Richard Yates to Abraham Lincoln, 8 January 18551
Dear Lincoln
A letter from Springfield informs me that a proposition had been made to the Anti N. Democrats to unite on Bissel2 This reminds me of what a warm friend of yours & mine told me the other day– He said a democratic clerk told him that Bissell would be elected and that it would cause ^enure^ to Shields benefit— that Bissel would give way to Shields at the right time.
Our friend told me this in the strictest confidence— would not suffer his name to be used and I tell it to you in the same confidence, at least I am not to be referred to as authority in the case– Bissel & Shields are warm bosom friends– It seems to be ^me^ that more danger is to be apprehended from a
<Page 2>
coalition in favor of Bissel than from any other quarter.3
In answer to such persons as have written to me on the subject of my being a candidate I have replied that in the event you cannot ^could not^ succeed I should like to have my name presented—4 and in such an event I hope I should have your aid– Washburne has written strong letters in your behalf and he says he is for me next to you and will so write to his friends–
Please write me what the indications are? and believe me truly 5
Yours in hasteRichard Yates
1Richard Yates wrote and signed this letter.
2Yates is referring to a movement to draft William H. Bissell as a candidate to supplant James Shields as U.S. Senator.
Passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act and its effective repeal of the Missouri Compromise reawakened Abraham 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. In November and December 1854, Lincoln wrote confidential letters to political allies seeking support for his candidacy and information about his prospects. 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.
When the General Assembly met in a joint session on February 8, 1855, ten rounds of voting were needed to finally determine a victor. Bissell did not appear as a nominee. 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 Lyman 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 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; Abraham Lincoln to Elihu B. Washburne; Illinois Senate Journal. 1855. 19th G. A., 242-55.
3On December 13, 1854, Josiah M. Lucas wrote Lincoln there was also a rumor circulating that members of the Know Nothing Party planned to focus their support on Bissell, see him elected, then, afterward, Bissell would purportedly resign so that Shields could retain the seat.
While Bissell did not become a nominee, Shields did. Shields came in first or second in the first six rounds of voting but was unable to acquire the fifty votes needed to be elected. In round seven of voting, Shields’ supporters plummeted to one vote, and he failed to receive any additional support as voting continued through ten rounds.
Illinois Senate Journal. 1855. 19th G. A., 242-55.
4Yates did not become a nominee for the Senate seat.
Illinois Senate Journal. 1855. 19th G. A., 242-55.
5In his reply to Yates, Lincoln stated that he had been aware of such a “Bissell movement” for some time, but did not believe any “sincere” anti-Nebraskans would vote for Bissell.

Autograph Letter Signed, 2 page(s), Abraham Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress (Washington, DC).