Elihu B. Washburne to Abraham Lincoln, 22 May 18581
My Dear Sir:
I have yours of the 17th inst.2 As it has been industriously circulated in other quarters that my letter to Wilson reccommended that the Republicans should go for Douglas I may have occasion for it to vindicate my position. Will you, therefore, please enclose it to me.3
I believe the party will get together in our State, and that we will have need of all our exertions to beat the common enemy. Harris is the only member from our State in the House, who will be with us, and I do not
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know that he will, but he holds out better than any of the balance.– All the others went into the Lecompton caucus for doorkeeper and voted for the nominee, tho’[though] the republicans had promised to go with them to elect an anti-Lecompton democrat.4
Your friend.
E B Washburne5Hon. A. Lincoln.
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E B Washburne
M C[Member Congress]
MAY 22
Hon. A. Lincoln,Springfield,Illinois
1Elihu B. Washburne wrote and signed this letter, including the address and signed frank on the envelope.
2Washburne is likely referring to Lincoln’s letter of May 15, 1858, to which this letter responds.
3Lincoln and Washburne had exchanged several letters on the subject of Washburne’s letter to Charles L. Wilson of April 12, 1858, which Washburne mentions here. In a letter of April 19, 1858 to Lincoln, John Wentworth had conveyed a report that one of the Republican members of the U.S. Congress from Illinois had written a letter encouraging Illinois Republicans to support Stephen A. Douglas’ bid for re-election to the U.S. Senate in the election of 1858. This rumor circulated among Illinois Republicans, including at a meeting of party leaders in Springfield on April 21 at which Lincoln was present. Lincoln wrote Washburne regarding the rumor on April 26, assuring Washburne that although suspicion centered on him, Lincoln was confident the matter was a misunderstanding. Washburne responded on May 2, denying the rumor, then wrote again on May 6, enclosing the letter in controversy for Lincoln to peruse himself.
The manuscript original of Washburne’s April 12, 1858 letter to Wilson has not been located, but it was subsequently published in the Polo Advertiser in 1860. In this letter, Washburne discussed his confusion over the current state of politics in Illinois in light of the rift in the Democratic Party between supporters of Douglas and supporters of President James Buchanan, which was caused by Douglas’ criticism of the Lecompton Constitution and of the president’s support of it. Washburne stated that despite his dislike of Douglas, he would welcome him as an ally to the Republican Party, but expressed concern over whether there was a movement to create a Douglas party in Illinois and an attempt to reelect Douglas. Republicans should not abandon their platform, wrote Washburne, and their candidate for U.S. Senate in the election of 1858 must be Lincoln.
Russell K. Nelson, “The Early Life and Congressional Career of Elihu B. Washburne” (PhD dissertation, University of North Dakota, August 1953), 159-62; The Lincoln Log: A Daily Chronology of the Life of Abraham Lincoln, 21 April 1858, https://www.thelincolnlog.org/Results.aspx?type=CalendarDay&day=1858-04-21; Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 1:445-50.
4Washburne is apparently expressing his belief that rather than a permanent break over the Lecompton Constitution pushing Douglas Democrats to ally with Republicans in Illinois, the Douglas Democrats in the state would ultimately reconcile with the Buchanan Democrats and oppose the Republican Party jointly.
As evidence of this, Washburne points to the recent election of a new doorkeeper in the U.S. House of Representatives, when the two factions of the Democratic Party united to elect a Democratic candidate. The incumbent doorkeeper, Robert B. Hackney, was accused of corruption and dismissed from office on May 17, 1858. That same evening, House Democrats met in caucus to chose their nominee to replace Hackney. Joseph L. Wright won a majority of votes on the third ballot of the Democratic caucus, after which his nomination was made unanimous. Wright was described variously as a Lecompton or administration Democrat. Despite this designation, Douglas Democrats also supported him and Wright was elected doorkeeper on May 18, receiving 117 out of 216 votes in a contest that largely followed Democratic and Republican party lines. Among the Illinois members of the U.S. House of Representatives, Democrats Isaac N. Morris, Aaron Shaw, Robert Smith, and Samuel S. Marshall all voted for Wright. The sole remaining Illinois Democratic Representative, Thomas L. Harris, cast the single vote in the U.S. House of Representatives for Peter Gorman, a Douglas Democrat who had been considered in the Democratic caucus of the preceding evening, but who lost the party’s nomination to Wright. Illinois’ Republican members of the House, Washburne, John F. Farnsworth, Owen Lovejoy, and William Kellogg all voted for Republican candidate Arthur W. Fletcher.
U.S. House Journal. 1858. 35th Cong., 1st sess., 832-33, 842-44; Evening Star (Washington, DC), 26 January 1858, 2:3; 18 May 1858, 2:2, 3; New-York Daily Tribune (NY), 19 May 1858, 4:2; Monmouth Democrat (Freehold, NJ), 20 May 1858, 2:3; Daily State Gazette and Republican (Trenton, NJ), 20 May 1858, 2:3; The Compiler (Gettysburg, PA), 24 May 1858, 2:3; Howard W. Allen and Vincent A. Lacey, eds., Illinois Elections, 1818-1990 (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1992), 10; Biographical Directory of the American Congress 1774-1996 (Alexandria, VA: CQ Staff Directories, 1997), 155; J. Thomas Scharf, History of Western Maryland (Philadelphia: Louis H. Everts, 1882), 1:714-15.
5Lincoln responded to this letter on May 27, returning the requested letter, and Washburne wrote him one further letter on the subject of the political situation in Illinois in 1858.

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