William Ross to Abraham Lincoln, 15 December 18541Pittsfield Dec 15th 1854A Lincoln Esqr[Esquire]Dear Sir
I believe it was understood by us if the Irwin Suit was compromised without trial I was to give you $5— for the trouble I gave you in the premises, the Suit is settled & in conformity to my promise I herewith Enclose you $5–2 I learn that you will be a candidate for the U.S Senate you are my first Choice and if I thought I could contribut any thing to advance your Interests in the Election I would freely spend a week at Springfield this winter3your friendW Ross
<Page 2>PITTSFIELD Ills[Illinois]
DEC[December] 15A Lincoln EsqrSpringfieldIll
1William Ross wrote and signed this letter, including the address on the last sheet, which was folded to create an envelope.
2No additional correspondence between Ross and Abraham Lincoln about this “Irwin” case has been located, nor have any legal documents pertaining to the case (most likely since it was settled without litigation). It is unclear, therefore, what the case involved.
3Passage 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, he wrote confidential letters to political allies, seeking support for his candidacy and information about his prospects.
Lincoln won election to the Illinois General Assembly, but, on November 25, 1854, 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.
Ultimately, Lincoln did not win election to the U.S. Senate; the Illinois General Assembly selected anti-Nebraska Democrat Lyman Trumbull instead. See the 1854 Federal Election. 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.
Lincoln provided unspecified legal service to Ross, Martha L. Benner and Cullom Davis et al., eds., The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln: Complete Documentary Edition, 2d edition (Springfield: Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, 2009), http://www.lawpracticeofabrahamlincoln.org/Details.aspx?case=141341; David Herbert Donald, Lincoln (New York: Touchstone, 1995), 167-73, 185; 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, 401-2; Ill. Const. of 1848, art. III, § 7.
Autograph Letter Signed, 2 page(s), Abraham Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress (Washington, DC).