Albert G. Jones to Abraham Lincoln, 22 November 18541Coles Co. Ill. Novr 22. '54.Abram Lincoln Esqr[Esquire]Dear Sir:
Yours of 10 inst from Clinton is just at hand.2 You guess correctly, as it happens that I have been elected to the Legislature, and that by a very handsome majority over the combined forces of the allies.3
I had been thinking somewhat about you for the U.S. Senate, before the recpt[receipt] of your letter; but this difficulty presented itself, and still does:– You also have been elected to the Legislature. We shall need every vote that we can muster. How shall we spare yours? As a whig who has been tried and not found wanting, you have my cordial sympathies. This is all I can say at present. The sentiment of this Representative District is strongly Whig— strongly anti Douglass— more strongly anti=abolition— and deeply imbued with the native=American feeling. In the Legislature, it will be my pleasure, as it will be my duty, to cast the vote of Coles and Moultrie for such a man as will be most acceptable to the people who send me there. The vote in that case being theirs— not mine.4
Watson is elected to the Senate. In Edgar an anti=Nebraska man is elected to the House. In Clark a Whig named McClure is elected.5With high Respect, YoursA. G. Jones,
1Albert G. Jones wrote and signed this letter. He also wrote the address on the envelope, shown in the second image.
3In the Illinois state election of 1854, the voters of Coles and Moultrie counties elected Jones to the Illinois House of Representatives.
Illinois Daily Journal (Springfield), 2 January 1855, 2:3.
4Jones is discussing 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 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 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.
As Jones notes, Lincoln won a seat in the Illinois General Assembly. Per article three, section seven of the 1848 Illinois Constitution, state legislators were ineligible for election to the U.S. Senate.
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; William H. Randolph to Abraham Lincoln; Illinois Daily Journal (Springfield), 10 November 1854, 2:5; Ill. Const. of 1848, art. III, § 7.
5In the election of 1854, the voters of Vermilion, Coles, Cumberland, and Edgar counties elected Whig William D. Watson to the Illinois Senate. Edgar County’s voters also elected Democrat Dudley McClain to the Illinois House of Representatives, and Clark County’s voters sent Whig Thomas R. McClure to the Illinois House of Representatives.
Illinois Daily Journal (Springfield), 2 January 1855, 2:3; List of Members of the Illinois Legislature in 1855.
In late-November 1854, Lincoln declined to serve in the Illinois General Assembly in order to run for the U.S. Senate. In early-December, Thomas A. Marshall wrote Lincoln informing him that Jones was still unwilling to commit to Lincoln as a senatorial candidate.
Ultimately, Lincoln did not win election to the U.S. Senate; the General Assembly selected anti-Nebraska Democrat Lyman Trumbull instead. Watson and McClure cast their votes for Lincoln until the eighth and ninth ballots, respectively, when they switched to Trumbull. McClain voted for James Shields, the incumbent, until the seventh ballot, when he shifted his allegiance to Joel A. Matteson. 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.
Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 1:401-2; David Herbert Donald, Lincoln, 185; Illinois Senate Journal. 1855. 19th G. A., 242-55.
Autograph Letter Signed, 2 page(s), Abraham Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress (Washington, DC).