Thomas J. Pickett to Abraham Lincoln, 3 August 18581
Hon. A. Lincoln,Dear Sir:
Yours of the 2d is at hand.2 In reply, I would say I have not thought best to deliver the Roberts note. I had a talk with him the present week, and although friendly to you, personally, he is intensely and invincibly pro-slavery and “joined to his idols.”3
In reference to our county matters, I think we can carry it, although there are rough places to get over, and our opponents are sanguine. I think we ought not to run Major C.Porter, of Mackinaw, or Kyes, (ex sheriff) of Washington, would make a better race.4 Our unfortunate railroad
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troubles will bear against our friends, manage them as we may.–5 All the Republicans ask is the Representative— giving the Americans the Sheriff. If they will put up a good man for the last named office I don’t think we will have much difficulty in carrying our ticket.6 You are stronger here than Republicanism, and in all of our meetings instead of heading them “Republican” I shall say, “Meeting of the friends of Lincoln.” I think by this course we can gain some thing from the old whigs, who may be wavering, and soften down the
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prejudices ^of others^. We must have all the help you can give us. One good speech here might effect more good than a dozen in counties you are sure of. We intend to have a meeting to elect delegates to attend the Congressional convention—on Saturday Aug. 14th, at Tremont. If you could send Herndon we can get up a good meeting.7 I think he would please our fence men.8 We hav’nt a good speaker in the county, while the Douglas men have several. The leading “Americans” feel sore towards you, but Turner, Williamson, Babcock ^Tom. King,^ and others assure me they will do what they can for our side.
There will be no opposition to Kellogg, at
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Peoria, but some of his windy assertions in the Fremont campaign will be used against us in this county, and may do some injury.9 in If you can prevail on friend Herndon to speak at Tremont on the 14th inst., please let me know immediately, and I will get out handbills.10 In closing let me say that anything that I can do to “vote you “up” and Douglas “down” will be done freely, for in so doing I know I am subserving the best interests of the country.
Truly yours,T. J. Pickett.P. S. I have heard from some of the Douglas men that Mr. D. will come to this county in September and speak in several places.11

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PEKIN ills.
Hon. A. Lincoln,Springfield,Ills.
[ docketing ]
T. J. Pickett.12
1Thomas J. Pickett wrote and signed this letter, including the address on the envelope.
2Abraham Lincoln’s letter to Pickett of August 2, 1858, has not been located. On that date, Lincoln also wrote to another Tazewell County ally, Lyman Porter, soliciting his political support and asking that Porter consult with friends in regards to the Illinois House of Representatives race in that county. Lincoln also apparently wrote to John A. Jones of Tazewell County on August 2 with a similar request for support during the election of 1858
Lincoln had 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 stronghold of central Illinois, where the state legislative races were the closest.
Abraham Lincoln to Lyman Porter; John A. Jones to Abraham Lincoln; Allen C. Guelzo, “Houses Divided: Lincoln, Douglas, and the Political Landscape of 1858,” The Journal of American History 94 (September 2007), 394, 400-401; Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 1:457-58, 476-77.
3The note mentioned by Pickett has not been identified, but it seems to have concerned Pekin attorney James Roberts and his potential support for Lincoln’s 1858 U.S. Senate campaign. Roberts ultimately supported Douglas’ candidacy, and gave a speech in his favor in Pekin on August 27. Pickett himself spoke in response to Roberts on September 1. Pickett alleged in his speech that although Roberts had addressed his speech to the Old Line Whigs of Tazewell County and proclaimed himself to still be a Henry Clay Whig, his support of Douglas and of the extension of slavery to the territories conflicted with Whig ideologies. According to Pickett, Roberts had attempted to paint Lincoln’s supporters as abolitionists and advocates of racial equality.
In the biblical book of Hosea, the prophet of the same name describes the failures of the Israelites to live up to their covenant with God, with Ephraim committing the sin of being joined to idols.
Daily Illinois State Register (Springfield), 4 September 1858, 2:3; Speech of Thos. J. Pickett, in Reply to James Roberts, Esq., Delivered in the Court-House, Pekin, Wednesday Evening, Sept., 1, 1858 (n.p.: n.p., [1858?]), 1, 2, 4, 6; Hosea 4:17.
4Pickett is discussing potential candidates for the Thirty-Ninth Illinois House of Representatives District, which consisted entirely of Tazewell County. When the Tazewell County Republican convention was held in Tremont on August 30, 1858, Richard N. Cullom was selected as the party’s candidate for the race. Cullom ultimately received 1,783 votes in the election, losing to Democrat Robert B. M. Wilson, who earned 1,955 votes.
