Thomas A. Marshall to Abraham Lincoln, 1 May 18581Charleston Ill. May. 1 1858Hon. A. LincolnDear Sir
Your favor of 23rd ult, came duly to hand I would have written at once in reply, but that really there was no occasion for a reply & more over you were not at home & I did not know when you would be–
I think we can carry our Senatorial & Representative District–2 The Filmore men will generally vote with us, as many will vote for a Republican3 I think as would for a Filmore man, that is all will go with us any how, except those whoYours &c[etc]T. A. Marshall
<Page 3>have made up their minds to turn Democrats, & recent events have staggered even then a good many of them4 I am confident we can & will elect a Senator & a Representative, who will vote for Lincoln for the U.S. Senate5 For the rest, we have quite a warm feeling for Douglass, & if a resolution by the Legislature approving his course on Lecompton will do him any good I am for sustaining him in that way6
2Thomas A. Marshall’s reference of “we” includes George W. Rives of Edgar County, Oliver L. Davis of Vermilion County, and himself of Coles County. Edgar, Coles, and Vermilion counties were all part of the Eighteenth Illinois Senatorial District. However, those counties were not in the same state House district. Coles County was in the Twenty-fifth House District, Edgar County in the Twenty-fourth, and Vermilion County in the Thirty-Seventh District. In his letter of April 23, 1858, Abraham Lincoln asked Marshall, Rives, and Davis to collaborate to find a candidate to run for the Illinois Senate in the Eighteenth District. Lincoln was looking for supporters to assist him in his candidacy for the U.S. Senate. At the time, state legislatures chose members of the U.S. Senate. In the end, Marshall became the candidate and won the seat.
Abraham Lincoln to Thomas A. Marshall; Allen C. Guelzo, “Houses Divided: Lincoln, Douglas, and the Political Landscape of 1858,” The Journal of American History 94 (September 2007), 392-93; The History of Coles County, Illinois (Chicago: Wm. Le Baron, Jr., 1879), 526; Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield), 13 November 1858, 2:3.
3Marshall is referring back to the 1856 Federal Election, when Republicans nominated John C. Fremont as their first presidential candidate, Democrats nominated James Buchanan, and the American Party, in its final participation in a presidential election, nominated Millard Fillmore. Lincoln and the Republicans, concerned about having two opposition parties, attempted to work together with the American Party to defeat Buchanan. Had their plan worked, and the Republicans and Americans had united, the Republican candidate, Fremont, would have been victorious in Illinois instead of Buchanan.
Thomas F. Schwartz, “Lincoln, Form Letters, and Fillmore Men,” Illinois Historical Journal 78 (Spring 1985), 66; Howard W. Allen and Vincent A. Lacey, eds., Illinois Elections, 1818-1990 (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1992), 10.
4The Democratic Party was experiencing an ever-growing rift disagreement centered over the Lecompton Constitution and the expansion of slavery into Kansas.
Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 1:454-56.
5Lincoln challenged incumbent Stephen A. Douglas for a seat in the U.S. Senate in January 1859. Marshall indeed voted for Lincoln. In the Illinois House of Representatives, Representatives William W. Craddock of the Twenty-fifth District, Robert Moseley of the Twenty-fourth District, and Oscar F. Harmon of the Thirty-seventh District all voted for Lincoln as well.
While Lincoln received forty-six votes in General Assembly, Douglas received fifty-one votes and retained the seat.
Illinois Senate Journal. 1859. 21st G. A., 1st sess., 30; Illinois House Journal. 1859. 21st G. A., 1st sess., 5, 32.
6Douglas argued against the Lecompton Constitution, stating that it did not reflect the will of the actual inhabitants of Kansas, citing the December 21, 1857 vote that allowed voters to vote for the constitution but not against it. The U.S. Senate approved the Lecompton Constitution, but Republicans, Democratic allies of Douglas, and others, with Douglas as floor leader of the opposition, defeated it in the U.S. House of Representatives. See Bleeding Kansas.
David M. Potter, The Impending Crisis: America Before the Civil War 1848-1861 (New York: Harper & Row, 1976), 316, 320-21; Wendell H. Stephenson, “Lecompton Constitution,” Dictionary of American History , rev. ed. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1976), 4:130-31; Cong. Globe, 35th Cong., 1st Sess., Appendix, 195 (1858).
Autograph Letter Signed, 4 page(s), Abraham Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress (Washington, DC).