Abraham Lincoln to Jesse O. Norton, 16 February 18551
Hon: J. O. NortonMy dear Sir:
I have now been beaten one day over a week; and I am very happy to find myself quite convalesent–2 Your kind letter of the 20th of Jany[January] I did not receive till the day before yesterday— owing, I suppose to our great snow-storm–3 The day after the election I wrote Washburne the particulars, tolerably fully– Through the untiring efforts of friends, among whom yourself and Washburne were chief; I finally surmounted the difficulty with the extreme Anti-slavery men, and I got all their votes, Lovejoy’s included– Cook, Judd, and Palmer, and Baker of Alton were the men who never could vote for a whig;4 and without the votes of two of ^whom^ them, I never could reach the requisite number to make an election– I do not mean that I actually got within two votes of the required number;5 but I easily enough could have done so, provided I could have assured my friends that two of the above named four would go for me– In this con-
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nection it is necessary to bear in mind that your Senator Osgood, together with Don: Morrison, Kinney & Trapp of StClair had openly gone over to the enemy–6 It was Govr Matteson’s manoevering that forced upon me and my friends the necessity of surrendering to Trumbull– He made his first successful hit by tampering with Old man Strunk^Strunk^ [S?] was pledged to me, which Matteson knew; bu[t] he succeeded in persuading him that I stood no chance of an election, and in getting a pledge from him to go for him as a second choice–7 He next made similar impressions on Hills of Du Page, Parks of your town and Strawn & Day of LaSalle8 at least we saw strong signs that he had, and they being old democrats, and I an old whig, I could get no sufficient access to them to sound them to the bottom– That Matteson assured the Nebraska democrats he could get their men, after they should have made a respectable show by voting a few ballots for other men, I think there is no doubt; and by holding up to their greedy eyes this amount of capital in our ranks, it was, that he induced the Nebraska men to drop Shields and take him en masse9 The Nebraska men, since Osgood’s
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and Don’s defection, had control of the Senate; and they refused to pass the resolution for going into the election till three hours before the joint session was to, and did in fact, commence–10 One of the Nebraska senators has since told me that they only passed the resolution when they did, upon being privately assured by the Governor that he had it all safe– I have omitted to say that it was well understood Baker would vote for Trumbull, ^but^ would go over to Matteson rather than me– Passing over the first eight ballots which you have doubtless seen when, on the ninth, Matteson had 47— having every Nebraska man, and old man man Strunk besides, and wanting but three of an election; and when the looser sort of my friends had gone over to Trumbull, and raised him to 35 and reduced me to 15, it struck me that Hills, Parks, Strawn, Day, and Baker, or at least some three of them would go over from Trumbull to Matteson & elect him on the tenth ballot, unless they should be kept on T. by seeing my remaining men coming on to him– I accordingly gave the intimation which my friends acted upon, electing T. that ballot– All were taken by surprise, Trumbull quite as much as any one else.
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There was no pre-concert about it— in fact I think a pre-concert to that effect could not have been made– The heat of the battle, and imminent danger of Matteson’s election were indispensably necessary to the result– I know that few, if any, of my remaining 15 men would have gone over from me without my direction; and I gave the direction, simultaneously with forming the resolution to do it–11
It is not true, as might appear by the first ballot, that Trumbull had only five friends who preferred him to me– I know the leanings of all the men tolerably well; and my opinion is, that if the 51 who elected him, were compelled to a naked expression of preference between him and me, he would at the outside, have 16 and I would have the remainder– And this again would depend substantially upon the fact that his 16 came from the old democratic ranks & the remainder from the whigs– Such as preferred him, yet voted for me on the first ballottings and so on the idea that a minority, among friends, ought not to stand out against a majority– Lest you might receive a different impression, I wish to say I hold Judge Parks in very high estimation; believing him to be neither knave or fool, but decidedly the reverse of both– Now, as I have called names so freely, you will of course consider this confidential–
Your much obliged– &c–[etc]A. Lincoln
[ docketing ]
A. Lincoln12
1Abraham Lincoln wrote and signed this letter.
2The Illinois General Assembly met in a joint session on February 8, 1855 to elect a U.S. senator, Lincoln being a leading candidate. Ten rounds of voting were needed to finally determine a victor. Lincoln received a majority of the anti-Nebraska votes until the tenth and final ballot, when he withdrew and urged his supporters to vote for anti-Nebraska Democrat Lyman Trumbull in order to ensure that an anti-Nebraska politician filled the seat. With the votes of Lincoln’s supporters, Trumbull won the seat. See 1854 Federal Election.
