Thomas A. Marshall to Abraham Lincoln, 14 July 18561Charleston Ill. July 14, 1856Dear Lincoln
I have been expecting to hear from you as you promised but as yet have had no letter–2 Our friends are urging me to write to you again— & insist that you must come & that soon. The work goes on finely but many are hanging back yet, & we think one of your speeches now will be worth two after a while– There will be a big circus here the 24th & a crowd ready collected for you if you should come that day. You know all a bout circuses, they collect crowds, but not exactly the sort of crowds we want– Give us a weeks notice if you fix any other day, & you shall have a fine audience. If we can have some assistance in the way of a few first rate speeches, Coles will roll up a Booming majority for Fremont 3Yours &c[etc.]T. A Marshall
2No correspondence has been located between Marshall and Abraham Lincoln in all of 1856 prior to this letter. It is possible that Lincoln met with Marshall in person at some point and promised to write afterward.
3Marshall is discussing the Republican Party’s efforts to rally support for its candidates in the 1856 Federal Election, including John C. Fremont, whom the Republican Party nominated in June as its candidate for president. Lincoln began canvassing throughout Illinois on behalf of the party in July. He spoke in Galena, Illinois on July 23 and in Oregon, Illinois on July 25. He did not speak in Charleston, Illinois until August 8.
Politicians and party managers often scheduled political meetings to coincide with circuses, fairs, and other local festivities to ensure a large audience. During the 1854 Federal Election, for instance, Stephen A. Douglas gave a defense of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in Springfield on October 3, 1854, and Lincoln answered him on October 4. Douglas and Lincoln were originally scheduled to speak at the state fair, which occurred at the same time that E. F. & J. Mabie’s Circus and Menagerie had scheduled performances in Springfield. Inclement weather forced them to abandon plans to speak at the fair.
Marshall wrote Lincoln at least one more letter related to the 1856 election after this letter.
Ultimately, in the election of 1856, James Buchanan won the presidency. In Illinois, Buchanan won 44.1 percent of the vote to Fremont’s 40.2 percent and Millard Fillmore’s 15.7 percent. The voters of Coles County, Illinois awarded 42.7 percent of their votes to Buchanan, 28.4 percent to Fremont, and 28.9 percent to Fillmore.
Richard E. Hart, Circuses in Lincoln’s Springfield (1833-1860) (Springfield: Richard E. Hart, 2013), 7-8, 49; Lewis E. Lehrman, Lincoln at Peoria: The Turning Point (Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2008), 37-47; Report of Speech at Springfield, Illinois; Proceedings of the First Three Republican National Conventions of 1856, 1860 and 1864 (Minneapolis, MN: Charles W. Johnson, 1893), 54; Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 1:426; The Lincoln Log: A Daily Chronology of the Life of Abraham Lincoln, 23 July 1856, http://thelincolnlog.org/Results.aspx?type=CalendarDay&day=1856-07-23; 25 July 1856, http://thelincolnlog.org/Results.aspx?type=CalendarDay&day=1856-07-25; 8 August 1856, http://thelincolnlog.org/Results.aspx?type=CalendarDay&day=1856-08-08; Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield), 13 August 1856, 2:2; Howard W. Allen and Vincent A. Lacey, eds., Illinois Elections, 1818-1990 (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1992), 10, 136.
Autograph Letter Signed, 1 page(s), Volume Volume 2, Herndon-Weik Collection of Lincolniana, Library of Congress (Washington, DC).