Eleazar A. Paine to Abraham Lincoln, 9 December 18541Monmouth, Ill,
Dec. 9th 1854Hon. A. Lincoln,My Dear Sir,
Allow me to be equally plain, my preference for a U.S. Senator was made the first winter that I was at Springfield2 and that preference was for A. Lincoln. I was extremely sorry, when I saw you a candidate for the Legislature, fearing that an objection might be raised to your being a candidate for the Senate.3
Before Judge Rice was elected I told him not to commit himself to any
<Page 2>Candidate but wait until he got to Springfield and then I had not a doubt but what he would by all means prefer you.4 Without any other influences, I have no doubt but he will very willingly support you. I will see him again before he goes, and set the thing right.
I will give him a letter to you. Approach him gently. Please to keep me advised of your prospects, and if I can assist you I will go to Springfield5Very RespectfullyE. A. PaineP. S. I spoke to Judge Rice particularly of your being
<Page 3>a candidate for the Senate and the reasons Why I preferred you. He agreed with me, And said he would not commit himself until he got there. I write this postscript because in looking over my letter I thot[thought] I had not written particular enough–6E A P
2Paine served in the Illinois House of Representatives during the Eighteenth General Assembly, which convened its first session on January 3, 1853. It is possible this was the first winter he was at Springfield.
Louis L. Emmerson, ed., Blue Book of the State of Illinois, 1919-1920 (Springfield: Illinois State Journal, 1920), 538-39.
3Passage 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, his name began to circulate as a possible nominee to supplant James Shields as U.S. Senator.
Lincoln won election to the Illinois General Assembly, but, on November 25, 1854, he officially declined to serve in order to run for the U.S. Senate. Per Article III, Section seven of the 1848 Illinois Constitution, state legislators were ineligible for election to the U.S. Senate. In November and December 1854, he wrote confidential letters to political allies seeking support for his candidacy and information about his prospects. He likely wrote such a letter to Paine, although no correspondence between Lincoln and Paine has been located in all of 1854 prior to this letter.
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; Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 1:392; Ill. Const. of 1848, art. III, § 7; Abraham Lincoln to Hugh Lamaster; Abraham Lincoln to Joseph Gillespie; Abraham Lincoln to Horace W. Fay; Abraham Lincoln to Charles Hoyt.
4The voters of Henderson and Warren counties elected Judge William C. Rice to the Illinois House of Representatives in the election of 1854.
Illinois Daily Journal (Springfield), 2 January 1855, 2:3.
5Paine wrote Lincoln another letter on the topic of the U.S. Senate race on December 28. It is unclear if this is the letter Paine mentions having Judge Rice hand-deliver to Lincoln. As this December 28 letter reveals, Lincoln wrote Paine on December 21, although the December 21, 1854 letter has not been located.
6In the end, Lincoln did not win election to the U.S. Senate; the Illinois General Assembly selected anti-Nebraska Democrat Lyman Trumbull instead. Rice cast his ballot for Lincoln eight times before switching his vote to Trumbull in the final two rounds of voting. 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, 1:401-2; David Herbert Donald, Lincoln, 185; Illinois Senate Journal. 1855. 19th G. A., 1st sess., 242-55.
Autograph Letter Signed, 4 page(s), Abraham Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress (Washington, DC).