John Wentworth to Abraham Lincoln, 8 August 18561Chicago August 8/56Dr[Dear] Sir
I have just returned from Iowa, & spoke with Browning at Burlington.2 And, in looking over the papers, I came across the enclosed letter from George Law, which I enclose to you & hope you will get inserted in as many Southern papers in this State as you can3
For Lt[Lieutenant] Governor, we have no man in view. But we shall insist on a man who has not been in the Legislature. We want no old records hunted up against us.6Yrs[Yours] HastilyJno WentworthHon A Lincoln–
2Throughout the summer and fall of 1856, Wentworth stumped northern Illinois and Iowa on behalf of Republican Party candidates for office in the 1856 Federal Election. In July 1856, Norman B. Judd, Ebenezer Peck, and James W. Grimes had urged Abraham Lincoln to stump in Iowa with Orville H. Browning. Lincoln declined in a July 12 letter to Grimes.
Don E. Fehrenbacher, Chicago Giant: A Biography of “Long John” Wentworth (Madison, WI: The American History Research Center, 1957), 139.
4Wentworth is most likely referring to a lengthy letter George Law wrote in early July 1856 that was published soon thereafter in prominent newspapers such as the New York Times. In the letter, Law discussed the state of the nation and called the administration of President Franklin Pierce an “extreme slave oligarchy of the South.” He asserted that the Pierce administration had used its political power to “crush out all independent action and honest representation on the part of the North” and argued that 1856 was the year for those who loved their country—in both the North and the South—to “unite cordially” upon Republican presidential candidate John C. Fremont and defeat Democrat James Buchanan as well as American Party candidate Millard Fillmore.
On July 12, the Daily Illinois State Journal mentioned the above letter from Law, simply noting that Law endorsed Fremont for president. The same notice appeared in the Illinois State Journal’s July 16 issue.
New-York Daily Times (New York, NY), 9 July 1856, 2:6-3:1-2; Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield), 12 July 1856, 3:1; The Illinois State Journal (Springfield), 16 July 1856, 2:4.
5In a July 5 letter to Lincoln, Lyman Trumbull had also noted that the Republican Party would experience difficulties gaining votes in the southern portion of Illinois. Lincoln stumped in southern Illinois during the campaign of 1856, but few Republicans lived in the area and his speeches were generally not well-attended.
Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 1:425-26.
6Wentworth wrote Lincoln at least one more letter during the election campaign of 1856.
The Republican Party nominated John Wood for lieutenant governor on its 1856 ticket, alongside William H. Bissell for governor. Wood had served in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth General Assemblies of Illinois.
Ultimately, the state’s voters elected Bissell governor over Democrat William A. Richardson and American Party candidate Buckner S. Morris. Statewide, Bissell won nearly 47 percent of the vote to Richardson’s nearly 45 percent and Morris’ 8 percent. Out of the twenty-eight counties in the First, Second, and Third Congressional Districts which encompassed northern Illinois, voters in every county except one awarded strong majorities to Bissell. By contrast, out of the twenty-seven counties in the Eighth and Ninth Congressional Districts which encompassed southern Illinois, voters in every county except four voted for Richardson in strong majorities.
In the 1856 presidential race, Buchanan emerged triumphant. In Illinois, he won 44.1 percent of the total vote to Fremont’s 40.2 percent and Millard Fillmore’s 15.7 percent. Voters in southern Illinois overwhelmingly cast their ballots for Buchanan. In southern Illinois, only one awarded the majority of its votes to Fremont and four awarded a majority to Fillmore. Every other southern county awarded majorities to Buchanan. In northern Illinois, voters in every county except one cast their ballots for Fremont in strong majorities.
Louis L. Emmerson, ed., Blue Book of the State of Illinois, 1919-1920 (Springfield: Illinois State Journal, 1919), 344; Howard W. Allen and Vincent A. Lacey, eds., Illinois Elections, 1818-1990 (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1992), 10, 135-39.
Autograph Letter Signed, 3 page(s), Volume Volume 2, Herndon-Weik Collection of Lincolniana, Library of Congress (Washington, DC).