Alexander C. Gibson to Abraham Lincoln, 30 November 18541Aurora, Kane co,
Nov, 30. 1854–Hon. A Lincon,Dear Sir,
At the request of our friend Mr. C. Hoyt, I called upon B. Hackney Esqr[Esquire]– the member elect from this county, in order to ascertain his views in relation to the proper person to be selected to succeed Gen. Shields in the U.S. senate– I found him well disposed towards your election– He informed me that his collegue Patten and senator Adams had agreed to act, on that subject, ^with him^ as a unite— that they were not inclined to make any positive pledge on the question, at present–
These men are all extreme anti-slavery partisans, and will, I infered, exact from the candidate, a strong writen pledge on that subject–
It may not be improper to add, that many Whigs here, entertain strong fears that it will be found impropable to unite all the opponents of Shields, upon any man or any common platform– Few among us, since the Nebraska outrage was perpetrated, feel disposed to go back to the platform of 1852, and our southern friends, it is supposed, will stop at that point–3 Abolitionists I am told, would prefer, that the election of Senator should go over, (unless one of their own stamp should be named) in order to increase the slavery excitement in 1856– Still I hope that means may be found to elect a senator at the approaching session of the Legislature and that you may be the man— any thing that I can do to promote that desirable end, will be cheerfully performed–4Yours trulyA. C. Gibson
<Page 4>A[URORA] Ills[Illinois]Hon. Abm LinconSpringfieldIllinois
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1Alexander C. Gibson wrote and signed this letter. He also wrote the address on the envelope, shown in the fourth image.
2Passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act and its effective repeal of the Missouri Compromise reawakened Abraham 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, and the possibility that a newly-elected General Assembly might oust incumbent U.S. Senator Democrat James Shields increased, 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, Lincoln wrote confidential letters to political allies, including Charles Hoyt on November 10, seeking support for his candidacy and information about his prospects.
On November 27, Hoyt wrote Lincoln that he had asked Gibson to speak with Benjamin Hackney as well as Kane County’s other recently-elected representatives in the Illinois General Assembly, Augustus Adams and William Patten, to ascertain whether they would support Lincoln as a candidate for the U.S. Senate.
Lincoln won election to the Illinois General Assembly, but, on November 25, 1854, officially declined to serve in order to run for the U.S. Senate. 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; William H. Randolph to Abraham Lincoln; 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; Illinois Daily Journal (Springfield), 10 November 1854, 2:5; 2 January 1855, 2:3; Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 1:392; Ill. Const. of 1848, art. III, § 7.
3Like the Democrats, the Whigs endorsed the compromise measures of 1850, including the Fugitive Slave Act, at its national convention before the presidential election of 1852. As Gibson indicates, this position became untenable for some Whigs after passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act. See the 1852 Federal Election.
Michael F. Holt, The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party: Jacksonian Politics and the Onset of the Civil War (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 716-19. For the full text of the Whig Party’s 1852 platform, see Illinois Daily Journal (Springfield), 26 June 1852, 2:1-2.
4Ultimately, Lincoln did not win election to the U.S. Senate; the Illinois General Assembly selected anti-Nebraska Democrat Lyman Trumbull instead. Adams cast seven ballots for Lincoln before switching his vote to Trumbull. Hackney shifted his allegiance back and forth from Lincoln to Martin P. Sweet and J. Young Scammon until deciding on Trumbull in the ninth ballot. Patten cast his ballot for William B. Ogden, Sweet, and Trumbull before finally committing to Trumbull in the seventh 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.
Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln, 1:401-2; David Herbert Donald, Lincoln, 185; Illinois Senate Journal. 1855. 19th G. A., 242-55.
Autograph Letter Signed, 4 page(s), Abraham Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress (Washington, DC).