Theophilus L. Dickey to Abraham Lincoln, 19 November 18541Ottawa Illinois
Nov 19th 1854Hon A. LincolnDear Sir
I love you & want you to be a U.S. Senator from Illinois— but there is no Whig elected to the Legislature from LaSalle–2
Our members are David Strawn a nephew of Old Jacob Strawn of Morgan and Fred. S. Day— an eastern man originally— and for several years a citizen of Peru— a merchant— produce dealer— and more recently a banker &c[etc.]– Strawn is a plain substantial farmer– Day is a cute little man with out much stamina & like most men of his course of life— is purely financial They are both of Loco-foco Stock
I saw Mr Coffing of Peru & from him learned that Day was probably in favor of Mr Sweet— (who was beaten for Congress by Thompson Campbell)3 for the Senator– Coffing professed to be for you & I suggested to him to take measures
<Page 2>to commit him for you as a second choice if Sweet’s chance failed– He said he would try him– I have however very little hope of doing you any good in that quarter– I am sorry to say–4
I am very busy professionally and [
...?] ^am^ not posted on political chances— but I sincerely hope you may succeed–
My good old father— now lives in your city & I expect to be there in January and if any phase presents— where you think I can serve you— dont fail to draw on me– The old gentleman is a genuine old fashioned— moderate Kentucky Abolitionist— and might be of use to you with some of the Abolitionists– He is a presbyterian ^preacher^ & perhaps if it is convenient thru some of your Presbyterian friends— you better make his acquaintance if you have not–
I would be glad to hear from you as to the probable “lay of the land” as to your success– I am your friend— and find no fault with your voracityT. L. Dickey
<Page 4>Hon A Lincoln
1Theophilus L. Dickey wrote and signed this letter, including the internal address on page four and the address on the envelope.
2No letter from Abraham Lincoln to Dickey to which this is a response has been found, but Dickey may have been responding to a letter from Lincoln similar to others he wrote around this time requesting his allies’ help in canvassing their Illinois General Assembly members for support of his potential 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 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. He even allowed himself to become a candidate for the Illinois General Assembly (albeit reluctantly 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. Lincoln won election to the Illinois House of Representatives in the 1854 election, but declined the seat in late November in order to run for U.S. Senate. See the 1854 Federal Election.
Abraham Lincoln to Charles Hoyt; Abraham Lincoln to J. Young Scammon; Abraham Lincoln to Jacob Harding; 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; Illinois Daily Journal (Springfield), 10 November 1854, 2:5.
3In the 1850 race for U.S. Representative in Illinois’ Sixth Congressional District, Democrat Thompson Campbell had garnered 50.73% of the vote, defeating Whig Martin P. Sweet who earned 48.72%.
Howard W. Allen and Vincent A. Lacey, eds., Illinois Elections, 1818-1990 (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1992), 9, 128.
4The Illinois General Assembly met in a joint session on February 8, 1855, to make their selection for the U.S. Senate. In the first round of voting, representatives David Strawn and Frederick S. Day both voted for Lincoln, who received forty-five of the ninety-nine votes cast. As no candidate received a majority of votes, nine more rounds of balloting ensued. Neither Strawn nor Day voted for Lincoln again in the subsequent rounds of voting. Strawn divided his votes between Lyman Trumbull and William B. Ogden, and Day voted for Martin P. Sweet in the second and third rounds before switching his support to Trumbull. With his own share of votes declining Lincoln dropped out of contention in the tenth round and urged his supporters to vote for anti-Nebraska Democrat Trumbull in order to ensure that an anti-Nebraska politician filled the seat. Both Strawn and Day voted for Trumbull in the tenth round of voting during which he gained a majority of votes and was elected Illinois’ next U.S. senator. See the 1854 Federal Election.
Illinois Senate Journal. 1855. 19th G. A., 242-55; Abraham Lincoln to Elihu B. Washburne; Victor B. Howard, “The Illinois Republican Party: Part I: A Party Organizer for the Republicans in 1854,” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 64 (Summer 1971), 153-54.
Autograph Letter Signed, 5 page(s), Abraham Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress (Washington, DC).