William H. Bissell to Abraham Lincoln, 15 August 18561Belleville, Illinois,
Aug. 15, 1856.My Dear Sir:
I have just now received your favor of the 13th instant.2 I shall be at Alton tomorrow— but regret exceedingly that I shall fail to meet you.3 When can you make it convenient to come down this way? We all want to see you very much; still, if you are pressed for time, as I am sure you must be, we will not be unreasonable.4
I intend to devote the months of September and October mostly to stumping the South part of the state— and that is where, I think, you can do as much good as any where else. However, I presume you understand that matter better even than I do.5
I think that Fillmore is going to get a
<Page 2>a larger vote in the South part of the state than we, generally, had anticipated. Still I believe we shall carry the state.6
I shall be glad to hear from you often.7Your Friend TrulyWm H. BissellA. Lincoln, Esq. [Esquire]
3Bissell had been nominated for governor at the Illinois Anti-Nebraska Convention on May 29, 1856. He was appearing in Alton on August 16, 1856 to speak on behalf of his candidacy, having recently addressed crowds in Waterloo and Belleville.
Lincoln was also currently campaigning for Bissell, as well as for Republican presidential nominee John C. Fremont. He spoke in Polo and Oregon, Illinois, on August 16, 1856. From July 1856 onwards, Lincoln gave over fifty speeches across Illinois in support of Fremont’s presidential campaign and to rally the disparate elements of the emerging Republican Party. See the 1856 Federal Election.
David Herbert Donald, Lincoln (New York: Touchstone, 1995), 191; 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), 16 August 1856, 2:1; The Lincoln Log: A Daily Chronology of the Life of Abraham Lincoln, 16 August 1856, http://www.thelincolnlog.org/Results.aspx?type=CalendarDay&day=1856-08-16; Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 1:425-33.
4Lincoln gave a speech at a Republican meeting in Belleville in support of Bissell and Fremont on October 18, 1856.
The Lincoln Log: A Daily Chronology of the Life of Abraham Lincoln, 18 October 1856, http://www.thelincolnlog.org/Results.aspx?type=CalendarDay&day=1856-10-18.
5The Illinois State Journal reported that at this time Bissell was planning speaking engagements for every county in southern Illinois. Despite Bissell’s advice, Lincoln conducted most of his stumping in central Illinois in September and October, with the exception of September speeches in Olney and possibly Lawrenceville, and the October speech in Belleville.
Bissell ultimately earned 47 percent of the vote in the 1856 Illinois gubernatorial election, beating Democrat William A. Richardson, who garnered 45 percent of the vote, and American Party candidate Buckner S. Morris, who received 8 percent, and thus became the first Republican governor of Illinois.
Despite his campaign efforts in southern Illinois, Bissell performed much better in the northern than the southern counties of the state. Out of the twenty-eight counties in the First, Second, and Third Congressional Districts which encompassed the northernmost portions of Illinois, Bissell received a majority of the vote in every county except DeWitt and McLean, and in many northern Illinois counties, his margin of victory was significant. By contrast, out of the twenty-seven counties in the southernmost Eighth and Ninth Illinois Congressional Districts, Bissell received the highest number of votes in only four counties, placed second in seven, and came in last in sixteen.
Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield), 16 August 1856, 2:1; The Lincoln Log: A Daily Chronology of the Life of Abraham Lincoln, 19 September 1856, http://www.thelincolnlog.org/Results.aspx?type=CalendarDay&day=1856-09-19; 20 September 1856, http://www.thelincolnlog.org/Results.aspx?type=CalendarDay&day=1856-09-20; 18 October 1856, http://www.thelincolnlog.org/Results.aspx?type=CalendarDay&day=1856-10-18; Robert P. Howard, Mostly Good and Competent Men: Illinois Governors, 1818-1988 (Springfield: Illinois Issues, Sangamon State University and Illinois State Historical Society, 1988), 109; Howard W. Allen and Vincent A. Lacey, eds., Illinois Elections, 1818-1990, 10, 137-39.
6Democrat James Buchanan won the 1856 presidential race at both the national level and in the state of Illinois. In Illinois, he won 44.1 percent of the total vote to Fremont’s 40.2 percent and American Party candidate Millard Fillmore’s 15.7 percent. Voters in southern Illinois overwhelmingly cast their ballots for Buchanan, but Fillmore did indeed outperform Fremont in the region. Out of the twenty-seven counties in the Eighth and Ninth Congressional Districts of southernmost Illinois, Buchanan earned the most votes in twenty-two, with Fillmore garnering the second highest number in the majority of those counties. Fillmore himself won the most votes in four of these counties, while Fremont received the highest number of votes only in St. Clair County, Bissell’s home county.
Howard W. Allen and Vincent A. Lacey, eds., Illinois Elections, 1818-1990, 10, 135-37; Governors of Illinois: 1818-1918 (Springfield: Illinois Centennial Commission, 1917), 23.
Autograph Letter Signed, 3 page(s), Volume Volume 2, Herndon-Weik Collection of Lincolniana, Library of Congress (Washington, DC).