William B. Archer to Abraham Lincoln, 21 June 18561Washington D.C. June 21. 1856.Abraham Lincon,My dear Sir,
I was at the Convention got here last evening and have not time to write you as I should wish, the House meets and I must be up to see to my case–2 I have been about at N.Y. and Phila since 13th On being defeated as to Mr. McLean for whom I did my best– I felt badly and at dark after the nomination of Mr. Freemont,3 I resolved to name you for V. Prest [Vice President] regardless who they might name– I saw immediately our delegation being at the Girard House nearly all— Judd, Trumbull,4 Palmer et al said amen and we went it until 12 P.M. Mr. Sweet Wilcox and myself–5 I got Allison of Pena to name you, did wish Ex Gov. Ritner but he rather declined was for you and did all he could in the short time left– Now you see they were generally Committed to Mr. Dayton, but had we moved early in the matter and I would if I had believed McLean would have been defeated you would Certainly had the nomination, this is the view of good men who are judges–6 If the the matter had been named early all Pena[Pennsylvania] would have voted for you– Ohio and Iowa treated me badly and I will see them paid off–7 I think you will pardon me for the move– I had a strong hope and felt disposed to make the effort–
<Page 2>Mr Vandyke of N. Jersey had served with you in Congress– He paid you a high compliment and at some length it was well done and I regret that his remarks in full as to yourself was not published– He did you great credit8 we are in for the fight for Freemont and Dayton and Conquer and succeed we must9
I have but a few moments to write you– Accept my best wishes and prayers for your long life and prosperity &c [etc.]W. B. Archer10
2Archer’s case in the U.S. House of Representatives concerned his contested election for a seat in that body.
In the 1854 Federal Election, Republican Archer lost the race in Illinois’ Seventh Congressional District to Democrat James C. Allen by a single vote, garnering 8,451 votes to Allen’s 8,452. Allen received the certificate of election and presented his credentials, but Archer contested the outcome and submitted a petition to the House in February 1856. The House then referred the issue to its Committee on Elections, which investigated the matter throughout the spring of 1856 and issued a majority report and resolutions in May affirming that Archer, not Allen, was the rightful winner of the election. The House took up discussion of the report and resolutions from July 16 to 18, with Archer giving a speech on July 18 explaining that he believed that several ballots in the Livingston precinct of Clark County had been improperly counted, resulting in Allen’s single-vote majority. On July 18, the House adopted a resolution affirming that Allen had not won the election and was not entitled to the seat but rejected a resolution affirming that Archer had won the election and was entitled to the seat. At an impasse, the House nullified the results and left the seat vacant until a new election could be held. In August 1856, Allen defeated Archer in a special election and filled the seat from November 1856 through March 1857.
Howard W. Allen and Vincent A. Lacey, eds., Illinois Elections, 1818-1990 (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1992), 10; U.S. House Journal. 1856. 34th Cong., 1st sess., 533, 684, 733, 887, 1022, 1221, 1223, 1226-34; Cong. Globe, 34th Cong., 1st Sess., Appendix, 923-36 (1856); Newton Bateman and Paul Selby, eds., Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of Clark County, ed. by H. C. Bell (Chicago: Middle West, 1907), 22; Biographical Directory of the American Congress 1774-1996 (Alexandria, VA: CQ Staff Directories, 1997), 568-69.
3Archer had been in Philadelphia attending the first Republican National Convention, which was held there from June 17-19, 1856. Preceding the convention, Lincoln advocated for U.S. Supreme Court Justice John McLean as the presidential candidate most likely to appeal to the conservative former Whigs within the nascent Republican Party. John C. Fremont, however, won the party’s nomination for the presidency on the second day of the proceedings with a final vote of 527 delegates for Fremont, 37 for McLean, and 1 for William H. Seward.
Proceedings of the First Three Republican National Conventions of 1856, 1860 and 1864 (Minneapolis, MN: Charles W. Johnson, 1893), 15, 41, 58-59.
4Lyman Trumbull attended the convention, having been encouraged by Lincoln to use his influence in choosing the Republican presidential nominee, but he was not a voting member of the Illinois delegation.
Lyman Trumbull to Abraham Lincoln; Proceedings of the First Three Republican National Conventions of 1856, 1860 and 1864, 41.
5Nathaniel G. Wilcox later claimed that he had been the one to propose to the Illinois delegation that Lincoln should be nominated for vice president, and that he had convinced Archer to support the choice.
6Congressman John Allison of Pennsylvania nominated Lincoln for vice president on the second day of the convention. Archer followed Allison’s nomination with comments in support of Lincoln, and John M. Palmer seconded the nomination. In an informal vote for the vice-presidential nominee, Lincoln came in second to William L. Dayton of New Jersey, garnering 110 votes to Dayton’s 253. When the official vote was taken, Dayton was declared the unanimous winner.
Proceedings of the First Three Republican National Conventions of 1856, 1860 and 1864, 61-66.
7When the initial informal poll was taken for vice president, the Pennsylvania delegation split among six different candidates, with the largest number of votes going to David Wilmot, Dayton and Lincoln, who garnered 31, 28, and 11 votes respectively. In this same poll, Ohio’s delegates cast 65 votes for Dayton and 2 votes for Lincoln, and Iowa’s delegates cast 7 votes for Dayton, 4 votes for Nathaniel P. Banks, 1 vote for Charles Sumner, and no votes for Lincoln.
Proceedings of the First Three Republican National Conventions of 1856, 1860 and 1864, 63-66.
8Lincoln and John Van Dyke were both Whig members of the U.S. House of Representatives in the Thirtieth U.S. Congress. Following Dayton’s selection as vice presidential candidate, Van Dyke said of Lincoln: “I knew Abraham Lincoln in Congress well, and for months I sat by his side. I knew him all through, and knew him to be a first-rate man in every respect; and if it had not been the will and pleasure of the Convention to have selected William L. Dayton, I know with what perfect alacrity I would have gone for him.” Lincoln subsequently wrote to thank Van Dyke for his comments.
Biographical Directory of the American Congress 1774-1996, 1395, 1983; Proceedings of the First Three Republican National Conventions of 1856, 1860 and 1864, 71.
9Ultimately, Democrat James Buchanan won the presidency in the 1856 Federal Election. In Illinois, Buchanan won 44.1 percent of the vote to Fremont’s 40.2 percent, and American Party candidate Millard Fillmore’s 15.7 percent.
Howard W. Allen and Vincent A. Lacey, eds., Illinois Elections, 1818-1990, 10.
Autograph Letter Signed, 2 page(s), Volume Volume 2, Herndon-Weik Collection of Lincolniana, Library of Congress (Washington, DC).