Elihu B. Washburne to Abraham Lincoln, 20 December 18541
My Dear Sir:
I wrote Eastman last night a strong letter about you.2
I hope it may do some good. If he goes to Springfield see him. I have been talking with ^Senator^ Chase this morning, and I think I see how matters stand among our free-soil friends– They hold the balance of power in the Legislature. It is thought that you will not be up to the times on the great questions of slavery, which I think are to over-ride all the other questions. If they could be satisfied that ^with^ your views on the question of restoring the Missouri Compromise, repeal of the Fugitive Slave law, the admission of Slave States, &c.[etc.] I believe a great deal would be done to secure their support. If you should see fit to give me
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your views on these subjects so I could show your letter to Chase, and if he is satisfied, I believe I could get him to write to some of his sort of folks at Springfield in your favor.3 I merely submit these things to your consideration, desiring to do every thing proper to secure the result I so earnestly wish.4
I am, &c.E B Washburne
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DEC[December] 20
E B Washburne
M C[Member of Congress]
Hon. A. Lincoln,Springfield,Illinois.
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E. B. Washburne.5
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Dec 20/54[1854]6
1Elihu B. Washburne wrote and signed this letter, including the address on the envelope.
2Washburne and Jesse O. Norton wrote Zebina Eastman, editor of the Free West, to induce him to cease his open hostility to Abraham Lincoln’s candidacy for the U.S. Senate. 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. 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.
Eastman opposed Lincoln as too moderate on the slavery question, preferring Owen Lovejoy, Ichabod Codding, William H. Bissell, or Richard Yates. Eastman went so far as to label Lincoln a Know-Nothing.
Eastman resisted the entreaties from Washburne and Norton, but William H. Herndon convinced him that Lincoln was sufficiently anti-slavery to garner his support.
The Free West (Chicago, IL), 30 November 1854, 2:4; 14 December 1854, 2:2-3, 4-5; David Herbert Donald, Lincoln (New York: Touchstone, 1995), 167-73; Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 1:394-95; Autobiography of Abraham Lincoln Written for John L. Scripps; William H. Randolph to Abraham Lincoln; Illinois Daily Journal (Springfield), 10 November 1854, 2:5; Jesse O. Norton to Abraham Lincoln; Jesse O. Norton to Abraham Lincoln.
3No letter from Lincoln to Washburne detailing Lincoln’s views has been found. However, in a speech in Peoria on October 16, 1854, Lincoln had divulged his opinions on slavery. Regarding the restoration of the Missouri Compromise, he said, “Repeal the Missouri compromise— repeal all compromises— repeal the declaration of independence— repeal all past history, you still can not repeal human nature. It still will be the abundance of man's heart, that slavery extension is wrong; and out of the abundance of his heart, his mouth will continue to speak.” In reference to individuals owning enslaved persons, Lincoln noted, “When they remind us of their constitutional rights, I acknowledge them, not grudgingly, but fully, and fairly; and I would give them any legislation for the reclaiming of their fugitives, which should not, in its stringency, be more likely to carry a free man into slavery, than our ordinary criminal laws are to hang an innocent one.” He also opined about the admission of slave states into the union, “I meant not to ask a repeal, or modification of the fugitive slave law. I meant not to ask for the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia. I meant not to resist the admission of Utah and New Mexico, even should they ask to come in as slave States. I meant nothing about additional territories, because, as I understood, we then had no territory whose character as to slavery was not already settled. As to Nebraska, I regarded its character as being fixed, by the Missouri compromise, for thirty years— as unalterably fixed as that of my own home in Illinois. As to new acquisitions I said ‘sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.’— When we make new acquaintances, we will, as heretofore, try to manage them some how. That is my answer.”
A month after Washburne wrote this letter to Lincoln, Norton wrote urging Lincoln to tweak his positions in order to more fully appeal to Free Soilers. He counseled, “But it seems to me that, you might, by some concessions, such as could be made by you without any sacrifice of principle, bring the whole free soil element to your support. I speak of those who have hitherto been distinctive 'Free Soilers'. Are you bound to stand by every thing in the Compromise measures of 1850? Could'nt you concede to them a modification of the Fugitive Slave act? With this & such positions as you can assume in relation to the prohibition of Slavery in the Territories & the admission of additional Slave states, I cannot see why these men cannot unite upon you to a man.”
4The Illinois General Assembly met in a joint session on February 8, 1855, to make their selection for the state’s U.S. Senator. 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 won the seat. See the 1854 Federal Election.
Lincoln and Washburne carried on an extensive correspondence during the senatorial campaign, exchanging numerous letters about Lincoln’s candidacy.
5Lincoln wrote this docketing.
6An unknown person wrote this docketing.

Autograph Letter Signed, 3 page(s), Abraham Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress (Washington, DC).