Elihu B. Washburne to Abraham Lincoln, 17 January [1855]1
My Dear Sir:
We have news of the postponement of the election for Senator to the 31st inst. That gives the locos here great hopes of electing Shields or not having any election. They say they have 48 votes for Shields certain.3 The postponement will give me time to write some of my friends there.– Wait Talcott is in the biggest kind of a lawsuit for an alledged infringement of a patent, and I advised his agent here to employ you by all means, and he has written out to Wait to engage you. I shall write him to do so if he have not already. I think that will be a good pull on him.4 I have a letter from Ray to-night. Entre nous5 He wants a position in our House next Congress and I am going to write him
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if you are elected, we will all take hold and help. I think he can do something with some of the Anti-Nebraska Democrats. He also wants the Legislature to do something for him in connection with the census. All these matters can be worked in.6 As soon as Giddings returns from N.Y. I shall try and get him to write again to Lovejoy.7 I will write John H. Adams, among others.8 Let me hear from you, and please advise me by telegraph of the result of caucus & election.9
Yrs. [Yours] TrulyE B Washburne
1Elihu B. Washburne wrote and signed this letter.
2Washburne omitted the year of composition from the dateline, but discusses Abraham Lincoln’s support and opposition in the election to fill IllinoisU.S. Senate seat, which was ultimately held on February 8, 1855.
Illinois Senate Journal. 1855. 19th G. A., 242-55.
3Lincoln, James Shields, Lyman Trumbull, and Joel A. Matteson were the main contenders in the election for Illinois’ next U.S. Senator.
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.
Lincoln had received several letters in December 1854 that also mentioned the possibility that Democrats in the Illinois General Assembly would refuse to hold an election for U.S. Senator if they could not elect a pro-Nebraska politician. In fact, it was the anti-Nebraska forces that attempted to delay the election when Shields pulled even with Lincoln after the third ballot. Stephen T. Logan motioned for the adjournment of the joint session, but members refused to adjourn by a vote of fifty-six to forty-two. Of the forty-one legislators who voted for Lincoln on the third ballot, Whig representative George F. Foster cast the single vote against adjourning the session.
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; George F. Powers to Abraham Lincoln; David Davis to Abraham Lincoln; Elihu B. Washburne to Abraham Lincoln.
4Following Washburne’s recommendation, Washington, DC attorney and patent agent Peter H. Watson visited Lincoln in Springfield in June 1855 in regards to the defense of the case of McCormick v. Talcott et al. Cyrus H. McCormick had instituted a suit against the Rockford firm of Manny & Company in the U.S. Circuit Court in November 1854 for patent infringement. Wait Talcott was a member of the firm. McCormick claimed that the mechanical reaper of John H. Manny’s design and manufacture copied several elements of McCormick’s own reaper. Manny & Co. was represented in the case by Watson, who had helped John H. Manny obtain his patents, as well as attorneys George Harding and Edwin M. Stanton. Upon meeting with Lincoln, Watson hired him for the defense with a $400 retainer, as none of Manny’s legal representatives lived in Illinois and they apparently deemed it prudent to include an attorney from the state as the trial was to be held in Chicago. The trial was instead moved to Cincinnati, where it commenced on September 20, 1855, and while the other members of the defense team allowed Lincoln to attend, they blocked his participation in the case. McCormick’s attorneys in the case included Isaac N. Arnold and Edward N. Dickerson. The verdict in the case was announced on January 16, 1856 in favor of Manny & Co., after which McCormick appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, which upheld the lower court’s ruling.
McCormick v. Talcott et al., Martha L. Benner and Cullom Davis et al., eds., The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln: Complete Documentary Edition, 2d edition (Springfield: Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, 2009), http://www.lawpracticeofabrahamlincoln.org/Details.aspx?case=137741; McCormick v. Talcott et al., Martha L. Benner and Cullom Davis et al., eds., The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln: Complete Documentary Edition, http://www.lawpracticeofabrahamlincoln.org/Details.aspx?case=137742; Abraham Lincoln to Peter H. Watson; Abraham Lincoln to Manny & Company; Harry E. Pratt, The Personal Finances of Abraham Lincoln (Springfield, IL: Abraham Lincoln Association, 1943), 54-56; William T. Hutchinson, Cyrus Hall McCormick: Seed-Time, 1809-1856 (New York: Century, 1930), 433-49; Charles A. Church, History of Rockford and Winnebago County Illinois (Rockford, IL: W. P. Lamb, 1900), 322; The Lincoln Log: A Daily Chronology of the Life of Abraham Lincoln, 20 September 1855, http://www.thelincolnlog.org/Results.aspx?type=CalendarDay&day=1855-09-20.
