Abraham Lincoln.

A Lincoln correspondence [twenty-two letters of historical interest here published for the first time] online

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Major Lambert is the owner of the original letters.

THESE letters of Abraham Lincoln
are of interest not alone for their
authorship, but also because they evidence
the foresight, sagacity, honesty, and sub-
ordination of self to the cause of party or
of country, characteristics which were
dominant throughout his career and were
eminently conspicuous during his Presi-

Lyman Trumbull, to whom these letters
were written, was, during the period cov-
ered by them, United States Senator from
Illinois, his colleague in the Senate being
Stephen A. Douglas. Trumbull was a
native of Connecticut, born October 12,
1813. lie had first gone to Georgia,
where he taught school and studied law,
subsequently removing to Illinois. While
still a young man he became identified
with public affairs in that State. He was
successively a member of the legislature,
Secretary of State, Judge of the Supreme
Court, and in 1854 was elected represen-
tative in Congress.

Though a Democrat in politics, like
many others of his party throughout the
North he was strongly opposed to the re-
peal of the Missouri Compromise, which
was involved in the bill for the Territorial
organization of Kansas and Nebraska,
proposed and advocated by Senator Doug-
las, through whose efforts and influence
it was enacted. So great was the defec-
tion in the Democratic party in the North
because of the passage of the bill that in
1854, the year of its enactment, the oppo-
sition, comprising the "Free Soilers," the
Whigs in greater part, and the "Anti-
Nebraska" Democrats, triumphed over the

regular Democracy in the fall elections.
In Illinois for the first time since the or-
ganization of the Democratic party it lost
control of the legislature, and opportunity
was given for the defeat of General James
Shields, who sought reelection to the
United States Senate at the expiration of
his term in 1855.

The "Anti-Nebraska" majority in the
joint session of the legislature was very
small, and none of the constituent parties
alone held control, but the Whigs were
greatly preponderant, and they hoped and
sought the election of their candidate,
Abraham Lincoln. Lyman Trumbull
was the candidate favored by the Anti-
Nebraska Democrats, who numbered only
five. On the first ballot Lincoln received
45 votes. Shields 41, Trumbull 5, and
there were 8 scattering votes; in succeed-
ing ballots Lincoln's vote fell to 15,
Trumbull's rose to 35, and Shields having
been withdrawn, Governor Matteson, who
was substituted, received 47. The origi-
nal supporters of Trumbull persistently
declined to vote for Lincoln or for any
Whig; the fifteen Whigs "would never
desert Lincoln except by his direction."
Perceiving the probability that protraction
of the struggle would result in the elec-
tion of Matteson, Lincoln decided upon
action which is best described in his own
language, quoted from his letter written
February 9, 1855, to the Hon. E. B. Wash-
burne, a member of Congress from Illi-
nois. "So I determined to strike at once,
and accordingly advised my remaining
friends to go for him [Trumbull], which
they did, and elected him on the tenth bal-



lot. Such is the way the thing was done.
I think you would have done the same un-
der the circumstances, though Judge Davis
[subsequently Associate Justice of the Su-
preme Court of the United States, and
still later Senator from Illinois], who
came down this morning, declares he never
would have consented to the forty-seven
men being controlled by the five. I re-
gret my defeat moderately, but I am not
nervous about it . . . and his [Matte-
son's] defeat now gives me more pleasure
than my own gives me pain. On the
whole, it is perhaps as well for our general
cause that Trumbull is elected. The Ne-
braska men confess that they hate it worse
than anything that could have happened.
It is a great consolation to see them worse
whipped than I am."

After events fully justified Lincoln's
surmise, and even more. It was better
that Trumbull was elected, for if Lincoln
had been, it is not probable that he would
have been chosen for the Presidency in
i860. His friends, however, were sorely
disappointed by his defeat, and long cher-
ished resentment and distrust of Trum-
bull, and of Judd, Cook, Palmer, Baker,
and Allen, the five men whose adherence
to Trumbull compelled his election. Lin-
coln was not animated by such feelings,
and these men became his stanch friends
and supporters, and were active in the
formation of the Republican party, in
which the several Anti-Nebraska factions
were united. Norman B. Judd as Chair-
man of the Republican State Committee
of Illinois was most effective in his advo-
cacy of Lincoln's nomination for the
Presidency. John M. Palmer achieved
high distinction during the war of 1861-
65, in which he attained the rank of
major-general and the command of the
14th Army Corps. Later he was elected
Governor of his State and United States
Senator; and by his acceptance of the
nomination as a candidate for the Presi-
dency in 1896, he showed the same devo-
tion to principle that led him to quit his
party in 1854, when its action was repug-
nant to his sense of right.

