James L. D. Morrison to Abraham Lincoln, 13 December 18481Belleville Decr. 13. 1848My Dear Lincoln
I was very anxious to have seen you at St Louis on your way Eastward, and watched for your arrival at that place—but did not get notice of your being there until you had left–2 In the first place I must congratulate you upon the glorious success of our party, and I expect an original Taylor man would not now be so scarce a comodity, in the Washington market–3 Your old friend Truman Smith managed his part of the canvass admirably well, and deserves the gratitude of the whig party–4 What a pity that you were not renominated in your District,– it is a shame that a District containing the Whig majority which it has should be so misrepresented–5 The moderate Loco focos here express themselves as well satisfied with the result, though Koerner, Bissell, Kinney and others are sadly dejected– Bissle particularly who took very violent and unwarrantable grounds against Genl[General] Taylor– I hope that his course may be understood at the "White house". Taylors letter upon "nativism", (the genuineness of which I have my doubts) has been used amongst our German population with some effect, and if it had been published here before the Election would have given us 100 more votes in this county.6
Above all things now we must be cautious in making removals and appointments in our State,– a greedy swarm of applicants for office will congregate at Washington, men generally the least deserving in our party, whose impertunities it will require resolution to resist,– and as you will be unaided by any colleague you will have to shoulder the responsibility of their appointments– My doctrine you Know in political management, is to "Secure Success and if we use the patronage we will have at disposal judiciously, never has our State been in so fair a condition for political regeneration—all patronage having been taken from the Gov. & Legislature, nothing is to be looked for from that quarter, which greatly weakens
<Page 2>the influence of the cliques who have so long controlled the state—Nearly all the little postmasters in this region have rendered themselves obnoxious to the charge of interfering in the elections, which according to our creed (when our opponents are in) is good cause of removal– I hope the Knife will be pretty freely used, the same may be said of our Land Officers generally—but in making new appointments we should Keep our eyes steadily upon advancing the interests of the whig party—there are two or three German Post masters in our county for instance, who ought to be turned out, but Germans should be appointed in their places, and then we do not render ourselves obnoxius to the charge of "nativism"– I Know that many of the Germans of this county can be brought to vote the whig ticket,– my own experience satisfies me that, if whiggery is disrobed of "Nativism", with which the interested politicians here have sought to invest it, that many Germans will join us & when you reflect that we have 4000 German votes here in a half dozen counties all against us, it is worth the effort to conciliate them–7 You know how tenacious they are upon that subject, and to show you that with a little manouvering we may make the charge stick against loco focoism– I will relate what occured in a strong German precinct in this county during the August canvass– I was feircely assailed by Reynolds and Bissell as belonging to a party which was native american in its tendencies &.c[etc] opposed to Foreigners &c I had to mas[s] every edge cut to overcome 1300 majority, and was badly beaten if I could nt break into the Germans– I retaliated and making our new constitution the basis of my charge against the locos in the precinct to which I allude, conducted a fierce assault upon nativeism the saturday before the election (where I had the precinct to myself) by holding up the "Constitution with the signatures of the members to the convention attached "George Bunson" a German from this county was a member, he refused to sign the constitution without
<Page 3>attaching "witness" to his name– this looked suspicious, and ^all^ were ready to charge a convention with being "natives" which would not allow a German to sign the constitution in any other way than as a witness– I recd[received] 150 majority in the precinct—which might otherwise have given 200 against me–8 In reference to my business at Washington, in which I will require your assistance this winter; I wanted to have spoken to you—in order to have some one on the spot to represent the interests I have charge of, I spoke to Washburn on his way East who has it in charge– I send him by to days mail for the inspection of the committee the only original Patent issued by Govr.[Governor] Harrison for these claims which I can lay my hands upon it– the land coved by this patent as well as all the others for which I am petitioning has been patented by the U. S. the second time, and are now very valuable– do Lincoln examine this case and support the bill a more righteous claim was never presented to Congress and I know it must pass if examined.
We will instruct Breese & Douglass in favour of the Wilmot Proviso.–9 I think there is no doubt of that– If you have time write me at Springfield– I would go on to the inauguration, but for the suspicion at home that I would be seeking office, and I think as "Old Zack" has done so well by letting office seek him, that his example had better be followed– [If] Mrs L. accompanied you this winter, give my respects to her– and tell her to laugh as much as She pleases, at the fantastic apes who will swell this winter at Washington & if it should so happen that Mrs L is at home, I'll promise to give your respects to her this winter & dance with her at the first partyYr[Your] friendJas L D Morrison
Free 10 FREEBELLEVILLE, [ILL[Illinois]]
^Dec[December] 15^10Hon Ab.m LincolnWashington CityDC
1James L. D. Morrison wrote and signed the letter. Morrison also authored the address on the back page, which was folded to create an envelope for mailing.
2After the end of the first session of the Thirtieth Congress and a speaking tour of Massachusetts, Lincoln returned to Illinois, where he spent most of October 1848 canvassing his district on behalf of Zachary Taylor during the presidential campaign of 1848. Around November 26, he left Springfield for Washington to attend the second session, traveling by way of St. Louis and the Ohio River.
Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 1:280-84; The Lincoln Log: A Daily Chronology of the Life of Abraham Lincoln, 26 November 1848, http://www.thelincolnlog.org/Results.aspx?type=CalendarDay&day=1848-11-26.