Illinois Senate Journal. 1855. 19th G. A., 242-55; Abraham Lincoln to Elihu B. Washburne; Victor B. Howard, “The Illinois Republican Party: Part I: A Party Organizer for the Republicans in 1854,” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 64 (Summer 1971), 153-54.
3An Illinois newspaper reported that the snow started on Saturday, January 20, in Springfield, and by January 23, “the snow is drifted into deep cuts of the Rail Roads, rendering them utterly impassable. We have had no mails since Saturday night, nor can we say when we shall have any more.”
In addition to his letter of January 20, 1855, Jesse O. Norton wrote Lincoln two additional letters relating to Lincoln’s candidacy for the Senate, one on December 12, 1854, and one on December 20, 1854.
Illinois Daily Journal (Springfield), 23 January 1855, 3:1.
4Owen Lovejoy voted for Lincoln in the first three rounds of voting. He switched to William B. Ogden for votes four through seven, and voted for Trumbull in the last three rounds. Burton C. Cook, Norman B. Judd, John M. Palmer, and Henry S. Baker all voted for Trumbull in all ten rounds of voting.
Illinois Senate Journal. 1855. 19th G. A., 242-55.
5Fifty votes were necessary to win the Senate seat. The highest number of votes Lincoln received was forty-five in round one.
Illinois Senate Journal. 1855. 19th G. A., 242-43.
6Uri Osgood and James L. “Don” Morrison supported James Shields in the first six rounds of voting. They then switched to Joel A. Matteson for the remaining four rounds. William C. Kinney cast his ballot for Gustavus Koerner in the first eight rounds of voting before switching to Matteson for the last two votes. Albrecht H. Trapp voted for Koerner in the first six rounds and then cast his remaining four ballots for Matteson.
Illinois Senate Journal. 1855. 19th G. A., 242-55.
7John Strunk cast his first six votes for Lincoln before switching his support to Matteson for the remaining four rounds.
Illinois Senate Journal. 1855. 19th G. A., 242-55.
8Erastus O. Hills voted for Lincoln in rounds one through four, six, and seven. He cast his ballot for Trumbull in round five and rounds eight through ten. Gavion D. A. Parks voted for Lincoln in the first six rounds of voting before switching to Trumbull on the eighth ballot. David Strawn voted for Lincoln in round one, submitted his ballot for Trumbull in rounds two through six and nine and ten, and voted for Ogden in rounds seven and eight. Frederick S. Day voted for Lincoln in round one, Martin P. Sweet in rounds two and three, and Trumbull in rounds four through ten.
Illinois Senate Journal. 1855. 19th G. A., 242-55.
9James Shields, the incumbent, actually took the lead from Lincoln on the fourth ballot and held the advantage until the seventh ballot, when all but one of his supporters switched to Matteson. Shields received no votes in the final three ballots.
Illinois Senate Journal. 1855. 19th G. A., 247-55.
10On January 10, 1855, the Illinois House passed a joint resolution calling for the House and Senate to meet in joint session on January 15 to elect a senator. The Senate amended the resolution, fixing the date on January 31, and the House concurred. On February 5, the Senate passed a joint resolution setting the date for February 6. The House amended the resolution, fixing the date on February 8. The Senate concurred with the House on the morning of February 8.
Illinois Senate Journal. 1855. 19th G. A., 43, 50, 79, 171, 172, 201, 221, 222; Illinois House Journal. 1855. 19th G. A., 64, 65, 115, 269, 274, 275, 342.
11Lincoln’s remaining fifteen voters in the ninth round included Robert Boal, Samuel W. Brown, James Courtney, Henry Grove, Thomas J. Henderson, Albert G. Jones, Harvey C. Johns, Stephen T. Logan, Thomas McClure, John E. McClun, Samuel C. Parks, Daniel J. Pinckney, Henry Riblet, Hurlbut Swan, and Louis H. Waters.
Illinois Senate Journal. 1855. 19th G. A., 253.
12An unknown person wrote this docketing.

Autograph Letter Signed, 4 page(s), Taper Collection, Lincoln Presidential Foundation (Springfield, IL).