Silas Ramsey to Abraham Lincoln, 23 December 18541Lacon Dec 23 1854Hon A LincolnDear Sir
Yours has been duly received and contents noted–2 And should have been answered some days since but hope better late than never– I was not disappointed in your wants. And shall be as frank in answering as you were in writing to me3 My acquaintance with Strawn and Day is not such that would justify me in writing to them having never seen Day. I was yesterday informed at Hennepin that Strawn would vote for Shields My informant was Geo Dent Clerk CC— he also said that he felt satisfied that Day would not vote for Shields4 I shall be down to Springfield about the 2nd week of the session5 when if I am satisfied that if a Whig or a Nebraska Democrat is to be Elected to the US Senate I am for you in preference to any other and am not sure but that you are my first choice at all events I cannotResply[Respectfully] YoursSilas Ramsey
<Page 2>at this time see what the result of Nebraska is to be but at present think that Democracy and Whiggery are as at present organised Litterally used up beyond the power of Resurection and if so our views in regard to political matters compound and we should most likely be found acting together I shall see you when I come down and will talk more of the matter (I have no doubt but that you know it already) but you can rely upon Dr Boal— Dr Arnold Henderson & Grove from this District6
<Page 4>LACON [ILLS.[Illinois]]
PAIDHon. A. LincolnSpringfieldIlls
[ docketing ]
3Passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act and its effective repeal of the Missouri Compromise reawakened his 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, his name began to circulate as a possible nominee to supplant Democratic incumbent James Shields as U.S. Senator.
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.
Although Lincoln’s letter to Ramsey has not been located, other letters Lincoln wrote at the time indicate that he likely requested support for his candidacy as well as information about his prospects for election to the U.S. Senate.
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; David Herbert Donald, Lincoln (New York: Touchstone, 1995), 167-73; Autobiography of Abraham Lincoln Written for John L. Scripps; Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 1:392; Illinois Daily Journal (Springfield), 10 November 1854, 2:5; Ill. Const. of 1848, art. III, § 7.
4In 1854, the voters of LaSalle, Livingston, and Grundy counties elected Frederick S. Day and David Strawn to the Illinois House of Representatives, placing them in a position to vote upon who might replace Shields as U.S. Senator. In a list of members of the Illinois General Assembly that Lincoln created around January 1855, he listed both Strawn and Day as anti-Nebraska Democrats.
On November 19, 1854, T. Lyle Dickey wrote Lincoln that Day seemed likely to vote for Martin P. Sweet for U.S. Senator rather than Lincoln. In early 1855, prior to the senatorial election, Lincoln wrote Elihu B. Washburne that he also believed Day would vote for Sweet.
Illinois Daily Journal (Springfield), 2 January 1855, 2:3.
5Illinois’ Nineteenth General Assembly convened on Monday, January 1, 1855. The second week of the session began on Tuesday, January 9.
Illinois Senate Journal. 1855. 19th G. A., 33; Illinois House Journal. 1840. 12th G. A., 45.
6In the election of 1854, voters elected Robert Boal, Thomas J. Henderson, and Henry Grove to the Illinois House of Representatives and John D. Arnold to the Illinois Senate, making their preferences for a senatorial candidate also important for Lincoln to know. They were all from Illinois’ Fourth Congressional District, which appears to be the district Ramsey references. In the Illinois General Assembly, however, Arnold represented Illinois’ Eighth Senate District, Grove and Henderson represented Illinois’ Forty-First House District, and Boal represented the state’s Forty-Second House District.
No correspondence between Arnold and Lincoln has been located, although Lincoln asked Elihu N. Powell if he should write to Arnold directly after Powell assured Lincoln that Boal, Henderson, Grove, and Arnold were all “good Whigs and I think all are for you.” Boal pledged his support to Lincoln in a letter he wrote Lincoln on November 15. A few days later, Grove also wrote Lincoln, stating that although he preferred Lincoln to other candidates he wanted to know more about Lincoln’s views on slavery. In a December 11 letter, Henderson wrote that he considered Lincoln’s chances for election as senator best, but that he also considered Archibald Williams a worthy candidate.
Ultimately, Lincoln did not win election to the U.S. Senate; the Illinois General Assembly selected anti-Nebraska Democrat Lyman Trumbull instead. Both Day and Strawn cast their initial votes for Lincoln, but then each switched to other candidates—Day voted for Sweet twice before switching to Trumbull, and Strawn voted for Trumbull and then William B. Ogden before switching back to Trumbull. Arnold voted for Lincoln for eight ballots, before switching to Trumbull. Boal, Grove, and Henderson all cast their votes for Lincoln on nine ballots. At this point in the proceedings—with his share of votes declining and concerned that Illinois Governor Joel A. Matteson had convinced Strawn, Day, and others to switch their final votes to him—Lincoln dropped out of contention and urged his supporters to vote for Trumbull in order to ensure that an anti-Nebraska politician filled the seat. Boal, Grove, and Henderson heeded Lincoln’s directive and switched their votes to Trumbull on the final ballot. See the 1854 Federal Election.
Illinois Daily Journal (Springfield), 2 January 1855, 2:3; Howard W. Allen and Vincent A. Lacey, eds., Illinois Elections, 1818-1990 (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1992), 134; Abraham Lincoln to Jesse O. Norton; Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life, 1:401-2; Illinois Senate Journal. 1855. 19th G. A., 242-55; David Herbert Donald, Lincoln, 185; 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,
Autograph Letter Signed, 4 page(s), Abraham Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress (Washington, DC).