Joseph Gillespie to Abraham Lincoln, 20 December 18541Edwardsville 20th Dec. 1854Dear Sir
I recd[received] your note some time since and have to offer an apology for not replying sooner2 I waited before writing in hopes that I should have an opportunaty of learning from our Representatives their views & feelings in regard to the question of Senator I have seen but one of them since Mr Baker and as he is a Democrat I did feel at liberty to interogate him in regard to a whig I suppose Baker is for an anti Nebraska Democrat and will do all he can to elect one of that stripe I am satisfied however that he will not go for a Nebraska manDr Allen I should judge will be apt to coincide with Baker or at least they will harmonize in their action on that subject3 About the same time that I received your letter I got one from Mr Edwards stating that he would be a candidate and I felt bound to make up my mind to support him so far as I could do so honorably and with safety to the great principles upon which I think the election turned throughout the State My relations to; my respect for; and confidence in Mr Edwards are such that I could not hesitate one moment as to my course I felt that it would be my duty to him as my patron my fast & devoted friend; as one whose political principles co-incided exactly with my ownJ GillespieHon A Lincoln
<Page 2>on almost every question; as one in whose talents and integrity I could place the most implicit reliance; as one who in early days had so manfully borne aloft the banner of the party to which I have been proud to belong and one whose chance is now or never, to surrender in his favour my own prospects (if I had any) and those of other friends In so making up my mind I was determined not to be ^an^ impracticable but to look to the success of organizations which I deem essential to the welfare of the Country I take ^it^ there will be a zealous effort made to secure the election of an anti Nebraska Democrat It will be claimed as a right It will be insisted upon as necessary to prevent the disorganization of the anti Nebraska party I think the Whigs have the right to the office I think the ^our^ A-N. Democratic friends should be willing to go into a meeting of A-N[Anti-Nebraska] men and be guided by the will of the majority They however may not view the matter in the same light & rather than lose the fruits of our labour during the last campaign I would be willing to help to elect an A N Democrat; but the case would have to be an extreme one before I should thus act My line of conduct then will be that I shall honestly endeavour to secure the election of Mr E without at the
<Page 3>same time disparaging or doing aught to injure the claims of other friends (except in so far as they may be affected by a fair comparison of claims) So far as I am personally concerned I am out of the way (as to Mr Edwards) If it should turn out that he could not be elected and I could I would accept I am not not a candidate however and do not expect to be but I will not say that I will not be Mr Edwards out of the way I would say to you that your claims are equal to those of any man in the State4 So I f^h^ave felt and so our People feel I regard the present as a crisis in our political affairs in which forbearance and perhaps a self sacrificing spirit should be prominently displayed by us all By the adoption of judicious councils we may and will be likely to permanently triumph; by the reverse course we must signally fail I shall have more to say when we meet In the meantime receive assurances of my continued regard
2Abraham Lincoln’s letter to Gillespie of December 1, 1854 requested that as a member of the Illinois General Assembly, which would select Illinois’ next U.S. Senator, Gillespie would consider supporting Lincoln’s candidacy for the seat provided he did not intend to run for the office himself. Lincoln also inquired as to whether anti-Nebraska Democrat Lyman Trumbull intended to run, and speculated that if so, the General Assembly members from Madison and St. Clair counties would be likely to support him. Lincoln wrote numerous similar letters to other members of the Illinois General Assembly in November and December of 1854 soliciting support.
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; Abraham Lincoln to Charles Hoyt; Abraham Lincoln to J. Young Scammon; Richard B. Servant to Abraham Lincoln; Abraham Lincoln to Jacob Harding; William H. Randolph to Abraham Lincoln; Robert Boal to Abraham Lincoln; John E. McClun to Abraham Lincoln; Hugh Lamaster 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.
3The General Assembly met in a joint session on February 8, 1855, to make their selection for the U.S. Senate. Gillespie was correct that Madison County Representative Henry S. Baker favored an anti-Nebraska Democrat, and that fellow Madison County Representative George T. Allen would vote similarly to Baker. Both men supported the ultimate victor, Lyman Trumbull, through all ten rounds of balloting. 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. Trumbull won the election on 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.
4Gillespie nominated his friend and mentor, Cyrus Edwards, for U.S. Senator when voting commenced in the General Assembly. The sole vote that Edwards received in the first ballot was Gillespie’s, and he received no further votes in subsequent rounds of balloting. Gillespie himself was not nominated, and he supported Lincoln from the second through the eighth rounds of voting, then switched his vote to the ultimate winner, Trumbull, for the final two votes.
John M. Palmer, ed., The Bench and Bar of Illinois: Historical and Reminiscent (Chicago: Lewis, 1899), 2:684-85; Illinois Senate Journal. 1855. 19th G. A., 242-55.
Autograph Letter Signed, 4 page(s), Abraham Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress (Washington, DC).