Abraham Lincoln to Andrew McCormick, [January 1839]1Dear Captain:
I have just learned, with utter astonishment, that you have some notion of voting for Walters.2 This certainly can not be true— It can not be, that one so true, firm, and unwavering as you have ever been, can for a moment think of such a thing— What! support that pet of all those who continually slander and abuse, you, and labour, day and night, for your destruction— All our friends are ready to cut our throats about it— An angel from Heaven could not make them believe, that we do not connive at it— For Heaven’s sake, for your friends sake, for the sake of the recollection of all the hard battles we have heretofore fought shoulder, to shoulder, do not forsake us this time— We have been told for two or three days that you were in danger; but we gave it the lie whenever we heard it— We were willing to bet our lives upon you— Stand by us this time, and nothing in our power to confer, shall ever be denied you— Surely! Surely! you do not doubt my friendship for you— If you do, what under Heaven can I do, to convince you— Surely you will not think those who have ever been your revilers, better friends than I— Read this & write me what you will do—3Your friendLincoln
1Abraham Lincoln wrote the body of the letter and his signature.
William E. Taylor in 1957 estimated the date of Lincoln’s letter as January 1841, and Roy P. Basler followed suit in 1974. Taylor surmised that Lincoln’s letter was in response to word that McCormick planned to vote for Walters in a bid for re-election against Simeon Francis, a friend of Lincoln and editor of the Whig Sangamo Journal. That election occurred on January 23, 1841, and Walters defeated Francis, 70 votes to 50 votes, with Lincoln voting for Francis. However, McCormick was not a member of the General Assembly in January 1841, having chosen not to run for re-election the prior August. Lincoln’s letter could be in reference either to the election in January 1837, when Walters defeated sixteen challengers--Lincoln voted for William Hodge, and McCormick for George Forquer--or Walters’s bid for re-election in January 1839, when he defeated Hodge by 65 votes to 63 votes, with Lincoln and McCormick both voting for Hodge. The closeness of the vote and Lincoln’s imploring tone suggest that the 1839 election was mostly likely the catalyst for Lincoln’s letter.
Illinois House Journal. 1836. 10th G. A., 1st sess., 275-76; Illinois House Journal. 1838. 11th G. A., 1st sess., 211; Illinois House Journal. 1840. 12th G. A., 273; William E. Taylor, “Significant Lincoln Letter Found,” Lincoln Herald 59 (Fall 1957), 3-7; Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln: First Supplement, 1832-1865 (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1974), 10:5-6.
2William Walters, editor of the Democratic Illinois State Register and the state’s public printer, was running for re-election.
Autograph Letter Signed, 2 page(s), Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (Springfield, IL)