Elijah W. Dickinson to Abraham Lincoln, 26 July 18581Eureka, July 26th 1858.Hon. Abram Lincoln.Dear Sir:
Although I have not the pleasure of a personal acquaintance with you, yet I have taken the present liberty with you in consideration of the political issues that now agitate the minds of the citizens not only of this state but of the whole United States. And knowing your personal integrity and honesty I have concluded to address you.
During the last presidential campaign you made a visit to this place (Eureka) and we had the pleasure of listening to a short address from you: and you will doubtless remember, ^judging^ from the manifestations made on that evening that there was quite a number of Filmore men at this place.2 Now as the American party have no candidate in the field, and as yourself and the Hon. S. A. Douglass are the two great chiefs of the two great political parties, we would like to know your views concerning the principles upon which the American party is founded.3
Report tells y us that you were once a Knownothing and that you left the party because that questions had arisen that demanded more amediate attention, and that whenever the time should come when the principles of the American party should become the questions then you would again be found at your post. Many however are disposed to doubt this. Please set their
<Page 2>minds easy by an explanation by a return of mail.4
If you have any of Mr. Douglass’ speeches upon the influence of foreign emigraetion, and can send one to me I shall be very thankful to you and hope to able to do you some ^good^ by that means.
I do not ask a a lengthy reply [Yours with much respect and esteemE. W. Dickinson
all?] as I presume you time is pretty much all occupied with your business; but nevertheless shall not
object to it; but I will be content concise with a brief concise, view view of the matter. Or if you have made any speeches upon the topics named and have them
in print and will send them they will answer every purpose.
Eureka Ill[Illinois]Hon. Abram LincolnSpringfieldIll.
2In October 1856 Abraham Lincoln reportedly went to Eureka without having been invited and gave a speech one evening along with Bloomington attorney Harvey Hogg in the chapel of Eureka College while campaigning for Republican presidential candidate John C. Fremont. According to the reminiscences of one attendee of the event, Lincoln and Hogg were heckled during their speeches by supporters of American Party candidate Millard Fillmore.
The Metamora Herald (IL), 18 June 1926, 1:6; 24 August 1928, 6:3.
3Lincoln had recently been nominated at the 1858 Illinois Republican Convention to run against incumbent Stephen A. Douglas to represent Illinois in the U.S. Senate. At this time the Illinois General Assembly elected the state’s representatives in the U.S. Senate, thus the outcome of races for the Illinois House of Representatives and Illinois Senate were of importance to Lincoln’s campaign. Lincoln and Douglas both focused their campaign efforts on the former Whig Party stronghold of central Illinois, where the state legislative races were the closest. Among the former Whigs whose votes were courted were those who had moved into the American Party following the dissolution of the Whig Party and Lincoln and Douglas attempted to win over former supporters of Fillmore.
During the course of the 1858 election campaign Lincoln spoke in at least two communities in Eureka’s home county of Woodford. He gave an impromptu speech in El Paso, Illinois on August 28, 1858 when a crowd gathered as he waited at the train station, and delivered another speech in Metamora on October 4. Although Woodford County was one of the counties where the Whig Party had formerly been dominant, at the time of the 1858 election it was in the Eighth Illinois Senate District and the Forty-Second Illinois House of Representatives District, both of which contained a mix of counties that had historically supported Whigs and counties where the Republican Party was now strong. Despite coming in second in Woodford County in the election of 1858, the Republican candidates for Illinois Senate and House of Representatives both ultimately won a majority in their districts and were elected. Republican George C. Bestor defeated Democrat William S. Moss in the Eighth Illinois Senate District by about 120 votes and Republican John A. McCall defeated Democrat Washington E. Cook in the Forty-Second Illinois House District, with a 453-vote advantage in Marshall and Putnam counties, which Cook’s 336-vote lead in Woodford County could not overcome.
Allen C. Guelzo, “House Divided: Lincoln, Douglas, and the Political Landscape of 1858,” The Journal of American History 94 (September 2007), 392-94, 400-1; Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 1:457-58, 476-77; The Lincoln Log: A Daily Chronology of the Life of Abraham Lincoln, 28 August 1858, https://www.thelincolnlog.org/Results.aspx?type=CalendarDay&day=1858-08-28; 4 October 1858, https://www.thelincolnlog.org/Results.aspx?type=CalendarDay&day=1858-10-04; Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield), 4 November 1858, 3:2; Chicago Daily Press and Tribune, 5 November 1858, 1:3; The Weekly Chicago Times (IL), 11 November 1858, 2:6; The Weekly Pantagraph (Bloomington, IL), 10 November 1858, 2:1; 24 November 1858, 2:3.
4No response to this letter has been located, nor any further correspondence between Lincoln and Dickinson.
In response to an inquiry as to his political affiliation in 1855, Lincoln wrote of his disapproval of the American Party’s position on immigrants and Catholics. During the course of the 1858 campaign, Lincoln refuted rumors that he had been a member of the American Party in an October 1858 speech at Meredosia as well as in a letter to Edward Lusk later that same month. Similar rumors also surfaced during the 1860 presidential election and Lincoln again denied any affiliation with the American Party.
Abraham Jonas to Abraham Lincoln; Abraham Lincoln to Abraham Jonas.
Autograph Letter Signed, 3 page(s), Abraham Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress (Washington, DC).