Elihu B. Washburne to Abraham Lincoln, 12 January 18551^Washington2^
Friday night, Jany. 12. 1855.My Dear Sir:
I have yours of the 6th this evening, it being the second letter only I have received from Springfield since the ball opened. I have not written since the Legislature came together as I supposed an election of Senator would be made the first week.3 We have had all kinds of rumors and reports here from Springfield, but your letter is the only reliable information I have seen. I received your dispatches for which I felt very much obliged to you as they gave us the first news.4 It took the locofocos aback very much, as they had been bragging very loud that the special election in Sangamo had given them the House.5 I immediately told G. that L. had not received his letter, and he immediately telegraphed L. to know if it had been received, but he has heard nothing in reply. He wrote several days before the Legislature met, and I think it must have been received.6
Things look mixed, but I have great faith and more hope that they will come out right in the end. I wish I could be at S. two hours. John H. Addams ought certainly to be your friend– I understood him to be for you the last time I saw him. You are certainly the first choice of nearly every man who voted for him in Joe Daviess County, and I am certain he would like to carry out their wishes in giving his vote for Senator. He is a conscientious, excellent man and will do what he believes to be right. But it is now no use to write, as the "hash" will be settled before this reaches you.7
You would feel flattered at the great interest that is felt for you here by all who know you, either by reputation, or personally. As to Sweet, what a devil of an idea that he should offer for U.S.S. But that is entre vous.8 Yates wants to come in terribly, and he has requested me to write to one or two friends and say after you, he wants a chance.9
If by possibility, the election should not have taken place before you get this, show to Addams what I say about him.Yours. Truly,E B Washburne11
3“Since the ball opened” was mostly like a reference to the opening of the Illinois General Assembly. The Nineteenth Illinois General Assembly convened on January 1, 1855.
Louis L. Emmerson, ed., Blue Book of the State of Illinois, 1923-1924 (Springfield: Illinois State Journal, 1923), 680.
4Abraham Lincoln informed Washburne that the state’s voters had sent an anti-Nebraska majority to the Illinois General Assembly, which improved Lincoln’s chances to become the next U.S. senator from Illinois.
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. 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, ten rounds of voting were needed to finally determine a victor. 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; Stephen Hansen and Paul Nygard, “Stephen A. Douglas, the Know-Nothings, and the Democratic Party in Illinois, 1854-1858,” Illinois Historical Journal 87 (Summer 1994), 114; Illinois Senate Journal. 1855. 19th G. A., 242-55.
5A special election was held on December 23, 1854 to fill the vacancy in the Illinois House after Lincoln resigned. Democrat Jonathan McDaniel triumphed over Whig Norman M. Broadwell.
Illinois State Register (Springfield), 6 January 1855, 4:1; Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 1:392.
6Owen Lovejoy was elected to the Nineteenth Illinois House of Representatives representing Bureau County. In a letter to Lincoln dated December 26, 1854, Washburne assured Lincoln that Joshua R. Giddings was writing Lovejoy with his views on Lincoln’s candidacy to be shared with Free Soilers in the General Assembly.
Louis L. Emmerson, ed., Blue Book of the State of Illinois, 1923-1924, 681.
7John H. Addams submitted a vote for Lincoln in the first seven rounds of voting. In round eight, he voted for William B. Ogden before switching to Trumbull for the final two rounds.
Illinois Senate Journal. 1855. 19th G. A., 242-54.
8In this context, the best translation for “entre vous” might be “between you.” Martin P. Sweet received votes in the first three rounds of voting for the Senate seat. In round two, he received votes from Frederick S. Day and William Patten. In round three, Sweet received votes from Day, Patten, and Benjamin Hackney. In round four, Sweet’s sole vote came from Luther W. Lawrence.
Cambridge French-English Dictionary, https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/french-english/entre-vous, accessed 1 August 2022; Illinois Senate Journal. 1855. 19th G. A., 242-55.
9In the congressional elections in November 1854, Richard Yates had sought reelection to the U.S. House of Representatives as representative of the Sixth Congressional District, but lost to Democrat Thomas L. Harris by 200 votes. On January 8, 1855, Richard Yates wrote to Lincoln, “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 could not succeed I should like to have my name presented—and in such an event I hope I should have your aid.” Yates was not nominated for the U.S. Senate seat, and he did not receive any votes in ten rounds of voting.
Howard W. Allen and Vincent A. Lacey, eds., Illinois Elections, 1818-1990 (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1992), 10; Illinois Senate Journal. 1855. 19th G. A., 242-55.
10Washburne may have been referring to the election of Free Soiler James Harlan to the U.S. Senate for Iowa on January 6, 1855.
Biographical Directory of the American Congress 1774-1996 (Alexandria, VA: CQ Staff Directories, 1997), 1162-63; Iowa House Journal. 1855. 5th G. A., 1st sess., 188.
11Lincoln and Washburne carried on an extensive correspondence during the senatorial campaign and exchanged numerous letters related to Lincoln’s candidacy for the U.S. Senate.
Elihu B. Washburne to Abraham Lincoln; Elihu B. Washburne to Abraham Lincoln; Elihu B. Washburne to Abraham Lincoln; Abraham Lincoln to Elihu B. Washburne; Elihu B. Washburne to Abraham Lincoln; Abraham Lincoln to Elihu B. Washburne; Abraham Lincoln to Elihu B. Washburne; Elihu B. Washburne to Abraham Lincoln; Elihu B. Washburne to Abraham Lincoln; Elihu B. Washburne to Abraham Lincoln; Elihu B. Washburne to Abraham Lincoln; Abraham Lincoln to Elihu B. Washburne Elihu B. Washburne to Abraham Lincoln; Elihu B. Washburne to Abraham Lincoln; Abraham Lincoln to Elihu B. Washburne.
Autograph Letter Signed, 3 page(s), Abraham Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress (Washington, DC).