Henry E. Dummer to Abraham Lincoln, [late-July to early-August 1858]1
Friend Lincoln
Yours was duly recd[received] but Doct Sprague was absent in New York, & I have been myself absent, so that a reply has been somewhat delayed.
We understand that you will be here about the 12th when although I shall be absent Doct[Doctor] Sprague will pay you the $50 fee, which we regard as a very reasonable fee.2
Touching politics,3 although not Exactly a Republican in the conventional sense of the term— I do most heartily desire your election and shall do what lies in my power to elect a man that will vote for you,4 believing & trusting
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that whatever may turn up, you will act honestly & patriotically
Allow me to suggest whether you may not ^wisely^ disclaim the position that "the Republican party are ^absolutely^ committed to vote against the admission of another Slave State"–
May it not be said— we take the ground that we will by our political action, ^oppose^ the admission of slavery into territory where it does not exist, in every mode & under all circumstances—but that would be there may be a case—as there would be if Texas should be divided & a new State formed ^there^ where we are not prepared to say we would not admit such a new State as a Slave State–5 Rather there seems
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to be an implied obligation, not to make the objection ^in such a case^ as slavery has gone to Texas with the common understanding that that territory was open to slavery.6
It has always struck me that there was great ^force^ if elaborated, in the idea that, bad as the repeal of the Missouri compromise was— the reasons given for it, and the system ^policy^ attempted to be established by it were worse–
That policy was that every question should be settled upon what is theoretically right— no more compromises with principle–
If you with your strong power of analysis will put to pieces this idea of Compromise— you will have my view– It negatives the idea of abstract theoretic right. ^a compromise is to both parties compromising ^is^ a theoretic wrong^ Now so far as all Sectional questions are provided for in the Constitution
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of the U.S.— they are all wrongs in the abstract—that in accordance with the theory of either side– In such a spirit then the constitution was made– In such a spirit so far as these Sectional questions are concerned—the constitution must be administered ever–
Now if Douglass sytem of policy is to prevail compromising— or rather the spirit of compromising is to be abolished– For example— (as you have suggested was Douglass' design)7 the same argument that establishes that by a power & a principle in the Constitution of the U.S. a man may take his slave into a territory as property establishes the right to take a slave into a state.8 If the Constitution is higher than a Territorial Legislature, so is it higher than a State Constitution– To administer the government on this system of what is by the constitution theoretically right (I mean the sectional questions provided for in the Constitution) will run the ship of state ashore–
Knowing that you will not receive my suggestions as the offspring of conceit,9
I am very truly your friendH. E Dummer

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Abraham Lincoln Esq[Esquire]SpringfieldIllinois
[ endorsement ]
H. E. Dummer.10
1Henry E. Dummer wrote and signed this letter. He also wrote Abraham Lincoln’s name and address in the envelope shown in the fifth image.
Dummer did not include a date on this letter. The editors date the letter sometime after Lincoln wrote Dummer on July 20, and sometime before Lincoln replied to Dummer on August 5, 1858.
2Lincoln delivered a campaign address in Beardstown, Illinois on August 12. In the 1858 Federal Election, he was running as the Illinois Republican Party’s candidate to supplant Democratic incumbent Stephen A. Douglas in the U.S. Senate. See 1858 Illinois Republican Convention; 1858 Federal Election.
The $50.00 fee Dummer references was Lincoln’s legal fee for work on the case Sprague v. Illinois River RR et al. In August 1857, Charles Sprague, a resident of Cass County, Illinois, retained Lincoln and Dummer and sued for an injunction to prevent the county from paying the Illinois River Railroad Company $50,000 in stock subscriptions approved by the voters. The Illinois General Assembly chartered the railroad in 1853 to build a road from Jacksonville, Illinois, through Cass County to La Salle, Illinois. In 1854, however, the General Assembly amended the charter to allow the railroad to build a road from Virginia, Illinois to Pekin, Illinois. The railroad also held the option of extending the route north from Pekin to La Salle. Sprague, who also was president of the Rock Island and Alton Railroad Company, claimed that he had consulted engineers who stated that part of the railroad’s route was an “absurd proposition” due to rough terrain and the presence of three other railroads. Sprague also believed that the alteration of the railroad’s charter constituted a breach of contract and voided the county stock subscription. The Cass County Circuit Court disagreed, and dismissed the injunction. Sprague appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court, which, in January 1858, affirmed the lower court’s ruling. Chief Justice John D. Caton declared that the Illinois General Assembly’s 1854 amendment of the railroad’s charter was “in the highest degree promotive of the interests of the company” and not a major deviation from the charter's original intent.
