Henry Grove to Abraham Lincoln, 18 November 18541Peoria Nov 18 1854.Dear Sir
Your favor of 13th inst is now before me.2 Absence from home on a visit to chicago prevented an earlier answer. I have no objection to stating fully my views as to the United State Senatorship I believe that a very large majority of the men who voted for me expect me to vote for you, that is they prefer you to any other person.3 I confess also that so far as I am acquainted with your political views I prefer you to any other person, but before committing myself fully, it would afford me pleasure to hear from you as to one or two matters further.
1. Are you eligible to the office under our constitution. My information is that you are a member elect to the House4
2. I understand you to be opposed to the extension of slavery into Territory now free; I would expect you to maintain this position in all occasions.
3. At some time when it could be done in a proper spirit I should like to see slavery abolished in the District of Columbia In my judgment the continuance of slavery their works no benefit to the institution in the states I disclaim all rightYours trulyH. GroveHon A LincolnP. S. One word further I dont want you to commit yourself to any party or views. Think and act as becomes the Senator of Illinois & Lincoln, but dont lash us to Slavery in any way.
<Page 2>on the part of the Federal Government to interfere with the institution of slavery where it exists in the states, but the power of the Government over it in the District is allmost universally conceded and in a proper time & manner I would rejoice to see it abolished there. Would you vote for such a law. I don't ask you to become an agitator, nor to go for it as a matter of insult or irritation to the South but in your own quiet good humored way relieve the nation of the discrace of sanctioning slavery at the National capital. And if you cannot go for that will you ^go^ for submitting the question to the people of that District for settlement. If your views harmonize with mine then you are my man as at present advised.5 As to your views of national policy they accord with my own alltogether You may put me down as pretty sure for Abe. Will you do me the favor to send me a copy of the rules or of the last House. Who do you go for for Speaker. Do you know just how matters will stand with us so far as the two houses are concerned6
3In the election of 1854, Grove, an anti-Nebraska candidate, competed with Thomas J. Henderson, William S. Moss, and Alexander Moncrief for a seat in the Illinois House of Representatives. In the end, Grove and Henderson both won seats, with 1,440 and 1,488 votes, respectively. Moss and Moncrief, both Democrats, received 1,401 votes and 1,389 votes, respectively.
In this letter, Grove discusses Lincoln’s candidacy for a seat in 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 nominee for one of the state’s U.S. Senate seats. In November and December 1854, he wrote confidential letters to political allies, seeking support for his candidacy and information about his prospects.
James M. Rice, Peoria City and County Illinois (Chicago: S. J. Clarke, 1912), 1:374; Peoria Weekly Democratic Press (IL), 1 November 1854, 3:2; 15 November 1854, 2:6; David Herbert Donald, Lincoln (New York: Touchstone, 1995), 167-73; Autobiography of Abraham Lincoln Written for John L. Scripps; Abraham Lincoln to Hugh Lamaster; Abraham Lincoln to Joseph Gillespie; Abraham Lincoln to Horace W. Fay.
4Lincoln indeed won a seat in the Illinois General Assembly in the election of 1854. Per Article III, Section seven of the 1848 Illinois Constitution, state legislators were ineligible for election to the U.S. Senate.
Illinois Daily Journal (Springfield), 10 November 1854, 2:5; Ill. Const. of 1848, art. III, § 7.
5Lincoln first tackled the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia while serving in the U.S. House of Representatives. In December 1848, Representative Daniel Gott introduced a resolution calling for the creation of a committee to report a bill prohibiting the slave trade in the District. In January 1849, Lincoln introduced an amendment to Gott’s resolution, calling for a bill for abolishing slavery in the District. The House adopted Gott’s resolution, taking no action on Lincoln’s amendment. On January 13, Lincoln gave notice of his intention to introduce a bill to abolish slavery in the District with the consent of the free white population, and with compensation to the owners. Some aspects of Lincoln’s proposed bill matched what Grove desired in his choice for a U.S. Senator in 1854. Ultimately, Lincoln did not introduce his bill and the House took no further action on Gott’s resolution. On January 31, however, the Committee for the District of Columbia reported a bill prohibiting the introduction of slaves into the District. The House ultimately tabled this bill. In 1861, Lincoln gave his reasons for not introducing his bill, explaining that upon “finding that I was abandoned by my former backers and having little personal influence, I dropped the matter knowing that it was useless to prosecute the business at that time.”
Cong. Globe, 30th Cong., 2nd Sess., 83-84, 212, 216, 415, 416 (1849); U.S. House Journal. 1849. 30th Cong., 2nd sess., 132-33, 134-35, 229-31, 242, 347-48; H.R. 750, 30th Cong. (1849); Abraham Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln papers: Series 1. General Correspondence. 1833-1916: James Q. Howard, May 1860 Biographical notes. May, 1860. Manuscript/Mixed Material. https://www.loc.gov/item/mal0297401/; David Herbert Donald, Lincoln, 135-37.
6Lincoln’s reply, if he wrote one, has not been located.
The state’s voters sent an anti-Nebraska majority to the Illinois General Assembly in the election of 1854. In the Illinois House of Representatives, the representatives selected Thomas J. Turner as speaker. In late-November 1854, Lincoln declined to serve in the General Assembly in order to run for the U.S. Senate. Ultimately, however, he did not win election to the U.S. Senate; the Illinois General Assembly selected anti-Nebraska Democrat Lyman Trumbull instead. Grove cast his vote for Lincoln on nine ballots before switching to Trumbull in the final ballot. See the 1854 Federal Election. Stung and disappointed by his loss, Lincoln made no political speeches or public statements for an entire year after his defeat and reinvested his energies in his law practice.
Stephen Hansen and Paul Nygard, “Stephen A. Douglas, the Know-Nothings, and the Democratic Party in Illinois, 1854-1858,” Illinois Historical Journal 87 (Summer 1994), 114; Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 1:401-2; Abraham Lincoln to Noah W. Matheny; David Herbert Donald, Lincoln, 185; Illinois House Journal. 1855. 19th G. A., 5; Illinois Senate Journal. 1855. 19th G. A., 242-55.
Autograph Letter Signed, 3 page(s), Abraham Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress (Washington, DC).