Peter H. Willard to Abraham Lincoln, 11 November 18541Metamora Novr 11. 1854Friend Lincoln.–
Presuming you would like to hear from Woodford, the Banner County, of sham Democracy,2 I drop you a line to say we have passed through the most exciteing Election, we have ever held since I have been in the county. We have not the official Count, but we know enough not to vary much from the following McMurtry, majority not far from 200,3Munns, maj,[majority] 185,–4 We have elected our Independant candidate for sheriff, over the regular nominee by 150, majority,–5 Lessing[Lessening] the majority of the two first named candidates at least 100, votes,– The democracy are now quarrelling with one another trying to assign causes,– Judge Purple, [removed?] the other evening laughing at the democracy "Dont you See Lincoln, on his way to Washington City," I hope so6yr[your] friendP. H. Willard
2Woodford County, Illinois leaned strongly anti-slavery.
Victor B. Howard, “The Illinois Republican Party: Part II the Party Becomes Conservative, 1855-1856,” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 64 (Autumn 1971), 288.
3Democrat William McMurtry lost his bid for the U.S. House of Representatives in Illinois’ Fourth Congressional District to Republican incumbent James Knox. Knox garnered 57 percent of the district’s vote to 43 percent for McMurtry. McMurtry carried Woodford County, however, by a majority of 179 votes.
Howard W. Allen and Vincent A. Lacey, eds., Illinois Elections, 1818-1990 (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1992), 10, 134.
4Ira Y. Munn, the pro-slavery candidate for the Illinois House of Representatives representing Woodford, Marshall, and Putnam counties, lost to Robert Boal, but carried Woodford County by 181 votes.
Illinois State Register (Springfield), 24 September 1854, 3:2; Illinois Gazette (Lacon), 27 September 1854, 2:2; 8 November 1854, 2:1; 22 November 1854, 2:2.
5George Ray first became sheriff of Metamora in 1850 and was reelected in 1854. He had moved from Ohio to Illinois in 1836 and successfully engaged in the cattle trade before becoming sheriff.
Roy L. Moore, History of Woodford County (Eureka, IL: Woodford County Republican, 1910), 27; Illinois Gazette (Lacon), 22 November 1854, 2:2.
6Willard references the movement to elect Abraham Lincoln to the U.S. Senate. Passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act and its effective repeal of the Missouri Compromise had reawakened Lincoln’s passion for politics, and he threw himself into the election campaign in the fall of 1854, crisscrossing Illinois to deliver speeches against the Kansas-Nebraska Act and in support of anti-Nebraska candidates. He 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 replacement for James Shields, the incumbent, in the Senate. Lincoln won a seat in the Illinois House of Representatives, but in late-November he declined to serve in order to run for the U.S. Senate. Ultimately, Lincoln did not win election to the U.S. Senate; the Illinois General Assembly selected anti-Nebraska Democrat Lyman Trumbull instead. See 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; Illinois Senate Journal. 1855. 19th G. A., 1st sess., 242-55.
Autograph Letter Signed, 2 page(s), Abraham Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress (Washington, DC).