Daniel H. Whitney to Abraham Lincoln, 19 December 18541Hon. A. Lincoln,Dear Sir,
Yours of 5 Dec[December], reached me the 16. inst–2
I had a conversation with our Rep. before receving yours, & also since, in reference to the matter of which you wrote me–3 Mr. Laurence is a superior man— a reliable Whig and you are his first choice if he finds you safe, as I assure him he will, on Anti-Nebraska, Maine Law,4 Good Whig &c[etc.] &c.
I am anxious to see you elected and in any quarter that I can aid you I will.
I have a favor to ask of you in turn:
Boone County has never had any show; I wish, if we have the Speaker, that Laurence should be placed upo made chairmanYours RespectfullyD. H. WhitneyDec. 19, 1854.
<Page 2>of some important committee, he will prefer that of Education & for this he is well fitted, & I wish ^you^ to aid in effecting this. Get Laurence interested for you & he will be a host.5
PAIDHon. A. LincolnSpringfieldIllinois.
D. H. Whitney6
1Daniel H. Whitney wrote and signed this letter. He also wrote the name and address on the envelope shown in the third image.
3Luther W. Lawrence represented Boone County in the Illinois House of Representatives.
The Past and Present of Boone County, Illinois (Chicago: H. F. Kett, 1877), 380; Illinois Daily Journal (Springfield), 2 January 1855, 2:3.
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, he wrote confidential letters to political allies, seeking support for his candidacy and information about his prospects. His December 5 letter to Whitney was likely on this topic.
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 three, section seven of the 1848 Illinois Constitution, state legislators were ineligible for election to the U.S. Senate.
Illinois Daily Journal, 10 November 1854, 2:5; 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; Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 1:392; Ill. Const. of 1848, art. III, § 7.
4“Maine Law” became a popular term for pro-temperance legislation after, in 1846, Maine became the first U.S. state to prohibit the sale of intoxicating liquors.
Henry S. Clubb, The Maine Liquor Law (New York: Fowler and Wells, 1856), 72-87.
5No correspondence from Lincoln discussing Lawrence’s appointment for one of the Illinois House of Representative’s committees has been located.
The Nineteenth Illinois General Assembly commenced on January 1, 1855. On January 2, representatives elected Thomas J. Turner speaker. On January 3, Turner appointed Lawrence to the Illinois House’s Committee on Education as well as its Committee on Elections. On January 9, Turner also appointed Lawrence to the Illinois House’s Select Committee on Census.
Despite Whitney’s assurances in this letter, as Lincoln later noted in a letter to Elihu B. Washburne, Lawrence never spoke out in support of him for U.S. Senator. Ultimately, Lincoln did not win election to the U.S. Senate. When it met in joint session on February 8, 1855, the Illinois General Assembly selected anti-Nebraska Democrat Lyman Trumbull instead. Lawrence voted for Lincoln in the first three rounds of balloting, then voted for Martin P. Sweet once and William B. Ogden four times before supporting Trumbull in the final two rounds. 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.
List of Members of the Illinois Legislature in 1855; Robert Boal to Abraham Lincoln; Illinois House Journal. 1855. 19th G. A., 3, 5, 11, 45; Illinois Daily Journal (Springfield), 2 January 1855, 2:4; Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life, 1:401-2; Illinois Senate Journal. 1855. 19th G. A., 242-55; David Herbert Donald, Lincoln, 185.
Autograph Letter Signed, 3 page(s), Abraham Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress (Washington, DC).