John Clayton, comp., The Illinois Fact Book and Historical Almanac, 1673-1968 (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1970), 220, 222; Summary of Speech at Tremont, Illinois; Summary of Speech at Tremont, Illinois; Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield), 4 November 1858, 3:2; The Weekly Chicago Times (IL), 11 November 1858, 2:5.
5In 1858 railroads in Illinois were suffering lingering financial effects from the Panic of 1857, and the Illinois Central Railroad Company made an unpopular request to be released from a state tax requirement to pay seven percent of its earnings as compensation for lands it had received from the state. Both Democrats and Republicans attempted to link the opposing party to the Illinois Central in the election of 1858. In Tazewell County, discontent with railroads was also related to a struggling effort to sell county bonds to fund two railroads.
Bruce Collins, “The Lincoln-Douglas Contest of 1858 and Illinois’ Electorate,” Journal of American Studies 20 (December 1986), 410-14.
6David Davis and Albert Parker also wrote Lincoln around this time that Tazewell County Republicans were willing to nominate a candidate from the American Party for sheriff in the election of 1858 in exchange for the selection of a Republican candidate for the Illinois House of Representatives.
Thomas C. Reeves was nominated for sheriff of Tazewell County at the Republican county convention on August 30, 1858, and following his election served in the role until 1860.
David Davis to Abraham Lincoln; Albert Parker to Abraham Lincoln; Summary of Speech at Tremont, Illinois; Summary of Speech at Tremont, Illinois; History of Tazewell County Illinois (Chicago: Chas. C. Chapman, 1879), 713.
7An attempt had also been made to have Lincoln speak at a proposed Tremont Republican meeting on August 14, 1858, but he was unable to attend due to his schedule. No evidence has been found that William H. Herndon spoke in Tremont during the campaign of 1858, but he did speak in Pekin on August 26, 1858, prompting the speech by James Roberts described above in response.
Daniel A. Cheever to Abraham Lincoln; Abraham Lincoln to Daniel A. Cheever; Abraham Lincoln to Daniel A. Cheever; Speech of Thos. J. Pickett, in Reply to James Roberts, Esq., Delivered in the Court-House, Pekin, Wednesday Evening, Sept., 1, 1858, 1; Daily Illinois State Register (Springfield), 4 September 1858, 2:3.
8A “fence-man” is a person engaged in “sitting on the fence” rather than taking a side on an issue.
J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner, eds., The Oxford English Dictionary, 2d ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989), 5:829.
9The Republicans of Illinois’ Fourth Congressional District had recently scheduled a convention to be held in Peoria on August 19, 1858, at which the party’s candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives would be nominated. Newspaper reports correctly assumed that incumbent Republican William Kellogg would receive the nomination in Peoria. Kellogg went on to win the race, garnering 52.8 percent of the vote, while his Democratic opponent James W. Davidson received 45.7 percent. Tazewell County, however, was one of the counties in the Fourth District where Kellogg failed to earn a majority of the votes cast, receiving only 47.5 percent of the votes there, compared to Davidson’s 52.2 percent.
Kellogg and Davidson had also been the candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives in the Fourth Congressional District in the 1856 election. During that campaign, Kellogg gave speeches in support of his own candidacy and that of Republican presidential candidate John C. Fremont. Newspaper coverage of Kellogg’s 1856 nomination described the convention that nominated him as a meeting of the opponents of the extension of slavery into the territories. A later report on speeches by the candidates suggested that the subject of the extension of slavery to the territories was a key issue in that campaign.
Alton Daily Courier (IL), 2 August 1858, 2:2; Chicago Daily Press and Tribune (IL), 21 August 1858, 2:5; Howard W. Allen and Vincent A. Lacey, eds., Illinois Elections, 1818-1990 (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1992), 10, 11, 139-40, 142; The Alton Weekly Courier (IL), 28 August 1856, 4:1; Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield), 9 October 1856, 2:4.
10No response to this letter has been located, nor any further correspondence between Lincoln and Pickett on the subject of the 1858 election.
11During the campaign of 1858 Douglas spoke twice in Tazewell County: in Washington, on September 30, and in Pekin, on October 2. Lincoln’s Tazewell County appearances during the campaign included speeches in Tremont on August 30, and in Pekin on October 5.
Harry E. Pratt, The Great Debates ([Springfield, IL: Illinois State Historical Library, 1955]), 6-7; The Lincoln Log: A Daily Chronology of the Life of Abraham Lincoln, 30 August 1858,; 5 October 1858,; Summary of Speech at Tremont, Illinois; Summary of Speech at Tremont, Illinois; Summary of Speech at Pekin, Illinois; Summary of Speech at Pekin, Illinois.
12Lincoln wrote this docketing.

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