importance to Lincoln’s campaign. He ran against, and lost to, Democrat Stephen A. Douglas, the incumbent. See 1858 Illinois Republican Convention; 1858 Federal Election
Lincoln's statements proved prophetic. Democrat Samuel A. Buckmaster from Madison County beat Gillespie by 184 votes in 1858 to earn an Illinois Senate seat for District Twenty-One, which included Bond, Madison, and Montgomery counties. The men elected to the House of Representatives in Madison County—Zephaniah B. Job (over Republican Isaac Cox) and Joseph H. Sloss (over Republican Curtis Blakeman) — both voted for Douglas for U.S. Senate in the 1858 Federal Election, as did Buckmaster.
Louis L. Emmerson, ed., Blue Book of the State of Illinois, 1923-1924 (Springfield: Illinois State Journal, 1923), 682; John Clayton, comp., The Illinois Fact Book and Historical Almanac, 1673-1968 (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1970), 219; Illinois Senate Journal. 1859. 21st G. A., 30; W. T. Norton, ed., Centennial History of Madison County, Illinois, and Its People, 1812 to 1912 (Chicago: Lewis, 1912), 1:81; Allen C. Guelzo, “Houses Divided: Lincoln, Douglas, and the Political Landscape of 1858,” The Journal of American History 94 (September 2007), 392; Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 1:457-85, 547, 557.
3Former members of the American Party, often referred to colloquially as "Fillmore Men" because the national party backed Millard Fillmore in the presidential election of 1856, were an important source of votes for both Democrats and Republicans in the state and federal elections of 1858, and both sides worked to garner their support.
Lincoln's tabulation of the votes in the presidential election of 1856 in Bond, Madison, and Montgomery counties is accurate with the exception of John C. Fremont's tally in Montgomery County; modern tabulations have Fremont receiving 167 votes.
Tyler Anbinder, Nativism & Slavery: The Northern Know Nothings & the Politics of the 1850s (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), 246-78; Stephen Hansen and Paul Nygard, “Stephen A. Douglas, the Know-Nothings, and the Democratic Party in Illinois, 1854-1858,” Illinois Historical Journal 87 (Summer 1994), 123-29; Howard W. Allen and Vincent A. Lacey, eds., Illinois Elections, 1818-1990 (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1992), 136; Illinois Senate Journal. 1859. 21st G. A., 30.
4Joseph Gillespie responded to Lincoln's concern about Douglas's support by telling him that Henry W. Billings and Zephaniah B. Job were largely correct and that at least half of the American Party votes in Illinois Senate District Twenty-One would go to Douglas.
Douglas and the Democrats proved more adept than the Republicans in attracting the votes of former members of the American Party. By way of illustration, of the fourteen counties where the American vote had an impact on the election for state representatives, Democrats carried eleven of the fourteen. One of these counties was Madison, which sent two Americans to the Illinois House in 1856, but shifted to the Democrats in 1858.
In addition to the Buckmaster, Job, and Sloss, the House representatives from Bond County, Charles Hoiles, and Montgomery County, James M. Davis, voted for Douglas. Overall, Douglas won the election with fifty-one votes over Lincoln's forty-six votes. Despite the loss, Lincoln achieved a national prominence that was essential for his campaign for the presidency in 1860.
Louis L. Emmerson, ed., Blue Book of the State of Illinois, 1923-1924 , 682; Illinois Senate Journal. 1859. 21st G. A., 30; Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life , 1:545-57; Stephen Hansen and Paul Nygard, “Stephen A. Douglas, the Know-Nothings, and the Democratic Party in Illinois, 1854-1858,” 129-30; Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield), 5 January 1857, 2:2.
5Joseph Gillespie wrote back to Lincoln on July 18, 1858.

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