William H. Randolph to Abraham Lincoln, 29 September 18541Macomb Sept 29th 1854A Lincon Esqr[Esquire]Sir
We have at this time a severe contest a going on in this congressional District between Richardson & Williams, and as Douglass is to be here at court2 (next Monday week) we are anxious to have some one here to hold him in check, & not only so, but to reply successively to him on the question now agitating the state. We no of no one who would be more eagerly listened to than yourself, of you we have heard much3Your name is also spoke of as a candidate for US Senator Can we not reasonably hope to elect a thorough Anti Nebraska Legislature. If so we hope for your election to that placeMany of the Judges friends here are no longer
<Page 2>with him, now and then a Whig inclined to go off4
Williams is doing much good service, but it is certainly necessary for him to stick to the Col who you ^no^ is great for assertion and would at once (If Williams left him) commence his game of Bragg5I think the Col[Colonel] is beaten Your help would make it doubly sureCome if possible by so doing you will place the Whigs under renewed obligation to you6Resp[Respectfully] yoursWm H. Randolph
2The McDonough County Circuit Court, which was attached to the Fifth Judicial Circuit in 1854, was scheduled to hold their fall term beginning Monday, October 9, 1854.
“An Act to Regulate the Times of Holding Courts in the Fifth and Twelfth Judicial Circuits,” 22 June 1852, Laws of Illinois (1852), 177.
3In 1854, McDonough County, the county in which Macomb was located, was in Illinois’ Fifth Congressional District. The Democratic Party won the district in each election since 1842, with Stephen A. Douglas as its representative in the Twenty-Eighth, Twenty-Ninth, and Thirtieth Congresses. After Douglas won election to the U.S. Senate in 1847, Democrat William A. Richardson filled this congressional seat. Richardson was seeking reelection in the congressional election of 1854, running against Archibald Williams, a Whig.
Howard W. Allen and Vincent A. Lacey, eds., Illinois Elections, 1818-1990 (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1992), 134; Blue Book of the State of Illinois (Springfield: Illinois State Journal, 1919), 501; Biographical Directory of the American Congress 1774-1996 (Alexandria, VA: CQ Staff Directories, 1997), 959; Newton Bateman and Paul Selby, eds., Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of Piatt County, ed. by Francis M. Shonkwiler (Chicago: Munsell, 1917), 2:590.
4Passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act and its effective repeal of the Missouri Compromise reawakened Abraham Lincoln’s passion for politics, and he threw himself into the congressional election campaign in the fall of 1854, crisscrossing Illinois to deliver speeches against the Kansas-Nebraska Act and in support of anti-Nebraska candidates such as Williams. Lincoln even allowed himself to become a candidate for the Illinois General Assembly (albeit unwillingly at first). As the election campaign reached its climax, Lincoln’s name began to circulate as a possible nominee for one of the state’s U.S. Senate seats.
David Herbert Donald, Lincoln (New York: Touchstone, 1995), 167-73; Autobiography of Abraham Lincoln Written for John L. Scripps.
5Bragg is an eighteenth-century card game that originated in the United Kingdom. Bluffing or “bragging” about one’s position or standing is a key aspect of successful strategy in the game.
Charles Cotton, The Compleat Gamester (London: J. Wilford, 1725), 60-61.
6Lincoln’s reply, if he wrote one, has not been located. However, as four additional letters from Randolph reveal, Lincoln wrote him at least a few times in November and December 1854.
The race between Richardson and Williams was close. Richardson won 52.4 percent of the district’s votes to Williams’ 47.6 percent. In McDonough County, Richardson emerged with 50.7 percent of the vote to Williams’ 49.3 percent. In the state as a whole, anti-Nebraska candidates fared better, winning five of nine congressional districts and 52 percent of the vote compared to Democratic candidates’ 43 percent.
Lincoln won election to the Illinois General Assembly, but, in late-November 1854, declined to serve in order to run for the U.S. Senate. Ultimately, he did not win election to the U.S. Senate; the Illinois General Assembly selected anti-Nebraska Democrat Lyman Trumbull instead. See the 1854 Federal Election.
William H. Randolph to Abraham Lincoln; William H. Randolph to Abraham Lincoln; William H. Randolph to Abraham Lincoln; William H. Randolph to Abraham Lincoln; Allen and Lacey, eds., Illinois Elections, 10, 134-35; William H. Randolph to Abraham Lincoln; Abraham Lincoln to Noah W. Matheny; Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 1:392, 401-2; Illinois Daily Journal (Springfield), 10 November 1854, 2:5.
Autograph Letter Signed, 4 page(s), Abraham Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress (Washington, DC).