Josiah M. Lucas to Abraham Lincoln, 13 December 18541Washington, December 13. 1854Dear Lincoln
Some time has elapsed since I have disturbed you with my epistles, however I think of you often, and that too as a friend to whom I am under many obligations, and would deem it a privilege to serve.
I see your chances very good for a seat in the U.S. Senate, and I learn further, that you have resigned your seat in the legislature that you may ^be^ the better prepared for the fight.2
The principle object of this letter is to apprise you of a little item which I have gleaned from the Knowing-ones with reference to the Senatorship— it is this. I understand that the plan is, that if they fail to elect Shields— they will centre on Bissell, and in due time Mr. B. will resign in favor of Shields, and give his influence in favor of &c.[etc.]
I have not the entire program, but it runs runs somehow in the way indicated. If you can see any thing in it, necessary to be choc averted— it may not be amis to be forewarned3
<Page 2>I understand that J. C. Allen is elected by One? majority. Now it strikes me that, the next Congress will be of poor material, if they cant beat any number of votes under 101! I have no doubt but Archer was chisseled out of many votes, and that may be easily demonstrated.4
I hope and trust that you may beat any opponent that may be brought against you. Yates says he is for you, tho'[though] no doubt would like to come into the ring if you by any means should fail— but you must know no such word as fail. I wish I knew how to assist you.5
I am remaining here by sufference and have to keep mum as death. I believe that I am the only Whig from Illinois left notwithstanding the whigs kept four or five Locos ^from Illinois^ in good places during the past administration— they turned me out but re-instated me again during my absence from the city, and that too without my asking it. I had made most of my arraingments for returning home6
Drop me a line of you have time— keep what I say mum7Your friendJ. M. Lucas
1Josiah M. Lucas wrote and signed this letter. He also wrote the name and address on the envelope, shown in the third 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, Lincoln’s name began to circulate as a possible nominee to supplant James Shields as U.S. Senator.
Although Lincoln won election to the Illinois General Assembly, 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.
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; Abraham Lincoln to Hugh Lamaster; Abraham Lincoln to Joseph Gillespie; Abraham Lincoln to Horace W. Fay; Abraham Lincoln to Charles Hoyt; 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.
3In a letter dated January 8, 1855, Richard Yates also warned Lincoln of this potential plan to unite anti-Nebraska Democrats on William H. Bissell for the ultimate benefit of James Shields. On January 14, 1855, Lincoln replied to Yates, stating that he had been aware of such a “Bissell movement” for some time, but did not believe any “sincere” anti-Nebraskans would vote for Bissell. The true danger, Lincoln stated, was that those in favor of the Kansas-Nebraska Act would throw their support behind Bissell “en masse” if they could not find a better candidate, prompting a few insincere anti-Nebraska men to join the Bissell movement as well.
4Lucas is referring to the race over who would represent the Seventh Illinois Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. In the 1854 Federal Election, Democrat James C. Allen narrowly triumphed over Republican William B. Archer: Allen received 8,452 votes to Archer’s 8,451. Allen received the certificate of election, but Archer contested the outcome. The U.S. Congress nullified the results and left the seat vacant until a new election could be held. In August 1856, Allen defeated Archer in a special election.
Newton Bateman and Paul Selby, eds., Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of Clark County, ed. by H. C. Bell (Chicago: Middle West, 1907), 22; Howard W. Allen and Vincent A. Lacey, eds., Illinois Elections, 1818-1990 (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1992), 10, 11.
5During the election of 1854, Richard Yates sought reelection as representative of the Sixth Illinois Congressional District, but lost to Democrat Thomas L. Harris by 200 votes.
Howard W. Allen and Vincent A. Lacey, eds., Illinois Elections, 1818-1990, 10.
6Lucas was appointed a temporary clerk in the U.S. General Land Office in March 1849. Although his name does not appear in the official register of the officers and agents of the government employed as of September 30, 1849, in a November 1849 letter to Lucas, Lincoln wrote that he was glad Secretary of the Interior Thomas Ewing had “sustained” Lucas in his position. Lucas’ name also does not appear in the official register for 1851, but he is listed in the official register for 1853 as a clerk in the U.S. General Land Office. In 1853, Democrat Franklin Pierce succeeded Whig Millard Fillmore as president. See the 1852 Federal Election. This is the change in administration Lucas references.
By September 30, 1853, there were just three other clerks from Illinois working in the U.S. General Land Office alongside Lucas: N. Vedder, Stephen J. Dallas, and Coleby Young. Alexander Bielaski, also from Illinois, worked as a draughtsman for the Land Office. It is likely that at least some of these men were the “Locos from Illinois” Lucas mentions.
Abraham Lincoln to George W. Crawford; Register of all Officers and Agents, Civil, Military, and Naval, in the Service of the United States, on the Thirtieth September, 1849 (Washington, DC: Gideon, 1849); Register of all Officers and Agents, Civil, Military, and Naval, in the Service of the United States, on the Thirtieth September, 1851 (Washington, DC: Gideon, 1851); Register of Officers and Agents, Civil, Military, and Naval, in the Service of the United States, on the Thirtieth September, 1853 (Washington, DC: Robert Armstrong, 1853), 132-34.
7Lincoln’s reply, if he penned one, has not been located.
In the end, Lincoln did not win election to the U.S. Senate; the Illinois General Assembly selected anti-Nebraska Democrat Lyman Trumbull instead. No one nominated Bissell or Yates for the U.S. Senate seat, and they did not receive any votes in ten 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., 242-55.
Autograph Letter Signed, 3 page(s), Abraham Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress (Washington, DC).