William D. Henderson to Abraham Lincoln, 11 December 18541Oquawka Illinois Dec 11th 54Hon A Lincoln Esq[Esquire]Dr[Dear] Sir
Yours of December 4th has been received2 and in reply I will say that there is not a man in the State that I would rather See "take" that nest" than yourself and if I can do any thing to aid you that services shall be cheerfully rendered3 Judge Rice the member elect from Warren & Henderson Counties is a particular friend of mine and I will see him and do what I can to secure you his vote and influence he lives in our Town but is absent at this time or I should have seen him before I wrote to you
It is thought by some here that as Mr Williams who was Run against Richardson was defeated that it would be right to try to elect him to the senate if he wishes a chance in that contest4 it may be that Judge Rice may be pledged to him as they are very Intimate and practise Law in the same circuit5 If I was a member this winter I would commence tradeing at once with the Antinebraska Democrats I would give them every thing but the Senator and if I could not make that arrangement then let the Whigs take the Speaker Clerks Public Printer &C[etc.] and give the anties[anti-nebraska] the Senator any way to defeat Douglass and his corrupt clan6Very Respectfully yours &CW. D. Henderson
DEC[December] 11Hon A Lincoln EsqSpringfieldIllinois
1William D. Henderson wrote and signed this letter, including the address on the second sheet, which was folded to create an envelope.
3Henderson is referring to Abraham Lincoln’s hope of obtaining 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, Lincoln wrote confidential letters to his political allies seeking support for his candidacy and information about his prospects.
4Archibald Williams had run unsuccessfully against William A. Richardson to represent the Fifth Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Howard W. Allen and Vincent A. Lacey, eds., Illinois Elections, 1818-1990 (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1992), 10.
5The Fifth Circuit comprised Henderson, Warren, Fulton, Schuyler, Brown, Hancock, McDonough, Knox, Adams, and Pike counties.
John M. Palmer, ed., The Bench and Bar of Illinois. Historical and Reminiscent (Chicago: Lewis, 1899), 1:46.
6The state’s voters in the elections of 1854 sent an anti-Nebraska majority to the Illinois General Assembly. The presence of an anti-Nebraska majority gave opponents of Stephen A. Douglas and the Democrats leverage in the imminent elections for General Assembly officers and U.S. Senator. In the senate election, incumbent James Shields, a supporter of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, was up for reelection, and the anti-Nebraska forces relished the opportunity to replace him with one of their own.
Lincoln and Williams both became candidates for U.S. Senate when the General Assembly gathered in joint session to vote on February 8, 1855. Williams received votes on the second, third, fourth, ninth, and tenth ballots. Lincoln received a majority of the anti-Nebraska votes until the tenth and final ballot, when he 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. With the votes of Lincoln’s supporters, Trumbull won the seat. See 1854 Federal Election. Judge William C. Rice cast his vote for Lincoln for eight ballots before switching to Trumbull in the last two ballots.
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; 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; 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).