Lyman Trumbull to Abraham Lincoln, 24 February 18551
My Dear Sir,
I am truly obliged for your notice of the “Able Lawyer’s” article–2 You treated it in the right spirit– Such an effusion only deserves to be treated cavalierly– However much there may be in the question, the mak^n^ who makes this argument (Harris I suppose) is evidently acting from spleen & not any honest motive– This you show– I had been in St. Louis for a couple of days previous to last night, & had not heard a word of this matter till I recd [received] your kind favor– Possibly it may be well enough to state briefly in some of the papers the points which in our judgment render the State constitution inoperative, but I question the propriety of entering into a news-paper argument about the matter–3
The question will most likely be made at Washington– The Nebraskaites are terribly disappointed & bitter, & will do anything to give vent to their malice– Mr. Palmer wrote me a day or two since that he had learned from Mr. Weir,4 who had been at Springfield, that the Nebraska members before leaving signed a protest against to be forwarded to the Senate against my taking my seat.5 This information he got from Judge Treat. Is it not
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strange that Treat should have anything to do with this question– I have heard him say in former times repeatedly, that there was nothing in it–6 Treat is a most excellent man in most respects, but on the subject of slavery it does seem to me he is almost a monomaniac– He is the most intolerant, ultra pro slavery of any man I ever knew–
Bob. Smith is out for Congress & of course will be supported by the Washington influence and all the Nebraskaites here– You know the peculiar elements in this District; but for the foreign vote which is not reliable, we could beat Smith 3000 votes.
I think Judge Underwood can beat him any how & I fear he is the only man who can–7 Underwood is dis-inclined to run, is a little afraid of Smith because he once defeated me,8 but if necessary Underwood must be made to run– If he ever expects any thing politically he has no right to hold back when all his friends demand the use of his name. I shall be happy to hear from you frequently, & particularly to know your views as to the best means of meeting and overwhelming the Slavery extensionists in Illinois
Yours very trulyLyman Trumbull

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ALTON ILLS[Illinois]
FEB [February] 24
Hon. A. Lincoln,Springfield,Illinois.
[ docketing ]
L Trumbull
Feb 24/55 [1855]9
1Lyman Trumbull wrote and signed this letter, including the address on the envelope.
2The letter from Abraham Lincoln to Trumbull to which this is a response has not been located. In it, Lincoln evidently alerted Trumbull to a pseudonymous article in the Illinois State Register which was signed by “W.,” who was described in the introduction to the article as “an able lawyer.” The article argued that Trumbull’s recent election by the Illinois General Assembly as Illinois’ next U.S. senator was unconstitutional under the 1848 Illinois Constitution. Article five, section ten of that constitution stated that judges of the Illinois Supreme and Circuit Courts were ineligible for any other state or national office during the term for which they had been elected, and for a year thereafter. Trumbull had been elected in 1852 to a nine-year term on the Illinois Supreme Court but resigned the position in 1853. His political opponents argued that under the letter of the law, he should not have been eligible for office until 1862. “W.” took issue with the apparent claim of Trumbull’s supporters that states could not prescribe the qualifications for membership in the U.S. Congress.
Lincoln’s interest in the matter was personal, as he had also been a candidate for the U.S. Senate seat that Trumbull won and had in fact sacrificed his own chance to secure Trumbull’s victory. 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. The Illinois General Assembly met on February 8, 1855, to vote on the state’s next U.S. senator. In the first round of voting ninety-nine votes were cast, of which Lincoln received forty-five and Trumbull, five. But as neither they nor any other candidate received a majority of votes, several 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 win the seat. In the tenth and final round of voting Trumbull received fifty-one votes and won the senatorship. See the 1854 Federal Election.