The Lincoln Log: A Daily Chronology of the Life of Abraham Lincoln, 12 August 1858, https://www.thelincolnlog.org/Results.aspx?type=CalendarDay&day=1858-08-12; Report of Speech at Beardstown, Illinois; Summary of Speech at Beardstown, Illinois; Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 1:458; Newton Bateman and Paul Selby, eds., Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of Cass County, ed. by Charles Æ. Martin (Chicago: Munsell, 1915), 2:767; “An Act to Construct a Railroad from Jacksonville, in Morgan County, to La Salle, in La Salle County,” 11 February 1853, Private Laws of Illinois (1853), 53-58; “An Act to Amend an Act Entitled ‘An Act to Construct a Railroad from Jacksonville, in Morgan County, to La Salle, in La Salle County’”, 1 March 1854, Laws of Illinois (1854), 207-9; Bill for Injunction, Document ID: 20515; Decree, Document ID: 20505, Sprague v. Illinois River RR 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=137976; Judgment, Document ID: 73422, Sprague v. Illinois River RR 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=137977.
3In his July 20 letter, Lincoln asked Dummer for news about “politics, down your way.”
4At the time, members of the Illinois General Assembly voted for and elected the state’s representatives in the U.S. Senate; therefore, the races for the Illinois House of Representatives and Illinois Senate were highly relevant to the outcome of the state’s U.S. Senate race.
Allen C. Guelzo, “Houses Divided: Lincoln, Douglas, and the Political Landscape of 1858,” The Journal of American History 94 (September 2007), 394.
5Texas was admitted into the United States as a state in 1845, but the U.S. Congress stipulated that “New states, of convenient size, not exceeding four in number, in addition to said State of Texas, and having sufficient population, may hereafter, by the consent of said State, be formed out of the territory thereof, which shall be entitled to admission under the provisions of the federal constitution.” All additional states south of 36°30′, the line dividing prospective free and slave states according to the Missouri Compromise , could enter the Union as slave states if the citizens so desired--a provision that promised the South additional power in Congress.
“Joint Resolution for Annexing Texas to the United States,” 1 March 1845, Statutes at Large of the United States 5 (1856):798; Michael F. Holt, The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party: Jacksonian Politics and the Onset of the Civil War (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 220.
6During the 1858 Illinois Republican Convention, the Illinois Republican Party passed a number of resolutions—none of which either called for or committed the party’s representatives to vote against the admission of another slave state into the Union. One resolution came close to what Dummer advised regarding the extension of slavery into U.S. territories: it declared that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Dred Scott case was “political heresy” and maintained that—despite the ruling that the U.S. Constitution permits slavery in U.S. territories—the U.S. Congress “possesses sovereign power over the territories. . . [and] it is the duty of the general government to protect the territories from the curse of slavery.”
In his reply, Lincoln denied that the party was committed to preventing the admission of additional slave states.
The false claim that the Republican Party’s platform declared that it “was pledged never to admit another slave State into the Union” was one that Douglas later repeated during the Lincoln-Douglas Debates.
Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield), 17 June 1858, 2:5; Sixth Debate with Stephen A. Douglas at Quincy, Illinois; Sixth Debate with Stephen A. Douglas, at Quincy, Illinois; Sixth Debate with Stephen A. Douglas, at Quincy, Illinois.
7This is most likely a reference to charges Lincoln made during his address at the 1858 Illinois Republican Convention—popularly known as his “House Divided” speech—that Douglas was part of a plot or conspiracy to nationalize slavery. The plot began, Lincoln argued, with Douglas’ Kansas-Nebraska bill, which President Franklin Pierce supported, then was advanced by both the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Dred Scott case—handed down by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney—and by President James Buchanan’s call to support the court’s decision. Lincoln warned that if Douglas were not defeated and the slave power not overthrown, another Supreme Court ruling could build upon the Dred Scott decision and proclaim that the U.S. Constitution prohibited states from excluding slavery within their own borders.
Lincoln repeated his arguments about Douglas being part of a plot to nationalize slavery throughout the 1858 campaign—both in speeches and during the Lincoln-Douglas Debates.
Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life, 1:459-61, 492-540; Report of Speech at Springfield, Illinois; Report of Speech at Springfield, Illinois; Fragment of A House Divided Speech at Springfield, Illinois; Report of Speech at Springfield, Illinois; David Herbert Donald, Lincoln (New York: Touchstone, 1995), 206-9.
8This is a reference to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Dred Scott case. For full details on the case and its legal implications, see Scott v. Sandford.
9In the local elections of 1858, Republicans won a majority of all votes cast in Illinois, but pro-Douglas Democrats retained control of the Illinois General Assembly, and Douglas won reelection. Through the campaign, however, and in particular through his participation in the Lincoln-Douglas Debates, Lincoln gained national recognition as well as standing within the Republican Party.
Allen C. Guelzo, “Houses Divided: Lincoln, Douglas, and the Political Landscape of 1858,” 394, 414-16; Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life, 1:556-57.
10Lincoln wrote this docketing vertically on the left side of the envelope shown in the fifth image.

Autograph Letter Signed, 5 page(s), Abraham Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress (Washington, DC).