On the 1 6th of June, 1858, the Republi-
can State Convention unanimously named
Lincoln as "the first and only choice of
the Republicans of Illinois for the United
States Senate as the successor of Stephen
A. Douglas," who was seeking reelection;

and in the fall of that year occurred the
memorable debate between the opposing
candidates. Though Lincoln had the
majority of the popular vote in the ensu-
ing election, Douglas controlled the
legislature and was reelected, a result
due mainly to the system of apportion-
ment of the legislative districts against
which Lincoln frequently protested, and
the rectification of which he considered of
the utmost importance.

This second defeat of Lincoln's aspira-
tion for the senatorship led his friends to
doubt the loyalty of Trumbull and his
supporters, who had been Democrats, and
to look forward to the expiration of his
senatorial term with intent to elect Lin-
coln in his stead. With this doubt and
this purpose Lincoln had no sympathy,
and he gave Trumbull assurance of his be-
lief that the senator and his friends had
heartily supported Lincoln in the recent
contest, and further that he desired Trum-
bull's reelection, warning him, however,
of the danger of affording Lincoln's friends
any additional ground for suspicion of
Trumbull's devotion to their leader.

The complications and controversies
that resulted from the legislation for
Kansas and the conduct of affairs there,
led to antagonism between Senator Doug-
las and President Buchanan; Northern
sympathy was largely with Douglas, and
many Republicans outside of Illinois were
disposed to favor his reelection to the
Senate as an effectual rebuke to the ad-
ministration. Among these was Horace
Greeley, editor of the "New York Trib-
une," whose approval of Douglas aroused
Lincoln's indignation. The plausible doc-
trine of "Popular Sovereignty" advocated
by Douglas won the favor of many who
had hitherto opposed him; but Lincoln
saw the fallacy of the scheme and during
the memorable debates denounced it vig-
orously, and in the Republican platform
of i860 the doctrine was declared "a
deception and a fraud." In theory "Pop-
ular Sovereignty" claimed for the people
of the Territories the same rights regard-
ing slavery that were possessed by the
States, while virtually, under the princi-
ples enunciated in the Dred Scott decision,
the people could not exclude slavery.

Beyond a few notes the following let-
ters (including two from Trumbull to
Lincoln) require no further explanation.



"Springfield, June 7, 1S56
*'HoN. Lyman Trumbull

"My dear Sir: The news of Buchan-
an's nomination came yesterday; and a
good many Whigs, of conservative feel-
ings, and slight pro-slavery proclivities,
vv^ithal, are inclining to go for him, and
will do it, unless the Anti-Nebraska nom-
ination shall be such as to divert them —
The man to effect that object is Judge
McLean ; and his nomination would save
every Whig, except such as have already
gone over hook and line, as Singleton,
Morrison, Constable, & others — J. T.
Stuart, Anthony Thornton, James M.
Davis (the old settler) and others like
them, will heartily go for McLean,^ but
will every one go for Buchanan, as against
Chase, Banks, Seward, Blair or Fremont

— I think they would stand Blair or
Fremont for Vice-President — but not
more —

"Now there is a grave question to be
considered. Nine tenths of the Anti-
Nebraska votes have to come from old
Whigs — In setting stakes, is it safe to to-
tally disregard them? Can we possibly
win, if we do so? So far they have been
disregarded — I need not point out the in-
stances —

" I think I may trust you to believe I do
not say this on my own personal account

— I am in, and shall go for any one
nominated unless he be 'platformed' ex-
pressly, or impliedly, on some ground
which I may think wrong — Since the
nomination of Bissell ^ we are in good trim
in Illinois, save at the point I have indi-
cated — If we can save pretty nearly all
the Whigs, we shall elect him, I think, by
a very large majority —

"I address this to you, because your in-
fluence in the Anti-Nebraska nomination
will be greater than that of any other II-
linoian [sic] —

"Let this be confidential,
"Yours very truly

"A. Lincoln."

