Burton C. Cook to Abraham Lincoln, 25 December 18541Ottawa Dec 25th 1854Dr[Dear] sir
Absence from home has prevented my replying to your letter, and now I will talk frankly not like a politician, but like a candid man.2
I would prefer the election of an Anti Nebraska Democrat to that of any other man.3 With the highest respect & regard for You, You will understand me when I say, that there are some of us who have been proscribed & put under ban, (because we did not believe this patent popular soverignty doctrine to be like old Dr Jacob Townshends sursaparilla valuable even if it killed the patient,)4 who would like to be heard by counselYours trulyB. C. CookHonl[Honorable] A Lincoln
2Abraham Lincoln’s letter to Cook to which this is a response has not been located, but it was likely similar to others that Lincoln wrote in November and December of 1854 to members of the Illinois General Assembly soliciting their support for his potential candidacy for U.S. Senate.
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 Thomas J. Henderson; Abraham Lincoln to Hugh Lamaster; Richard B. Servant to Abraham Lincoln; William H. Randolph to Abraham Lincoln; Robert Boal to Abraham Lincoln; John E. McClun to Abraham Lincoln; Thomas J. Henderson to Abraham Lincoln; Hugh Lamaster to Abraham Lincoln; Abraham Lincoln to Elihu B. Washburne; David Herbert Donald, Lincoln (New York: Touchstone, 1995), 167-73; Illinois Daily Journal (Springfield), 10 November 1854, 2:5; Autobiography of Abraham Lincoln Written for John L. Scripps.
3The Illinois General Assembly met in a joint session on February 8, 1855, to make their selection for the U.S. Senate. Cook voted for anti-Nebraska Democrat Lyman Trumbull in every round of balloting. Lincoln received forty-five of the ninety-nine votes cast in the first round of voting, but as no candidate received a majority of votes, nine more rounds of balloting ensued. 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 was victorious in 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.
4Beginning in the 1840s, sarsaparilla-based medicines became increasingly popular in the United States, fueled in part by two competing New York purveyors, both named Townsend. S. P. Townsend apparently sold his sarsaparilla first, followed by “Old Dr. Jacob Townsend” whom the former accused of being a puppet for investors who wanted to capitalize on the success of the Townsend name. The two brands advertised widely in the United States, often with competing ads side by side, making elaborate claims about the benefits of their own sarsaparilla and casting aspersions on the character of the rival Townsend and their product.
Gerald Carson, One for a Man, Two for a Horse (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1961), 47; The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (NY), 26 January 1849, 1:5-6; The Louisville Morning Courier (KY), 21 August 1849, 1:3; Illinois Daily Journal (Springfield), 11 August 1849, 1:2; 10 January 1850, 2:4-5.
Autograph Letter Signed, 2 page(s), Abraham Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress (Washington, DC).