Daily Illinois State Register (Springfield), 21 February 1855, 2:1-3; Ill. Const. of 1848, art. V, § 10; Ralph J. Roske, His Own Counsel: The Life and Times of Lyman Trumbull (Reno, NV: University of Nevada Press, 1979), 15-16, 29; David Herbert Donald, Lincoln (New York: Touchstone, 1995), 167-73; Autobiography of Abraham Lincoln Written for John L. Scripps; William H. Randolph to Abraham Lincoln; Illinois Senate Journal. 1855. 19th G. A., 242-55; Abraham Lincoln to Elihu B. Washburne.
3Newspaper responses to the above article’s claim that Trumbull was ineligible for office highlighted that he was not the only candidate in conflict with provisions in the 1848 Illinois Constitution preventing officeholders from seeking other positions. An article in the Illinois Daily Journal of the same date pointed out that while under the letter of the law Trumbull appeared to be ineligible for the office of U.S. senator, Joel A. Matteson, his closest opponent in the final rounds of balloting , more seriously violated the spirit of the law by virtue of the fact that he was the sitting governor of Illinois at the time of the election. The provisions of the 1848 Illinois Constitution were intended to prevent undue influence by officeholders in obtaining further privileges, and the Illinois Daily Journal alleged that during the vote for senator, Matteson brought at least two General Assembly members who were known to oppose him to his office to beg for their votes. In Trumbull’s hometown, the Alton Weekly Courier expanded on the topic of Matteson’s eligibility, citing article four, section three of the 1848 Illinois Constitution, which prohibited governors from holding any other offices during their term. Ultimately, the Alton Weekly Courier argued that Trumbull was indeed eligible to serve as U.S. senator, because the U.S. Constitution was “paramount to all State Constitutions.”
Illinois Daily Journal (Springfield), 21 February 1855, 2:1; The Alton Weekly Courier (IL), 1 March 1855, 2:1; Ill. Const. of 1848, art. IV, § 3.
4Likely John M. Palmer’s fellow Macoupin County attorney, William Weer, Jr.
5Palmer’s letter to Trumbull has not been located, but based on Trumbull’s response of February 24, 1855, Palmer wrote on February 20, 1855. In his response to Palmer, Trumbull touched on many of the same topics covered in this letter to Lincoln, adding a comment on his perception that the “able lawyer” was hypocritical in not questioning Matteson’s eligibility for the U.S. Senate.
The question of Trumbull’s eligibility for the U.S. Senate was indeed settled in Washington, DC. The Senate of the Thirty-Fourth Congress convened on December 3, 1855. Senator John J. Crittenden of Kentucky presented Trumbull’s credentials, which consisted of a certification of the votes he had received in the Illinois General Assembly with an attestation by the Illinois secretary of state, as Governor Matteson had refused to issue an election certificate. The protest which Palmer had warned Trumbull of was then introduced by Senator Lewis Cass of Michigan. The protest was signed by thirteen Illinois state senators and twenty-nine Illinois state representatives and argued that the votes cast for Trumbull as senator in the Illinois General Assembly were null and void under the provisions of Article V, Section ten of the 1848 Illinois Constitution as described above. Trumbull was allowed to take the oath of office, but his seat in the Senate was not officially confirmed for several months. On December 20, Trumbull presented to the Senate a certified copy of the letter by which he had resigned his judgeship in 1853, which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary along with the protest. The committee returned a report on the matter to the Senate on February 27, 1856, at which point Crittenden proposed a resolution that Trumbull was entitled to his seat. Consideration of the resolution was postponed until early March, and on March 5 the resolution was accepted by a vote of thirty-five to eight and Trumbull was officially confirmed as a senator.
George Thomas Palmer, ed., “A Collection of Letters from Lyman Trumbull to John M. Palmer, 1854-1858,” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 16 (April-July 1923), 24-25; Ralph J. Roske, His Own Counsel: The Life and Times of Lyman Trumbull, 31-33; Cong. Globe, 34th Cong., 1st Sess., 1-2 (1855); U.S. Senate Journal. 1855-1856. 34th Cong., 1st sess., 4, 6, 22, 139, 154, 157, 161-62.
