Richard L. Wilson to Abraham Lincoln, 20 October 18541Journal Office Chicago
Oct 20th 1854.Friend Lincoln,
Our folks up this way would be pleased if you could make it convenient to address them at some time you may name prior to the Election, It would be most acceptable if you could make it convenient to be here for a day or two before speaking, to learn a little of the Northern Light,2 but be assured whenever you come you will receive a cheerful welcome,
Permit me to congratulate you on "the points" you made against the "Little giant," & particularly the one, where the idea of the Whig Party was ^being^ dead was repudiated– It told up this way with good effect,3 Our folks want
<Page 2>you to come & I think it would have a most excellent effect not only upon the present canvas, but for future action consequent upon the result,
Please let me know at as early a day as practicable if you can come & we will make all the necessary arrangements. How do you relish the election returns? Douglas, came to town last night pretending to have the ague,4 & probably cannot be induced to speak here again, Gen Cass is here & is announced to speak this evening but it will be to a very slim crowd, Crittenden of Ky is also here & has been for several days, & I learn that Houston & Bell are expected soon, what the movement is, I dont know, perhaps it is all accidental, but it looks
<Page 3>to me very much as if there was going to be a shift in the wind,
Our end of this state looks very well & the lowest figures I can make adds up well among the thousands, & from the best information I can gather, having a good opportunity of knowing the defeat of shields is certain
You would oblige me by an early reply.5Very truly yoursRichard. L. Wilson
3Wilson is referring to Abraham Lincoln’s speech in Bloomington, Illinois on September 26, 1854. In the speech, which Lincoln delivered after listening to Stephen A. Douglas speak earlier in the day, he addressed and refuted Douglas’ assertion that the Whig Party been absorbed by or fused with Abolitionists and had become the “Black Republican” Party.
The Lincoln Log: A Daily Chronology of the Life of Abraham Lincoln, 26 September 1854, http://thelincolnlog.org/Results.aspx?type=CalendarDay&day=1854-09-26.
4“The ague” was a common nineteenth-century term for what the modern medical community recognizes as malaria. The symptoms of malaria differ depending upon the severity of the case, but generally include fever, shaking, chills, and thirst.
William G. Rothstein, American Physicians in the Nineteenth Century: From Sects to Science (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992), 56-57.
5Lincoln’s reply, if he penned one, has not been located. Just a few days after this letter, however, Horace White of the Chicago Journal also wrote Lincoln a letter encouraging him to come speak at Chicago and providing additional context for Wilson’s invitation.
Passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act and its effective repeal of the Missouri Compromise reawakened Lincoln’s passion for politics, and he threw himself into opposing the act, crisscrossing Illinois to deliver speeches against the legislation and to rebut Stephen A. Douglas’ views on popular sovereignty. He even traveled in Douglas’ wake for a time in both September and October 1854, as much as his legal work permitted, giving lengthy speeches in reply to Douglas. Lincoln also spoke in support of anti-Nebraska candidates running for the U.S. House of Representatives in the congressional election of 1854. Lincoln delivered a speech in Chicago against the Kansas-Nebraska Act on October 27, 1854, which the Chicago Journal covered in positive terms.
In Illinois’ Second Congressional District, which included Chicago and other parts of Northern Illinois, James H. Woodworth, a Free-Soil Democrat running as a Republican, won the seat, defeating Democrat John B. Turner, Whig Robert S. Blackwell, and anti-Nebraska Democrat Edward L. Mayo with 53.1 percent of the vote. This represented, as Wilson predicted, a shift from the election of 1852, in which Democrat John Wentworth won the Second Congressional District with 46.7 percent of the total vote, compared to Whig Cyrus Aldrich’s 39.9 percent and Free Soil candidate James H. Collins’ 13.3 percent. In the state as a whole in 1854, Republicans won 52 percent of the vote compared to Democratic candidates’ 43 percent.
Lincoln allowed himself to become a candidate for the Illinois General Assembly, albeit unwillingly at first, but as the election campaign reached its climax, his name began to circulate as a possible nominee for one of the state’s U.S. Senate seats.
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.
David Herbert Donald, Lincoln (New York: Touchstone, 1995), 167-73; Autobiography of Abraham Lincoln Written for John L. Scripps; 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; Arthur Charles Cole, The Era of the Civil War 1848-1870, vol. 3 of The Centennial History of Illinois (Springfield, IL: Illinois Centennial Commission, 1919), 129-30; Howard W. Allen and Vincent A. Lacey, eds., Illinois Elections, 1818-1990 (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1992), 9, 135; Illinois Daily Journal (Springfield), 10 November 1854, 2:5.
Autograph Letter Signed, 4 page(s), Abraham Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress (Washington, DC).