William Fithian to Abraham Lincoln, 20 November 18541Danville, Nov. 20, 1854.A. Lincoln, Esqr[Esquire],
Your letter was not necessary.2 Dr Courtney’s promise to go for you, was made a condition precedent to his election– Otherwise he should not have been elected.3
I have been sick for two monthsYours truelyW Fithian
1William Fithian wrote and signed this letter, including the address on the second sheet, which was folded to make an envelope.
2Abraham Lincoln’s letter to Fithian has not been located, but was likely similar to others Lincoln wrote in November 1854 requesting his allies’ help in canvassing their local Illinois General Assembly members for support of his potential candidacy for a seat in 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. U.S. senators were chosen at this time by the Illinois General Assembly, thus Lincoln’s interest in gauging the members’ political leanings.
3Party control of the Illinois House of Representatives and Senate after the 1854 election was significant in the imminent election for U.S. Senate. The result of the election was an anti-Nebraska majority in the Illinois General Assembly, which was promising for Lincoln’s potential candidacy. Lincoln himself 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.
Newly-elected state representative for Vermilion County James Courtney did indeed support Lincoln’s bid for the U.S. Senate when the Illinois General Assembly met in a joint session on February 8, 1855 to vote on the matter. Courtney voted for Lincoln through the first nine rounds of voting. For the tenth vote, Lincoln withdrew and urged his supporters to vote for anti-Nebraska Democrat Lyman Trumbull in order to ensure that an anti-Nebraska politician filled the seat. Courtney cast his vote for Trumbull in the tenth and final round of voting in which the latter emerged victorious.
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; Illinois Senate Journal. 1855. 19th G. A., 242-55; Abraham Lincoln to Elihu B. Washburne.
Autograph Letter Signed, 2 page(s), Abraham Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress (Washington, DC).