4Taylor offered Smith appointment as the first secretary of the interior, but Smith declined, having been elected to the U. S. Senate.
Norman B. Ferris, “Smith, Truman,” American National Biography (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 20:299.
5Lincoln represented the Seventh Congressional District. He had pledged to serve only one term, but many Whigs in the district favored his renomination. Lincoln was not averse to running again, but Stephen T. Logan received the nomination. In August 1848, Logan would lose to Thomas L. Harris in a close race.
Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life, 1:271; Howard W. Allen and Vincent A. Lacey, eds., Illinois Elections, 1818-1990 (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1992), 8, 126.
6German immigrants began arriving in St. Clair County soon after its creation in 1790. Germans began arriving in large numbers in 1831, and continued coming throughout the 1830s and 1840s. The abortive revolutions of 1848 in Germany and Austria provided impetus for a fresh wave of German immigration into the county, and German immigration continued at a steady pace until the Civil War. Germans who became naturalized citizens occupied important local, county, state and federal offices.
Morrison’s “100 more votes” would not have done much to help the Whig cause in St. Clair County; it was definitely a Democratic Party conclave. In the presidential election of 1848, Democratic candidate Lewis Cass garnered 63.3 percent of the vote, Zachary Taylor 34.7 percent, and Free Soil Party candidate Martin Van Buren 2 percent. The disparity was even more pronounced in the gubernatorial and congressional races. In the contest for governor, Democratic candidate Augustus French received 100 percent of the vote; his Whig opponent did not receive a single vote. Bissell won the congressional seat for District One with 99.7 percent of the vote, his Whig opponent garnering no votes.
History of St. Clair County, Illinois (Philadelphia: Brink, McDonough, 1881), 62-67; Newton Bateman and Paul Selby, Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of St. Clair County, ed. by A. S. Wilderman and A. A. Wilderman (Chicago: Munsell, 1907), 2:680-84; Howard W. Allen and Vincent A. Lacey, eds., Illinois Elections, 1818-1990, 8, 122, 124, 125.
7Morrison proved extraordinarily prescient in his concern about the impact of nativism on the Whig Party. Fuelled by anti-Catholicism and ethnic and class prejudice, nativism revolved around the opposition of White Anglo-Saxon Protestants to the massive increase in the number of Irish and German Catholic immigrants flooding into the United States from the 1830s to the 1860s. Nativism found political expression in the American Party, and a poor showing by the Whig Party in the 1852 elections and a split over the Kansas-Nebraska Act allowed an anti-Nebraska coalition to sweep to victory in the 1854 mid-term elections, spelling doom for the Whig Party.
Ray Allen Billington, “Nativism,” Dictionary of American History, rev. ed. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1976), 5:2-3; Michael F. Holt, The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party: Jacksonian Politics and the Onset of the Civil War (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 953, 959; Larry Gara, The Presidency of Franklin Pierce (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1991), 97-100.
8In the state elections of August 1848, Morrison won a seat in the Illinois Senate representing St. Clair and Monroe counties.
In countering Democratic attacks on him as a member of a nativist party, Morrison turned the tables on the Democrats by using the Illinois State Constitutional Convention against them. In elections for the convention in August 1847, Democrats secured 91 of the 162 seats, giving them a comfortable majority. Bunsen himself was a Democrat. Morrison used Bunsen’s action to suggest that the Democrats, not the Whigs, were nativist.
Illinois Journal (Springfield), 12 September 1848, 3:2; Arthur Charles Cole, ed., The Constitutional Debates of 1847 , vol. 14 of Collections of the Illinois State Historical Library, Constitutional Series (Springfield: Illinois State Historical Library, 1919), 2:xvi, 951-52; Theodore C. Pease, ed., Illinois Election Returns, 1818-1848, vol. 18 of Collections of the Illinois State Historical Library (Springfield: Illinois State Historical Library, 1923), 460.
9While stumping in the South for Lewis Cass during the presidential election of 1848, Douglas delivered a speech in early June in New Orleans where he affirmed that he would resign his seat in the U.S. Senate if the Illinois General Assembly passed a resolution instructing him to vote for the Wilmot Proviso. The Democratic Party won huge majorities in both houses of the General Assembly in the state elections of 1848, but many Democrats from the northern part of the state sympathized with the Free Soil Party, and hoped to convince their brethren from the southern part of the state to adopt the free soil cause. Disaffected Democrats, together with the Whigs, launched a campaign to test Douglas’s resolve on the Wilmot Proviso in hopes of unseating him. In January 1849, the General Assembly adopted a resolution instructing the state’s senators to use all the means in their disposition to enact legislation for the territories acquired from Mexico “as shall contain the express declaration, that there shall be neither slavery, nor involuntary servitude in said territories...” Douglas dutifully introduced the resolution in the Senate, where it was tabled. He did not resign, arguing that the resolution did not go as far as the Wilmot Proviso, and reasoning that it was his duty to remain, as his resignation would only result in a freesoiler succeeding him.
Illinois Journal (Springfield), 22 June 1848, 2:5; 15 November 1848, 4:1; Robert W. Johannsen, Stephen A. Douglas (New York: Oxford University Press, 1973), 232-33, 251-54; Illinois Senate Journal. 1849. 16th G. A., 1st sess., 38, 42-43, 50; Illinois House Journal. 1849. 16th G. A., 1st sess., 52, 55.
Autograph Letter Signed, 4 page(s), SC914-A , Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (Springfield, IL)