Abraham Lincoln to Charles H. Ray, 8 September 18561Springfield, Sept 8 1856My dear Sir,2
Have fifty copies, of the german Fremont paper sent regularly, in one bundle, to Jabez Capps, Mount Pulaski, Logan Co. Ills–3 Herewith is his letter to me–4
Another matter– Owing to Mr Hecker’s house having been burned, we can not get him out to address our german friends–5 Th[is] is a bad draw-back– It would be no more than just for us to raise him a thousand dollars in this emergency– Can we not do it? See our friends about it– I can find one hundred dollars towards it– Such a sum no doubt would greatly relieve him, and enable him to take the field again– We can not spare his services–6Yours as everA. Lincoln–
2The recipient of this letter was Charles H. Ray, as indicated by a subsequent letter from Lincoln to Ray dated September 13, 1856.
3Lincoln is likely referring to the Illinois Staats-Zeitung, a German-language newspaper published in Chicago.
Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1974), 10:28.
5Opponents of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in Illinois hoped to enlist German-Americans in the coalition they were building to challenge Democrats in the 1856 Federal Election. At the Illinois Anti-Nebraska Convention in May 1856, delegates nominated Francis A. Hoffman, a prominent German-American politician, as their candidate for lieutenant governor to that end. They also selected Friedrich K. F. Hecker as a presidential elector. Hecker’s selection obligated him to make political speeches to German-American audiences on behalf of John C. Fremont, the Republican candidate for president, and other Republican candidates for office. Hecker made his first speech at Mascoutah, Illinois, on June 28, 1856.
On August 12, Hecker’s house near Belleville burned to the ground. Hecker and others suspected arson in retribution for his political activism on behalf of the Republican Party.
Sabine Freitag, Friedrich Hecker: Two Lives for Liberty, trans. by Steven Rowan (St. Louis: University of Missouri–St. Louis, 2006), 167-68, 171, 174-75; Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield), 14 August 1856, 3:1.
6Ray’s response, if he penned one, has not been located.
Ray believed the Republicans stood a chance of winning the votes of 20,000 anti-slavery Germans in the state if the party distanced itself from the nativist stance and policies of the American Party, which it ultimately did via an anti-nativist plank it its 1856 platform that Lincoln helped draft. During the 1856 election campaign, Lincoln not only organized the distribution of pro-Republican German-language newspapers; he also advocated for German speakers such as Hecker to deliver addresses at Republican political meetings. On September 14, Lincoln wrote Hecker directly to offer financial support and encourage him to campaign for Fremont.
Although less inclined to travel after the fire, Hecker was not dissuaded from participating in the campaign. German-language newspapers published portions of his “Address to the German Population of the United States” in mid-August, and within six weeks of the fire, he was speaking on the East Coast.
Although Democrat candidate James Buchanan won the presidency, carrying Illinois with 44.1 percent of the vote, the Republican Party won more than half of the state’s German vote and swept the races for every state office. See 1856 Federal Election.
Abraham Lincoln to Charles H. Ray; Sabine Freitag, Friedrich Hecker: Two Lives for Liberty, 169, 178, 189; Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 1:412-13, 432; Howard W. Allen and Vincent A. Lacey, eds., Illinois Elections, 1818-1990 (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1992), 10; Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield), 20 November 1856, 2:2.
Autograph Letter Signed, 1 page(s), Private Collection, Unknown.