"Springfield, Aug: 1 1. 1856
"Hon: L. Trumbull:

"My dear Sir: I have just returned
from speaking at Paris and Grandview in
Edgar County— & Charleston and Shelby-

1 Judge John McLean, Associate Justice of the Supreme
Court of the United States. With Justice Curtis he dissented
from the majority of the court in the Dred Scott decision.

ville, in Coles and Shelby counties— Our
whole trouble along there has been &
is Fillmoreism— It loosened considerably
during the week, not under my preaching,
but under the election returns from Mo.
Ky. Ark. & N. C. I think we shall ulti-
mately get all the Fillmore men, who are
really anti-slavery extension— the rest
will probably go to Buchanan where
they rightfully belong; if they do not, so
much the better for us— The great diffi-
culty with anti-slavery extension Fillmore
men, is that they suppose Fillmore as good
as Fremont on that question ; and it is a
delicate point to argue them out of it,
they are so ready to think you are abusing
Mr. Fillmore—

"Mr. Conkling showed me a letter of
yours, from which I infer you will not be
in Ills, till nth Sept— -

" But for that I was going to write you
to make appointments at Paris, Charles-
ton, Shelbyville, Hillsboro, &c — immedi-
ately after the adjournment — They were
tolerably well satisfied with my work
along there; but they believe with me,
that you can touch some points that I can
not; and they are very anxious to have
you do it —

"Yours as ever

"A. Lincoln."

"Chicago, Nov. 30. 1857.
"Hon: Lyman Trumbull.

"Dear Sir: Herewith you find dupli-
cates of a notice which I wish to be served
upon the Miss. French, or now Mrs.
Gray, who married the late Franklin C.
Gray — You understand what person I
mean — Please hand her one copy, and
note on the other that you have done so,
the date of service, and your signature &
return it to me at Springfield —

"What think you of the probable
^rumpus' among the Democracy over the
Kansas Constitution? I think the Re-
publicans should stand clear of it — In
their view both the President and Doug-
las are wrong; and they should not
espouse the cause of either, because they
may consider the other a little the farther
wrong of the two — From what I am told
here, Douglas tried, before leaving, to
draw off some Republicans on this dodge,

2 William H. Bissell, Colonel 2d Illinois Regiment in
the War with Mexico, member of Congress, Governor



and even succeeded in making some im-
pression on one or two —

"Yours very truly,

"A. Lincoln—"

"Springfield. Dec. i8. 1857
"Hon: L. Trumbull:

"Dear Sir: Yours of the 7th telling me
that Mrs. Gray is in Washington,
reached [me] last night —

"Herewith I return the notices which I
will thank you to serve and return as be-
fore requested —

"This notice is not required by law;
and I am giving it merely because I think
fairness requires it —

"Nearly all the Democrats here stick to
Douglas; but they are hobbling along
with the idea that there is no split be-
tween him and Buchanan— Accordingly
they indulge the most extravagant eulo-
gies on B., & his message; and insist that
he has not indorsed the Lecompton Con-
stitution —

" I wish not to tax your time ; but when
you return the notice, I shall be glad to
have your general view of the then pres-
ent aspect of affairs —

"Yours very truly

"A. Lincoln"

"Bloomington, Dec. 28. 1857 —
"Hon. Lyman Trumbull.

"Dear Sir: What does the 'New York
Tribune' mean by its constant eulogising,
and admiring, and magnifying Douglas?
Does it, in this, speak the sentiments of
the Republicans at Washington ? Have they
concluded that the Republican cause, gen-
erall}', can be best promoted by sacrificing
us here in Illinois? If so we would like
to know it soon ; it will save us a great
deal of labor to surrender at once —

"As yet I have heard of no Republican
here going over to Douglas; but if the
'Tribune' continues to din his praises into
the ears of its five or ten thousand Re-
publican readers in Illinois, it is more
than can be hoped that all will stand
firm —

"I am not complaining — I only wish a
fair understanding — Please write me at
Springfield —

"Your Obt Servt.

"A. Lincoln—"

1 Wentworth familiarly known as " Long John " because of his height — six feet, seven inches. Journalist, member
of Congress 1843-51, 1853-55, 1865-67 j Mayor of Chicago in 1857, and again in i860.

