Horace Hayward to Abraham Lincoln, 17 December 18541Olney 17th Dec 1854Mr LincolnDear Sir
as we mutually desire to see the downfall of Douglass & the defeat of Democracy I therefore take the liberty of addressing you upon Illinois politics. Since your name has been used in connection with the election of a U.S. Senator, the Democrats have been at work in this section2 F. D Preston our representative elect as you are aware is a violent partisan more sanguine than cautious, and posted as to his party plans.3 I think the old line trusty democrats are to assemble at Springfield a few days in advance andVery RespectfullyHorace Hayward
<Page 2>prepare the way if possable for the Nebraska & Anti-Nebraska democrats to caucus together with the usual pledge to abide the nomination but their controlling object will be to prevent the election of a Whig. I have been told by those who ought to know ^that^ there are 42 Whigs in the house & 9 in the Senate giving a Whig majority of 1 on joint ballot to say nothing of Antinebraska Democrats. (I can hardly think this is so)4 the democrats count on the vote of F. M. Gray Whig elect from Pope &c[etc.]5 for a U.S. Senator as he is pledged to vote for a Democratic Senator–6 If the reported promise of Gray be true it may be of advantage to
<Page 3>you to know it, if known ^already^ no harm is done– The result of our congressional election has taught me the necessity of vigilance, had Col Archer written to a single Whig of Olney setting ^forth^ his prospects in the north part of the district 10 days before the election he could hav had a majority of votes in this county. We appointed delegat[es?] to attend the Whig convention (that should have been held at Ewington) who went there— then we waited to see or hear from Archer consequently nothing was done for him until the day before the election this acounts for the vote of Richland Co–7 If you can give me the political creed of the Illinois legislature you will confer a favor by informing me by return mail & if any other
<Page 4>items come to hand that I think may be of interest I will inform you at once–8
2Passage 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.
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; Illinois Daily Journal (Springfield), 10 November 1854, 2:5.
3The Illinois General Assembly met in a joint session on February 8, 1855, to make their selection for the U.S. Senate. In the first round of voting Lincoln received forty-five of the ninety-nine votes cast, but as no candidate received a majority of votes, nine more rounds of balloting ensued. Richland County Representative Finney D. Preston did indeed support his fellow Democrats in the election. In the first six rounds of voting he supported James Shields, and in the final four rounds he voted for Joel A. Matteson. After the ninth vote, with his share of votes declining, Lincoln dropped out of contention and urged his remaining supporters to vote for anti-Nebraska Democrat Lyman Trumbull to ensure that an anti-Nebraska candidate would be elected. Trumbull was victorious in the tenth vote. 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.
4A contemporary broadside listing the members of the Nineteenth General Assembly along with their party affiliations reported numbers similar to those cited by Hayward, although with more nuanced descriptions of affiliations for those he seems to have counted as Whigs. According to this broadside there were twenty-one Republicans, sixteen Whigs, one anti-Nebraska Whig, and one anti-Nebraska Republican in the Illinois House of Representatives, and two Whigs, two anti-Nebraska Whigs, and five Republicans in the Illinois Senate. When Lincoln made his own lists of members of the Nineteenth General Assembly in anticipation of the Senate election, he agreed with the count of nine Whigs in the Illinois Senate but calculated only twenty-eight Whigs in the Illinois House of Representatives. Including anti-Nebraska Democrats, there was indeed an anti-Nebraska majority in the Nineteenth Illinois General Assembly.
“A List of the Members Composing the Nineteenth General Assembly of the State of Illinois,” broadside in Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, Springfield, IL; List of Members of the Illinois Legislature in 1855; List of Members of the Illinois Legislature in 1855; 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.
5The name of Whig Illinois State Representative elect for Pope, Hardin, and Massac counties, George M. Gray, was mistakenly reported as both F. M. Gray and George W. Gray by contemporary sources.
Illinois State Register (Springfield), 23 November 1854, 2:2; Illinois House Journal. 1855. 19th G. A., 4.
6Lincoln also received a report that Gray was a Nebraska Whig, and another that he was pledged to support a Nebraska Democrat; both reports expressed Gray’s positive feelings for Lincoln’s candidacy as well. During the General Assembly’s joint session to elect a senator on February 8, 1855, Gray cast no votes for Lincoln. Instead, he nominated Matteson and voted for him in seven of the rounds, intermittently switching his vote to other candidates, including William A. Denning, James Shields, and John A. Logan.
Illinois Senate Journal. 1855. 19th G. A., 242-55.
7Democratic incumbent James C. Allen had recently defeated Whig challenger William B. Archer in the race for U.S. Representative in Illinois’ Seventh Congressional District by a single vote. While the overall race was extremely close, Archer did significantly better in the counties in the northern part of the district than he did in those in the southern part. In the district’s northern counties of Clark, Coles, Cumberland, Edgar, Logan, Macon, Moultrie, and Piatt, he earned over 50% of the vote in each county, while in the district’s southern counties of Clay, Crawford, Effingham, Fayette, Jasper, Lawrence, and Richland, he received less than 50% of the votes cast. In Effingham County, where Ewington was the county seat, Archer had his worst showing; there he received only 21.4% of the vote. In Hayward’s home county of Richland, Archer garnered only 35.7% of the vote. While Archer apparently did not campaign in Olney, Allen made a speech there on the Kansas-Nebraska Act in September 1854. Whig William Harrow of Lawrence County also addressed an assembly of his fellow Whigs at the Richland County Court House in September on the dangers of supporting anti-Nebraska candidates and subsequently opined that if Whigs in the southern part of the Seventh District had to choose between Allen and an anti-Nebraska Whig, they would either vote for Allen or stay home on election day. Archer ultimately contested the election and Allen was forced to vacate the seat until a special election was held for the seat in 1856, which Allen won.
Howard W. Allen and Vincent A. Lacey, eds., Illinois Elections, 1818-1990 (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1992), 10, 135; Illinois State Register (Springfield), 28 September 1854, 2:6; 12 October 1854, 2:7; Biographical Directory of the American Congress 1774-1996 (Alexandria, VA: CQ Staff Directories, 1997), 568-69.
Autograph Letter Signed, 5 page(s), Abraham Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress (Washington, DC).