5“Entre nous” is a French phrase meaning “between us”.
Lesley Brown, The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993), 1:831.
6In his letter to Washburne, Charles H. Ray wrote that he had resolved that Lincoln was the best candidate for Illinois’ next U.S. Senator, and that he would work to sway his friends among the anti-Nebraska Democrats. Ray also stated that he was a candidate for a clerkship in the U.S. House of Representatives for the next session of Congress and requested Washburne’s support in obtaining the position. He further requested Washburne to ask Lincoln to intercede on his behalf with members of the Illinois General Assembly to assist him in securing a proposed position as superintendent of the 1855 Illinois state census. No evidence has been found of Ray receiving a clerkship in the U.S. House of Representatives at this time. On February 12, 1855 the Illinois House of Representatives passed a bill to provide for taking the 1855 census, which included a provision to employ Ray as census superintendent at a salary of $1,200. Before the bill was signed into law by the governor, it was amended by the Illinois Senate, and the act as passed contained no mention of Ray or any other superintendent for the census. In the summer of 1855 Ray took over editorship of the Chicago Tribune.
Charles H. Ray to Elihu B. Washburne, 12 January 1855, E. B. Washburne Papers: Bound Volumes, Letters Received; 1852, Aug. 18-1857, Aug. 5, Manuscript/Mixed Material, https://www.loc.gov/resource/mss44651.002/?sp=141&st=image, accessed 3 November 2022; The Alton Weekly Courier (IL), 1 March 1855, 2:8; Illinois House Journal. 1855. 19th G. A., 470-72, 700, 718-19; Illinois Senate Journal. 1855. 19th G. A., 309, 377, 411-12; “An Act to Provide for Taking the Census,” 15 February 1855, Laws of Illinois (1855), 151; Emmet F. Pearson, Charles Henry Ray: Illinois Medical Truant, Journalist, and Lincoln King-Maker (Springfield, IL: Dept. of Medical Humanities, Southern Illinois University, School of Medicine, 1983), 9-10.
7Owen Lovejoy was elected to the Nineteenth Illinois House of Representatives representing Bureau County. Washburne and others believed that Lincoln needed the support of Lovejoy and his fellow Free Soilers in the General Assembly to win the senatorial election, but they were concerned because Lovejoy held more radical views on the abolition of slavery than Lincoln. Jesse O. Norton and Washburne urged Lincoln to change his position on the Compromise of 1850 and the Fugitive Slave Law to improve his prospects among the Free Soilers. 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. When he learned that Lovejoy had not received Giddings’ letter, Washburne assured Lincoln that Giddings had telegraphed Lovejoy about the letter’s disposition. Lovejoy apparently never received Giddings’ first letter, prompting Gidding to write Lovejoy a second time.
In a list of members of the Illinois General Assembly that Lincoln created around January 1855, Lincoln listed Lovejoy as an abolitionist--the only legislator he so designated. Lovejoy voted for Lincoln on the first three ballots, then switched to William B. Ogden for four ballots, before settling on Trumbull on the eighth ballot.
John Clayton, comp., The Illinois Fact Book and Historical Almanac, 1673-1968 (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1970), 221; Elihu B. Washburne to Abraham Lincoln; Jesse O. Norton to Abraham Lincoln; The Free West (Chicago, IL), 14 December 1854, 2:3, 4-5; Elihu B. Washburne to Abraham Lincoln; Illinois Senate Journal. 1855. 19th G. A., 242-55.
8John H. Addams cast his vote for Lincoln in the first seven rounds of balloting. In round eight, he voted for Ogden before switching to Trumbull for the final two rounds.
Illinois Senate Journal. 1855. 19th G. A., 242-55.

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