Richard Yates to Abraham Lincoln, 22 December 18541
Hon A LincolnMy dear Sir
I spent but a day in Chicago and that day it was cold and snowing— and very unpleasant to get about– I only saw one member of the Legislature and that on Saturday night and he was so much engaged in some of his business affairs that I did not get a chance to mention the matter of the Senate to him.3
There is the greatest anxiety here as to the election of a Senator from our State– The peculiar connection of Douglas with the State & the Nebraska question causes that election to be looked to with more interest than that of any other State– I saw Richardson to day– He says Shields will be elected by 6 majority but he knows nothing about it– Col [Colonel] Caruthers4
<Page 2>
told me to day that the Delegate from Kansas (Whitfield) says that Kansas beyond all doubt will be a slave State–5 If this be so, what will Douglas, Harris, State Regr et cet [et cetera], do by way of apology to all those ^to^ whom they asserted so positively and pertinaciously that Kansas would inevitably and certainly be free?6
I should like to hear from you during the first of the Session–7
Very truly
Your friend
Richd Yates
<Page 3>
WASHINGTON. D.C.[District of Columbia]
Richd Yates
M C [Member Congress]
Hon A. LincolnSpringfieldIlls –
[ docketing ]
Hon: R. Yates.8
[ docketing ]
Dec 22/54 [1854]9
1Richard Yates wrote and signed this letter, including the handwritten frank and address on the envelope.
2“2nd” written over “1st”.
3Yates is referring to the upcoming election of Illinois’ next U.S. Senator by the Illinois General Assembly, in which Abraham Lincoln was a candidate. The other main contenders in the race were James Shields, Lyman Trumbull, and Joel A. Matteson.
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 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. In November and December 1854, he wrote confidential letters to political allies, seeking support for his candidacy and information about his prospects. He won a seat in the Illinois House of Representatives, but in late-November 1854, he declined to serve in order to run for the U.S. Senate. When the General Assembly met in a joint session on February 8, 1855, to elect a U.S. senator, Lincoln and Shields received the most votes in the first round of balloting, with forty-five and forty-one votes respectively. As neither received a majority of votes, several more rounds of balloting ensued. Lincoln received a majority of the anti-Nebraska votes until the tenth and final ballot, when he withdrew and urged his supporters to vote for anti-Nebraska Democrat Trumbull in order to ensure that an anti-Nebraska politician filled the seat. With the votes of Lincoln’s supporters, Trumbull won the seat. See 1854 Federal Election.
David Herbert Donald, Lincoln (New York: Touchstone, 1995), 167-73; William H. Randolph to Abraham Lincoln; Autobiography of Abraham Lincoln Written for John L. Scripps; Abraham Lincoln to Hugh Lamaster; Abraham Lincoln to Joseph Gillespie; Abraham Lincoln to Horace W. Fay; Illinois Senate Journal. 1855. 19th G. A., 242-55; Illinois Daily Journal (Springfield), 10 November 1854, 2:5; 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.
4Colonel Caruthers has not been identified.
5The period between the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854 and the outbreak of the Civil War seven years later was marked by violence and political conflict in the Kansas Territory that was collectively referred to as Bleeding Kansas. During this period, constitutions were drafted by both pro- and anti-slavery factions in the territory. Ultimately, a constitutional convention in 1859 drafted the largely anti-slavery Wyandotte Constitution, and following ratification by Kansas residents, it was this constitution under which Kansas was governed upon achieving statehood in 1861.
David M. Potter and Don E. Fehrenbacher, The Impending Crisis, 1848-1861 (New York: Harper & Row, 1976), 204-5, 302-18; A. T. Andreas, History of the State of Kansas (Chicago: A. T. Andreas, 1883), 1:111-12, 122, 162-68, 173-76, 179.
6Stephen A. Douglas argued that by allowing the slave status of Kansas and Nebraska to be determined by popular sovereignty, the Kansas-Nebraska Act would ultimately result in the territories gaining statehood as free states.
Yates had recently been defeated by Democrat Thomas L. Harris in his bid for reelection to Congress in Illinois’ Sixth Congressional District, garnering 49.5 percent of the vote to Harris’ 50.5 percent. Yates, a Whig, had opposed the Kansas-Nebraska Act, while Harris spoke in favor of it. On the campaign trail, Harris touted “the glorious principle of popular sovereignty” promoted by the act, and like Douglas, argued that the measure would extend freedom in the territories.
The Democratic Illinois State Register similarly argued during the 1854 election season that popular sovereignty would ensure that Kansas and Nebraska entered as free states, due to factors such as the self-interest of territorial settlers and the unsuitability of conditions in the territories for large-scale slave labor.
David M. Potter and Don E. Fehrenbacher, The Impending Crisis, 1848-1861, 171-76; Howard W. Allen and Vincent A. Lacey, eds., Illinois Elections, 1818-1990 (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1992), 10; Illinois Daily Journal (Springfield), 26 September 1854, 2:2; 6 November 1854, 2:1; Illinois State Register (Springfield), 4 November 1854, 2:1-2.
7No direct response by Lincoln to this letter has been located, although he and Yates corresponded further on the subject of Illinois’ senatorial election.
8Lincoln wrote this docketing.
9An unknown person wrote this docketing.

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