6Soon after this letter, Judge Samuel H. Treat was himself subject to questions regarding his own eligibility for office, when, as sitting chief justice of the Illinois Supreme Court he accepted appointment as judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois. Treat had apparently been weighing in on the issue, as, on the occasion of his appointment, the Alton Weekly Courier asked, “Which Constitution, the State or the National, will Judge Treat now recognize as the supreme law of the land, and what provisions will he consider void?”
The Alton Weekly Courier (IL), 15 March 1855, 1:2.
7Trumbull is here discussing potential candidates for a special election in Illinois’ Eighth Congressional District to fill the U.S. House of Representatives seat in the Thirty-Fourth Congress to which he himself had been elected in November, 1854, and which he intended to vacate if and when his seat in the U.S. Senate was confirmed. In writing to Palmer on this same date, Trumbull lamented that James Shields was not in contention for the seat, as Trumbull perceived him as easier to beat than Robert Smith. Not long after the date of this letter, a newspaper report stated that rumored contenders for the seat were pro-Nebraska candidates Thomas M. Hope, Smith, James L. D. Morrison, and Philip B. Fouke, and anti-Nebraska candidates William H. Underwood, Henry S. Baker, and Gustave P. Koerner.
Fouke was in fact one of the candidates that Trumbull had defeated for this seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in November of 1854 by winning 58.1 percent of the vote. While the matter of Trumbull’s Senate seat was being resolved Fouke began petitioning the U.S. House of Representatives in February 1856 claiming Trumbull’s as-yet-unvacated House seat. The House of Representatives ultimately rejected Fouke’s petition on April 10, 1856, stating that he had not been duly elected to the position and at that same time finally declared Trumbull’s House seat vacant. The Eighth Congressional District of Illinois thus voted on November 4, 1856, for both a representative to fill Trumbull’s vacancy in the Thirty-Fourth Congress and for a representative to the Thirty-Fifth Congress. In that election Morrison defeated John Thomas in the contest for Trumbull’s vacated seat with 55.8 percent of the vote, and served from November 1856 to March 1857. Smith ran for the full term in the Thirty-Fifth Congress, defeating Jacob D. Lansing by garnering 60.1 percent of the vote, and served from March 1857 to March 1859.
George Thomas Palmer, ed., “A Collection of Letters from Lyman Trumbull to John M. Palmer, 1854-1858,” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 16 (April-July 1923), 24-25; Illinois Daily Journal (Springfield), 3 March 1855, 3:1; Ralph J. Roske, His Own Counsel: The Life and Times of Lyman Trumbull, 32; Daily Illinois State Register, 4 November 1856, 2:1; U.S. House Journal. 1856. 34th Cong., 1st sess., 552, 805-7; Daily Illinois State Register (Springfield), 4 November 1856, 2:1; Biographical Directory of the American Congress 1774-1996 (Alexandria, VA: CQ Staff Directories, 1997), 1557, 1847; Howard W. Allen and Vincent A. Lacey, eds., Illinois Elections, 1818-1990 (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1992), 10, 11, 140, 141.
8Smith had defeated Trumbull for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in the election of 1846. Both men had desired to be the Democratic candidate for Illinois’ First Congressional District in that year, but after Trumbull and his supporters gained control of the district nominating convention, Smith and his allies left the convention. Trumbull was named the Democratic candidate and Smith was nominated as an independent Democratic candidate by his supporters. Smith emerged victorious in the election with 58.1 percent of the vote.
Ralph J. Roske, His Own Counsel: The Life and Times of Lyman Trumbull, 11-12; Howard W. Allen and Vincent A. Lacey, eds., Illinois Elections, 1818-1990, 7, 118-19.
9An unknown person wrote this docketing.

Autograph Letter Signed, 3 page(s), Abraham Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress (Washington, DC).