James B. McKinley to Abraham Lincoln, 22 July 18561
COPY.Clinton, July 22nd, 1856Hon. A. Lincoln,Very dear Sir:
I have been requested not only to extend to you an invitation to come here, but to insist upon your coming here on the 19th day2 of August next ,and make a speech to our people.3 On that day we expect to have as near everybody in the county called together here as we can. We have a county convention on that day. The business however will be soon done/after which we want speeches etc. ,and we want more than all others a speech from you. Many of our people are still tender ,old time whigs, are undetermined democrats ,partly with and partly not with us.4 In you they do place more confidence than in any other man. Men who do not read want the story told as you only can tell it. Others may make fine speeches, but it would not be “Lincoln said so in his speech.[”]
Don’t think me g^f^lattering you ,for I sayy iin aall ccandor wwhat I know. You can do us great %^g^ood. Come! ! !
Please let me hear from you at your earliest convenience and oblige,5Yours etc.J. B. McKinley,
1This letter is attributed to James B. McKinley, but no manuscript version has been located. Based on the letterhead used for this typed transcription, this text was likely produced between 1905 and 1913, when McKinley’s nephew William B. McKinley served in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Biographical Directory of the American Congress 1774-1996 (Alexandria, VA: CQ Staff Directories, 1997), 1495; Newton Bateman and Paul Selby, eds., Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of Champaign County, ed. by Joseph O. Cunningham (Chicago: Munsell, 1905), 2:989-90.
3Abraham Lincoln was in Springfield on August 19, 1856 and there is no evidence that he spoke in Clinton on that date, although from July 1856 onwards he gave over fifty speeches across Illinois in support of the presidential campaign of John C. Fremont and to rally the disparate elements of the emerging Republican Party. See the 1856 Federal Election.
The Lincoln Log: A Daily Chronology of the Life of Abraham Lincoln, 19 August 1856, http://www.thelincolnlog.org/Results.aspx?type=CalendarDay&day=1856-08-19; Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 1:425-33.
4The Democratic Dewitt Courier similarly described this August 19, 1856 DeWitt County Republican convention at the courthouse in Clinton as “composed of discordant elements that had no affinity for each other.” This partisan newspaper account of the proceedings reported disagreement over whether to support Fremont or Millard Fillmore for president, as well as widely divergent views on slavery amongst attendees. Although the convention participants successfully nominated candidates for local office, the article ended with the observation that “Judging from the way things worked in the Fusion convention, we may safely count upon this county going Democratic by a very decent majority” in the upcoming election. In the presidential election of 1856, DeWitt County went Democrat, giving James Buchanan, the Democratic candidate, 40.4 percent of the vote to 37.1 percent for Fremont and 22.5 percent for Fillmore, the American Party candidate.
Dewitt Courier (Clinton, IL), 22 August 1853, 2:3; Franklin William Scott, Newspapers and Periodicals of Illinois, 1814-1879, vol. 6 of Collections of the Illinois State Historical Library (Springfield: Illinois State Historical Library, 1910), 151; Howard W. Allen and Vincent A. Lacey, eds., Illinois Elections, 1818-1990 (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1992), 136.
Typed Transcription, 1 page(s), Volume Volume 2, Herndon-Weik Collection of Lincolniana, Library of Congress (Washington, DC).