"Springfield, June 23, 1858
"Hon. Lyman Trumbull

"My dear Sir: Your letter of the i6th
reached me only yesterday — We had al-
ready seen, by telegraph, a report of
Douglas' general onslaught upon every
body but himself — I have this morning
seen the 'Washington Union,' in which I
think the Judge is rather worsted in re-
gard to that onslaught —

"In relation to the charge of an alli-
ance between the Republicans and Bu-
chanan men in this State, if being rather
pleased to see a division in the ranks of
the Democracy, and not doing anything to
prevent it, be such alliance, then there is
such alliance — at least that is true of me
— But if it be intended to charge that
there is any alliance by which there is to
be any concession of principle on either
side, or furnishing of the sinews, or parti-
tion of offices, or swopping of votes, to
any extent; or the doing of anything,
great or small, on the one side, for a con-
sideration, express or implied, on the
other, no such thing is true so far as I
know or believe —

"Before this reaches you, you will have
seen the proceedings of our Republican
State Convention — It was really a grand
affair, and was, in all respects, all that our
friends could desire —

"The resolution in effect nominating
me for Senator I suppose was passed more
for the object of closing down upon this
everlasting croaking about Wentworth ^
than anything else —

"The signs look reasonably well — Our
State ticket, I think, will be elected with-
out much difficulty — But, with the ad-
vantages they have of us, we shall be very
hard run to carry the- Legislature —

"We shall greet your return home with
great pleasure —

"Yours very truly

"A. Lincoln."

"Springfield, J any 2Q. 1859
"Hon: L. Trumbull

"Dear Sir: I have just received your
late speech, in pamphlet form, sent me by
yourself — I had seen, and read it, before,
in a newspaper; and I really think it is a
capital one —

"When you can find leisure, write me



your present impressions of Douglas'
movements — Our friends here from dif-
ferent parts of the State, in and out of the
Legislature, are united, resolute, and de-
termined ; and I think it is almost certain
that we shall be far better organized for
i860 than ever before —

"We shall get no just apportionment;
and the best we can do, (if we can even
do that) is to prevent one being made
worse than the present —

"Yours as ever

"A. Lincoln — "

Washington, Jany. 28, 1859.

Hon. a. Lincoln,

My Dear Sir, I have been shown the copy of
an article said to have been prepared by Col.
John Wentworth for publication in the " Chi-
cago Journal," the object of which evidently
is to stir up bad feeling between Republicans
who were formerly Whigs & those who were
Democrats, & more especially to create prej-
udice against myself & the Democratic portion
of the party — The article is an insiduous
one & well calculated to do mischief with
those who do not understand facts as well as
vou & I do — It contains a number of state-
ments utterly false but mixed up with others
which are true & so colored as to give an en-
tirely wrong impression to the uninformed
reader — The article professes to be a justi-
fication by Charles Wilson. Esq. for having
nominated you as a candidate for Senator in
the Republican Convention, but this is a
mere pretense to get at something else — It
seems that Wilson refused to publish the
article, but the substance of it will probably
be published in some way by its author —

I hope you have seen it, if not I will
furnish you a copy. It is a despicably mean
thing and just such an act as it would take a
man of Wentworth [sic] reputed character
to be guilty of — I never had much to do
with Wentworth & really know personally
but little about him, but it is right that friends
like you & I should not permit any person
whatever his motive to stir up unfounded
suspicions & bad feelings between our
friends, & to prevent it effectually it is only
necessary that we see they are not imposed
upon by designing mischief making persons.
It needs no assurance from me, to satisfy you
of the entire good faith with which Messrs.
Judd, Cook, & others as well as myself who
are assailed in this article worked for your

1 Graham N. Fitch, Senator from Indiana, a Democrat

success in the late canvass — I am so con-
stituted as to be incapable of practicing dis-
guise & deceit if I would & now write you
with that frankness & candor which is so
characteristic of your course towards every-

The Democracy here are very much de-
moralized & broken down. They are at-
tempting to get up a new issue on the Cuba
question. What think you of that matter ?
Of course we Republicans can never consent
to putting thirty millions in the hands of
Buchanan m the present state of things, but
can our opponents gain anything by the at-
tempt which they will make to put themselves
for & us against the acquisition of Cuba — I
am inclined not to place myself against Cuba
under any & all contingencies, but against
this foolish, & unjust attempt to acquire her
at this time — Douglas looks badly & is not
the big man in the Senate he was two years
ago — The Fitch ^ matter I think has damaged
him with the shoulder hitters & [rowdies ? ]^
his chief supporters —

