Abraham Smith to Abraham Lincoln, 20 July 18581
Friend Lincoln
It is said that the campaign is regularly opened between— thee & Douglas Thou art perhaps not aware of the great solicitude with which I look on—2 nor does it matter much to thee how much interest I may take in it3– But I want to say to thee that while some republicans— good men & true but cautious will say thou hast taken too high ground— (too near up to the standard of the Christianity of the day)– I am rejoicd that by thy speeches at Springfield & Chicago thou art fairly mounted on the eternal invulnerabl bulwark of truth4 the same that the bible teaches the same that is taught by the declaration of Independance— by the constitution of the U.S. and by the fathers of the republic— the Christianity of the age demands— a higher stand than dont care whether the “sum of all Vilianies” should deluge the land5
But Douglas is a cuning dog & the devil is on his side– As I view the contest (tho[though] we say it is between Douglass & Lincoln—) it is no less than a contest for the advancement of the kingdom of Heaven or the kingdom of satan– A contest for an advance or a retrograde in civilization— and the fate of Douglas or Lincoln is comparatively a trifle
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But it is not for the gratification of boring thee with my abstractions that I write But I rember[remember] of hearing an anecdote which I think will be of servise to thee— in answering Douglasses— meniel veneration for supreme judges–6 the
The anecdote is something like this While William Penn was governer of Pennsylvania— he had commissioned a J.P.[Justice of the Peace] in some back settlement, so circumstanced that it was hardly possible to have any appeal from his decisions– in course of time this J.P. commenced playing the tyrant at such a rate that complaint came to the Governor– Penn and his attorney— after disgusing themselves in a hunters suit started on a visit to the tyrant— it so happened that they arrived in time of a rain and called in as tho they wanted merely shelter from the rain– Bt[But] the attorney in his own way commenced the investigation by alluding to the rumors of tyrany and when he was satisfied of the squires mal practise from his own mouth— he began to hint at the danger the squire was in when the squire became very indignant and soon ordered the hunters from his cabin— but the atorney advised him
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his companion— siting so demurely there in the corner— was the man that made squires in short that he was in presence of the Governor— and that he would probably make a new squire for that settlement7
It occured to me on reading Douglasse sneers at town meetings—8 that the people who compose these town meetings sometimes sometimes make new judges— and if I remember the history of the case correctly— Douglass was made judge by a political freak of the people of Illinois9
If my anecdote should be of no servise to thee please— receive it as an emenation from kind intention
Thy friendAbraham Smith10

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Abram LincolnSpringfieldIllinois
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A. Smith–11
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July 20 185812
1Abraham Smith wrote and signed this letter, including the address on the envelope.
2Smith had previously written to Abraham Lincoln on May 31 and June 4, 1858 on the subject of the election of 1858 and to convey his preference for Lincoln over Stephen A. Douglas in the race for U.S. Senate in Illinois.
3“the” changed to “it”.
4Lincoln’s speech at Springfield was the so-called “House Divided” speech, which he made to the 1858 Illinois Republican Convention on June 16, 1858, in accepting the Republican Party nomination for U.S. Senate. The Chicago speech referenced by Smith was Lincoln’s response on July 10, 1858, to a speech made by Douglas the previous day as the latter launched his campaign for reelection to the U.S. Senate.
Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 1:457-72; 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; Report of Speech at Chicago, Illinois; Report of Speech at Chicago, Illinois; Report of Speech at Chicago, Illinois.
5John Wesley, one of the founders of Methodism, referred to the slave trade as the “execrable sum of all villainies”.
An Extract of the Rev. Mr. John Wesley’s Journal (London: R. Hawes, 1777), 16:53.
6After Lincoln criticized the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Scott v. Sandford in the June 16, 1858, speech in Springfield noted above, Douglas responded in his July 9, 1858, speech in Chicago that he took issue with any criticism of a Supreme Court ruling, and opined that once a Supreme Court decision was issued, “all other opinions must yield to the majesty of that authoritative adjudication.”
Robert W. Johannsen, ed., The Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1965), 28, 31.
7Versions of this story of William Penn’s encounter with a justice of the peace circulated in print in the United States as early as 1824, and it was widely reprinted thereafter in newspapers, journals, and works of collected humor or anecdotes. Penn’s companion, described here by Smith as an attorney, is identified in published versions of this anecdote as British Quaker minister Thomas Story, who spent several years ministering in the British colonies in North America.
Gazette & Patriot (Haverhill, MA), 24 July 1824, 1:5; The Universal Jest Book (New York: Geo. G. Sickels, 1829), 62-64; The Humourist’s Own Book (Philadelphia: Key and Biddle, 1833), 29; Carla Gerona, “Story, Thomas,” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 52:962-63.
8In his July 9, 1858 speech, Douglas characterized Lincoln’s criticism of the Supreme Court decision in Scott v. Sandford made in the latter’s speech at the 1858 Illinois Republican Convention, as tantamount to appealing the ruling to “the decisions of a tumultuous town meeting”. Douglas further claimed that he respected the Supreme Court too much to appeal one of the body’s decisions on a constitutional matter “to a Republican caucus sitting in the country. Yes, or any other caucus or town meeting, whether it be Republican, American, or Democratic.”
Robert W. Johannsen, ed., The Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858, 32.
9Following the election of 1840, the Democratic Party gained a majority in the Illinois General Assembly and passed a judiciary act on February 10, 1841, to reform the Illinois Supreme Court to their benefit. This act, which aimed to counter the Whig Party’s dominance of the court, eliminated circuit court judges and reassigned their duties to state supreme court justices, with the number of justices increased from four to nine. These additional justices were to be elected by the now Democratically-controlled General Assembly. One of those elected to the additional positions on the reorganized Illinois Supreme Court in 1841 was Douglas, who had worked to ensure the judiciary act’s passage.
Robert W. Johannsen, Stephen A. Douglas (New York: Oxford University Press, 1973), 92-96.
10No response to this letter from Lincoln has been located, nor has any further correspondence from Smith on the election of 1858.
11Lincoln wrote this docketing.
12An unknown person wrote this docketing.

Autograph Letter Signed, 4 page(s), Abraham Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress (Washington, DC).