Thomas B. Talcott to Abraham Lincoln, 14 December 18541Rockton Dec. 14/54A. LincolnDear Sir
Yours of 6th inst. is recieved & contents noted.2 In answer I would say that I would do anything I can to further your object but this way the prospect is not flattering. My Brother who is elected in the district that ^I^ represented is an abolitionist of the Lovejoy stamp and has been for several years & I suppose will leave no stone unturned to Elect to the United State senate Lovejoy or Codding or some one of that stamp & it would be worse than useless for me to attempt to do anything in the premises if they are not able to carry such a man I presume they would look around & see what they would think best to do but rest assured that there will be an effort to elect such an one & my brother belongs to that class who for years have thrown away their votes ratherThos B. Talcott
<Page 2>than vote for any one except of what ^such as^ they concieve of the right stamp, & yet if you become acquainted with him you will find him in the main a reasonable man I have been thus explicit that you might be the better prepared to approach him & see what you can do.3 Have you not there some pretty prominent man of ha^is^ way of thinking through whom you could approach him how is it with Benj. Edwards or some other such kind of man4 but I shall leave him for you to figure with as you & your friends think best. Dr Lyman our Representative was elected on the Fusion ticket but is a Democrat & withall a strong party man & therefore I think you need not expect much from him5 Mr. Lawrence of Belvidere I think is a Whig & I have no doubt would help you Mr. Diggins I am not acquainted with & do not know how he stands in the political ranks.6 Wishing all the success you can ask in your undertaking I must bid you good bye
<Page 3>P. S. Let me hear from you occasionally as you proceed & you will keep this letter to yourself
2Abraham Lincoln’s letter to Talcott of December 6, 1854, has not been located, but was likely similar to others he wrote around that time requesting his allies’ help in canvassing their Illinois General Assembly members for support of his potential candidacy for a seat in the U.S. Senate.
Passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act and its effective repeal of the Missouri Compromise had 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 reluctantly 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. Lincoln won election to the Illinois House of Representatives in the 1854 election, but declined the seat in late November in order to run for U.S. Senate. See the 1854 Federal Election.
Abraham Lincoln to Hugh Lamaster; William H. Randolph to Abraham Lincoln; Robert Boal to Abraham Lincoln; John E. McClun to Abraham Lincoln; David Herbert Donald, Lincoln (New York: Touchstone, 1995), 167-73; Autobiography of Abraham Lincoln Written for John L. Scripps; Illinois Daily Journal (Springfield), 10 November 1854, 2:5.
3Thomas B. Talcott’s brother, Wait Talcott, had recently been elected state senator for Boone, Carroll, Ogle, and Winnebago counties as a fusion candidate. Fusion tickets became common during the 1854 election as disaffected Whigs and Democrats banded together with Free Soilers, Nativists, and temperance advocates. Many Whigs also fused with Democrats who shared their distaste for the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the extension of slavery. In Illinois’s First Congressional District, the fusion ticket was formed by Democrats, Whigs, and Free Soilers who held a district-wide anti-Nebraska convention in Rockford on August 30, 1854, at which they crafted a platform that called for the repeal of the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Fugitive Slave Law and for a limit to the expansion of slavery. Convention attendees also resolved to call themselves Republicans. Wait Talcott served as vice president for Winnebago County at this convention. Following his November 1854 election as state senator, Talcott was listed in newspaper election returns for Winnebago County as a fusion candidate, while his opponent was described as a Whig or independent. “Abolitionist of the Lovejoy stamp” suggests that Wait held similar views to the Lovejoy brothers, Elijah P., Joseph C., and Owen Lovejoy.
The General Assembly met in a joint session on February 8, 1855, to make their selection for the U.S. Senate. Wait Talcott voted for Lincoln through the first six rounds of balloting. He did not vote in the seventh round, but in the eighth round voted for William B. Ogden before switching his vote to anti-Nebraska Democrat Lyman Trumbull in the ninth vote. After the ninth vote, with his share of votes declining, Lincoln dropped out of contention and urged his remaining supporters to vote for Trumbull to ensure that an anti-Nebraska candidate would be elected. Talcott voted for Trumbull again in the tenth round of voting, at which point Trumbull won a majority of votes and was elected Illinois’ next senator.
Neither Owen Lovejoy nor Ichabod Codding were nominated for senator in the election held in the joint General Assembly session in February 1855. Lovejoy was himself a member of the Illinois House of Representatives at that session.
John Clayton, comp., The Illinois Fact Book and Historical Almanac, 1673-1968 (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1970), 219, 221; 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), 836-908; 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), 136-37; Rock River Democrat (Rockford, IL), 8 August 1854, 2:3; 5 September 1854, 2:1; 26 September 1854, 2:5; 14 November 1854, 2:3; Frederick J. Blue, “Lovejoy, Owen,” American National Biography, ed. by John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 14:6-7; Illinois Senate Journal. 1855. 19th G. A., 242-55; Abraham Lincoln to Elihu B. Washburne.
4Benjamin S. Edwards, the brother of Lincoln’s brother-in-law, Ninian W. Edwards, was at this time a Know Nothing and a temperance supporter. His disapproval of abolitionists within the Republican Party eventually led him to supporting Democrat Stephen A. Douglas for president in 1860.
Matthew Pinsker, “Not Always Such a Whig: Abraham Lincoln’s Partisan Realignment in the 1850s,” Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association 29 (Summer 2008), 33-34; Richard Lawrence Miller, Lincoln and His World: Volume 4, The Path to the Presidency, 1854-1860 (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2012), 45-46; Sidney Blumenthal, All the Powers of Earth: The Political Life of Abraham Lincoln, 1856-1860 (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2019), 377-78.
5Newly-elected Winnebago County state representative William Lyman had served as president of the August 30, 1854, convention in Rockford described above. Newspaper election results for his race listed him as a fusion candidate in contrast to his opponents who were identified as a Nebraska Democrat and an anti-Nebraska Democrat or independent. Lyman voted for Lincoln in the first three rounds of balloting for senator, then switched his vote to Lyman Trumbull in the remaining seven rounds.
John Clayton, comp., The Illinois Fact Book and Historical Almanac, 1673-1968, 221; Victor B. Howard, “The Illinois Republican Party: Part I: A Party Organizer for the Republicans in 1854,” 136-37; Rock River Democrat (Rockford, IL), 8 August 1854, 2:3; 5 September 1854, 2:1; 26 September 1854, 2:5; 14 November 1854, 2:3; Illinois Senate Journal. 1855. 19th G. A., 242-55.
6Representative Luther W. Lawrence of Boone County voted for Lincoln for U.S. Senator in the first three rounds of balloting, then voted for Martin P. Sweet once and William B. Ogden four times before supporting Lyman Trumbull in the final two rounds. Wesley Diggins, the representative from McHenry County, supported Lincoln in the first four ballots, then Ogden for four rounds, and finally Trumbull in the final two rounds of voting.
John Clayton, comp., The Illinois Fact Book and Historical Almanac, 1673-1968, 221; Illinois Senate Journal. 1855. 19th G. A., 242-55.
Autograph Letter Signed, 4 page(s), Abraham Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress (Washington, DC).