Truly yours

L. Trumbull.

"Springfield, Feb. 3. 1859
"Hon. L. Trumbull

"My dear Sir: Yours of the 29th is re-
ceived — The article mentioned by you,
prepared for the 'Chicago Journal,' I have
not seen ; nor do I wish to see it, though I
heard of it a month, or more, ago — Any
effort to put enmity between you and
me, is as idle as the wind — I do not
for a moment doubt that you, Judd, Cook,
Palmer, and the Republicans generally,
coming from the old Democratic ranks,
were as sincerely anxious for my suc-
cess in the late contest, as I myself, and
the old Whig Republicans were — And I
beg to assure you, beyond all possible
cavil, that you can scarcely be more anx-
ious to be sustained two years hence than
I am that you shall be so sustained — I can
not conceive it possible for me to be a ri-
val of yours, or to take sides against you
in favor of any rival — Nor do I think
there is much danger of the old Demo-
cratic and Whig elements of our party
breaking into opposing factions — They
certainly shall not, if I can prevent it.

"I do not perceive that there is any
feeling here about Cuba; and so I think,
you can safely venture to act upon your

opposed to Douglas. 2 Uncertain as to thit word.



own judgment upon any phase of it which
may be presented —

"The H. R.^ passed an apportionment
bill yesterday— slightly better for [us]
than the present in the Senate districts;
but perfectly outrageous in the H. R. dis-
tricts — It can be defeated without any
revolutionary movement, unless the ses-
sion be prolonged.

"Yours as ever

"A. Lincoln"

"Springfield, Nov. 28, 1859
"Hon. L. Trumbull.

"My dear Sir: Yours of the 23rd is re-
ceived — I agree with you entirely about
the contemplated election of Forney ^ —
Nothing could be more short-sighted than
to place so strong a man as Forney in
position to keep Douglas on foot — I
know nothing of Forney personally ; but I
would put no man in position to help our
enemies in the point of our hardest
strain —

"There is nothing new here — I have
written merely to give my view about
this Forney business.

"Yours as ever

"A. Lincoln"

"Springfield, Dec. 25, 1859
"Hon. Lyman Trumbull

"Dear Sir: About the 15th by direction
of Mr. Judd, I sent a letter and inclosures
to him, addressed to your care ; and I have
not yet learned whether he received it —

"I have carefully read your speech; and
I judge that, by the interruptions, it came
out a much better speech than you ex-
pected to make when you began — It
really is an excellent one, many of the
points being most admirably made —

"I was in the inside of the Post-Office
last evening when a mail came bringing a
considerable number of your documents;
and the Post-Master said to me 'These
will be put in the boxes, and half will
never be called for; If Trumbull would
send them to me I would distribute a hun-
dred to where he will get ten distributed
this way' —

1 House of Representatives of the Illinois legislature.

2 John W. Forney strenuously supported Douglas in
his opposition to the Kansas policy of President Buchanan,
was clerk of the National House of Representatives in
1851-55, and again in 1859. He became an ardent

"I said, 'shall I write this to Trum-
bull?' — He replied 'If you choose you
may' — I believe he was sincere; but you
will judge of that for yourself —
"Yours as ever

"A. Lincoln"

"Springfield, Mar. 16, i860
"Hon: L. Trumbull

"My dear Sir: When I first saw by the
despatches that Douglas had run from the
Senate while you were speaking I did not
quite understand it; but seeing by the re-
port that you were cramming down his
throat that infernal stereotyped lie of his
about 'negro equality' the thing became
plain —

"Another matter — Our friend Dela-
hay ^ wants to be one of the Senators from
Kansas — Certainly it is not for outsiders
to obtrude their interference — Dela-
hay has suffered a great deal in our cause,
and been very faithful to it, as I under-
stand — He writes me that some of the
members of the Kansas Legislature have
written you in a way that your simple
answer might help him — I wish you
would consider whether you can not as-
sist him that far, without impropriety — I
know it is a delicate matter ; and I do not
wish to press you beyond your own judg-
ment —

"Yours as ever

"A. Lincoln—"

"Chicago, March 26, i860
"Hon: L. Trumbull

"My dear Sir: They are having a des-
perate struggle in Connecticut * ; and it


Online LibraryAbraham LincolnA Lincoln correspondence [twenty-two letters of historical interest here published for the first time] → online text (page 1 of 2)