Jesse O. Norton to Abraham Lincoln, 12 December 18541
12th 1854Dear Sir,
I beg you not to attribute my delay in answering your note to any lack of interest.2 After the close of the Canvass I had so many duties pressing upon me prior to my leaving home, that I thought best to waive anseing[answering] you till my arrival here. Sickness delayed me a few days on the way, & I now embrace the first opportunity, since my arrival to write you.
I may say, I think, with confidence, that amongst the Whigs of my District, you are
<Page 2>the decided choice.3 But the delegations, are a good deal mixed so far as old party designations go, though all anti Nebraska. Strunk of Kankakee is an old fashioned Whig. A plain sensible man, I think you had better write him a Kind letter.4 Residence Momence. I meant to have seen him, but could not. I talked with Chatfield his Partner & neighbor, & he assured me Strunk would be all right. Judge Parks of Joliet, is a Democrat, but Anti Nebraska, Anti Pierce, Anti Douglas, & Anti Shields. Elected by fusion, in opposition to the regular Democratic nominee.5 Parks has a very good opinion of you, & you will do well to wait on him when he reaches Springfield.6 I would suggest that you write A. McIntosh Ed.[Editor] True Democrat ic Joliet, for his good
<Page 3>offices generally, & particularly with reference to Parks.7 Mc may be of a good deal of service (K. N). Wheeler of Kendall is a Whig (or Republican) I will endeavor to get a letter to him & to some of our friends in Oswego. I cannot tell certainly his P. O[Post Office] address– I know him well. The Representative from Dupage, I am not personally acquainted with. He is a free soiler, but what his former associations were, I am not informed. He, Parks & Strunk were elected on one ticket. The two Reps.[Representatives] from Lasalle were elected as Repubans[Republicans], but were formerly Democrats.8
Allow me to make a suggestion or two as to persons outside of my District. Adams of Kane, (St Charles) Talcott of Winnebago, Gage of McHenry, Swan of Lake, are all first rate fellows, all
<Page 4>of Whig predilections, and I think ought all to be secured for you, with proper efforts, in the final action. Benj Edwards knows Adams–
I will write to Strunk before he goes to Springfield.
As to Lovejoy, you can judge as well as I can.
The lower part of my District is all right of course, & could'nt be made righter.
If there is any thing I can do, command me unhesitatingly.Truly, Norton.P. S. Dont fail to write McIntosh a Kind & confiding letter–10
2Abraham Lincoln’s note to Norton has not been found. However, he was undoubtedly writing to gain support for his U.S. Senate run. 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 political allies seeking support for his candidacy and information about his prospects.
3In 1854, Norton represented District Three in the U.S. House of Representatives. District Three encompassed east central Illinois.
Louis L. Emmerson, ed., Blue Book of the State of Illinois, 1923-1924 (Springfield: Illinois State Journal, 1923), 642; Howard W. Allen and Vincent A. Lacey, eds., Illinois Elections, 1818-1990 (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1992), 134.
5In the state and national elections of 1854, fusion tickets became common, as disaffected Whigs and Democrats banded together with Free Soilers, Nativists, and temperance advocates to run slates of candidates. See 1854 Federal Election.
8David Strawn and Frederick S. Day represented District Forty-Three in the Illinois House of Representatives.
Louis L. Emmerson, ed., Blue Book of the State of Illinois, 1923-1924, 681.
9The “clamor” Norton sought to stop was Zebina Eastman’s open hostility to Lincoln’s candidacy for the U.S. Senate. Eastman opposed Lincoln as too moderate on the slavery question, preferring Owen Lovejoy, Ichabod Codding, or William H. Bissell. Eastman went so far as to label Lincoln a Know-Nothing.
The Free West (Chicago, IL), 30 November 1854, 2:4; 14 December 1854, 2:2-3, 4-5.
10The Illinois General Assembly met on February 8, 1855, to vote on the state’s next U.S. Senator. Lincoln garnered substantial support for nine ballots, but on the tenth ballot, the General Assembly elected anti-Nebraska Democrat Lyman Trumbull to the U.S. Senate. All the state senators and representatives referred or alluded to by Norton voted for Lincoln in the first round of voting. In subsequent rounds, some switched their votes to Martin P. Sweet, William B. Ogden, Joel A. Matteson, or Trumbull. Alanson K. Wheeler supported Lincoln for eight ballots, switching to Trumbull on the ninth ballot. Only Hurlbut Swan continued to support Lincoln through all of the first nine rounds of voting. For the tenth vote, Lincoln withdrew and urged his supporters to vote for Trumbull in order to ensure that an anti-Nebraska politician filled the seat. All those alluded to here, except John Strunk, voted for Trumbull in the tenth and final round of voting in which he emerged victorious. See the 1854 Federal Election.
Illinois Senate Journal. 1855. 19th G. A., 242-55; 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; Abraham Lincoln to Elihu B. Washburne.
Autograph Letter Signed, 5 page(s), Abraham Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress (Washington, DC).