Richard Yates to Abraham Lincoln, 20 October 18561Jacksonville Oct 20, 1856Dear Lincoln,
On the first November we shall have a Mass Meeting in Jacksonville which will exceed in numbers & splendor of designs &c[etc.]— any thing yet seen in this State–2 The most ample preparations have been making ever since you were here– The Counties down here have been scoured— & we shall have thousands upon thousands–3
We want you to be here on that day and give us another lift – I shall speak every day nearly (as I have been) till the election. The Filmore column is giving way in this County a good deal–4 The signs are very hopeful. Lincoln you must not fail to be here– Let me know whether you can. I would not write forYour friendRichd Yates.P. S. At Winchester, Beardstown Waverly and at this place there are hopeful signs for our getting U a large portion of the Filmore vote— that is, I think so–5
<Page 2>you to come again, but we shall have thousands from Scott & Cass who did not hear you, and who are anxious to hear you and who ought to hear you–
2Abraham Lincoln attended and spoke at this meeting. Between July and November 1856, Lincoln crisscrossed Illinois canvassing on behalf of Republican Party candidates for political office. He delivered over fifty speeches in support of the Republican cause. See the 1856 Federal Election.
The Illinois State Journal described the Jacksonville meeting as “without any exception the largest political gathering held in Central Illinois during the present campaign.”
The Lincoln Log: A Daily Chronology of the Life of Abraham Lincoln, 1 November 1856, http://www.thelincolnlog.org/Results.aspx?type=CalendarDay&day=1856-11-01; Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 1:425-33; Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield), 3 November 1856, 2:2.
3On September 6, 1856, Lincoln had attended a Republican meeting in Jacksonville, where he delivered a speech.
4In the 1856 Federal Election, Republicans nominated John C. Fremont as their first presidential candidate, while Democrats nominated James Buchanan. The American Party, in its final participation in a presidential election, nominated Millard Fillmore. Republicans, concerned that two opposition tickets would favor the Democrats, explored campaign strategies to ensure their candidate, Fremont, would be elected. In a letter to James Berdan in July 1856, Lincoln suggested a possible fusion ticket, bringing together supporters of the American and Republican parties. In the end, Lincoln implemented a mail campaign, sending form letters to Fillmore supporters informing them that every vote for their candidate in Illinois lessened his chance of becoming president.
Lincoln and his fellow Republicans failed to convince Fillmore’s supporters to unite, allowing Democrats to label their opponents as both nativists and worshippers of African Americans. Lincoln’s prediction proved prophetic. Buchanan captured Illinois with 44.1 percent of the vote to 40.2 percent for Fremont and 15.7 for Fillmore and became the fifteenth president of the United States. Indeed, if the votes received by Fremont and Fillmore in Illinois had been combined, Buchanan’s vote would not have been sufficient to carry the state.
Thomas A. Marshall to Abraham Lincoln; Thomas F. Schwartz, “Lincoln, Form Letters, and Fillmore Men,” Illinois Historical Journal 78 (Spring 1985), 66; Abraham Lincoln to Thomas Hull; Abraham Lincoln to Edward Lawrence; Abraham Lincoln to Harrison Maltby; Abraham Lincoln to William Ryan; Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life, 1:432-33; Philip G. Auchampaugh, “Campaign of 1856,” Dictionary of American History, rev. ed. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1976), 1:420-21; Howard W. Allen and Vincent A. Lacey, eds., Illinois Elections, 1818-1990 (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1992), 10.
5The election returns did not reflect this hopeful outcome. In Scott County, the location of Winchester, Buchanan and the Democrats received 54 percent of the votes and the American Party of Fillmore received 34.3 percent, leaving only 11.7 percent of the votes to Fremont and the Republicans. The other counties were not much better. Cass County, the location of Beardstown, went 55.2 percent Democrat, 26.5 American, and 18.3 percent Republican. Morgan County, the location of both Waverly and Jacksonville, went 47.3 percent Democrat, 25.3 percent American and 27.5 percent Republican.
Howard W. Allen and Vincent A. Lacey, eds., Illinois Elections, 1818-1990, 135-37; Edward Callary, Place Names of Illinois (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2009), 26, 175, 368, 377.
Autograph Letter Signed, 2 page(s), Ricks Collection, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (Springfield, IL).