The Writings of Abraham Lincoln Vol. 1-7

In the contingency of his removal, however, I have recommended
William Butler as his successor, and I do not wish what I write
now to be taken as any abatement of that recommendation.

William J. Black is also an applicant for the appointment, and I
write this at the solicitation of his friends to say that he is
every way worthy of the office, and that I doubt not the
conferring it upon him will give great satisfaction.

Your ob’t servant,



SPRINGFIELD, December 15. 1854


DEAR SIR:–Yours of the 11th was received last night, and for
which I thank you. Of course I prefer myself to all others; yet
it is neither in my heart nor my conscience to say I am any
better man than Mr. Williams. We shall have a terrible struggle
with our adversaries. They are desperate and bent on desperate
deeds. I accidentally learned of one of the leaders here writing
to a member south of here, in about the following language:

We are beaten. They have a clean majority of at least nine, on
joint ballot. They outnumber us, but we must outmanage them.
Douglas must be sustained. We must elect the Speaker; and we
must elect a Nebraska United States Senator, or elect none at
all.” Similar letters, no doubt, are written to every Nebraska
member. Be considering how we can best meet, and foil, and beat
them. I send you, by mail, a copy of my Peoria speech. You may
have seen it before, or you may not think it worth seeing now.

Do not speak of the Nebraska letter mentioned above; I do not
wish it to become public, that I received such information.

Yours truly,





SPRINGFIELD, February 9, 1855


I began with 44 votes, Shields 41, and Trumbull 5,–yet Trumbull
was elected. In fact 47 different members voted for me,–getting
three new ones on the second ballot, and losing four old ones.
How came my 47 to yield to Trumbull’s 5? It was Governor
Matteson’s work. He has been secretly a candidate ever since
(before, even) the fall election.

All the members round about the canal were Anti-Nebraska, but
were nevertheless nearly all Democrats and old personal friends
of his. His plan was to privately impress them with the belief
that he was as good Anti-Nebraska as any one else–at least could
be secured to be so by instructions, which could be easily

The Nebraska men, of course, were not for Matteson; but when they
found they could elect no avowed Nebraska man, they tardily
determined to let him get whomever of our men he could, by
whatever means he could, and ask him no questions.

The Nebraska men were very confident of the election of Matteson,
though denying that he was a candidate, and we very much
believing also that they would elect him. But they wanted first
to make a show of good faith to Shields by voting for him a few
times, and our secret Matteson men also wanted to make a show of
good faith by voting with us a few times. So we led off. On the
seventh ballot, I think, the signal was given to the Nebraska men
to turn to Matteson, which they acted on to a man, with one
exception. . . Next ballot the remaining Nebraska man and one
pretended Anti went over to him, giving him 46. The next still
another, giving him 47, wanting only three of an election. In
the meantime our friends, with a view of detaining our expected
bolters, had been turning from me to Trumbull till he had risen
to 35 and I had been reduced to 15. These would never desert me
except by my direction; but I became satisfied that if we could
prevent Matteson’s election one or two ballots more, we could not
possibly do so a single ballot after my friends should begin to
return to me from Trumbull. So I determined to strike at once,
and accordingly advised my remaining friends to go for him, which
they did and elected him on the tenth ballot.

Such is the way the thing was done. I think you would have done
the same under the circumstances.

I could have headed off every combination and been elected, had
it not been for Matteson’s double game–and his 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 Nebraska 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.

Yours forever,





GENTLEMEN:–Yours of the 5th is received, as also was that of
15th Dec, last, inclosing bond of Clift to Pray. When I received
the bond I was dabbling in politics, and of course neglecting
business. Having since been beaten out I have gone to work

As I do not practice in Rushville, I to-day open a correspondence
with Henry E. Dummer, Esq., of Beardstown, Ill., with the view
of getting the job into his hands. He is a good man if he will
undertake it.

Write me whether I shall do this or return the bond to you.

Yours respectfully,



SPRINGFIELD, March 23, 1855.


MY DEAR SIR:–Your letter to Judge Logan has been shown to us by
him; and, with his consent, we answer it. When it became
probable that there would be a vacancy on the Supreme Bench,
public opinion, on this side of the river, seemed to be
universally directed to Logan as the proper man to fill it. I
mean public opinion on our side in politics, with very small
manifestation in any different direction by the other side. The
result is, that he has been a good deal pressed to allow his name
to be used, and he has consented to it, provided it can be done
with perfect cordiality and good feeling on the part of all our
own friends. We, the undersigned, are very anxious for it; and
the more so now that he has been urged, until his mind is turned
upon the matter. We, therefore are very glad of your letter,
with the information it brings us, mixed only with a regret that
we can not elect Logan and Walker both. We shall be glad, if you
will hoist Logan’s name, in your Quincy papers.

Very truly your friends,



SPRINGFIELD, June 7, 1855.


MY DEAR SIR:–Your note containing election news is received; and
for which I thank you. It is all of no use, however. Logan is
worse beaten than any other man ever was since elections were
invented–beaten more than twelve hundred in this county. It is
conceded on all hands that the Prohibitory law is also beaten.

Yours truly,




SPRINGFIELD, August 24, 1855

DEAR SPEED:–You know what a poor correspondent I am. Ever since
I received your very agreeable letter of the 22d of May, I have
been intending to write you an answer to it. You suggest that in
political action, now, you and I would differ. I suppose we
would; not quite as much, however, as you may think. You know I
dislike slavery, and you fully admit the abstract wrong of it.
So far there is no cause of difference. But you say that sooner
than yield your legal right to the slave, especially at the
bidding of those who are not themselves interested, you would see
the Union dissolved. I am not aware that any one is bidding you
yield that right; very certainly I am not. I leave that matter
entirely to yourself. I also acknowledge your rights and my
obligations under the Constitution in regard to your slaves. I
confess I hate to see the poor creatures hunted down and caught
and carried back to their stripes and unrequited toil; but I bite
my lips and keep quiet. In 1841 you and I had together a tedious
low-water trip on a steamboat from Louisville to St. Louis. You
may remember, as I well do, that from Louisville to the mouth of
the Ohio there were on board ten or a dozen slaves shackled
together with irons. That sight was a continued torment to me,
and I see something like it every time I touch the Ohio or any
other slave border. It is not fair for you to assume that I have
no interest in a thing which has, and continually exercises, the
power of making me miserable. You ought rather to appreciate how
much the great body of the Northern people do crucify their
feelings, in order to maintain their loyalty to the Constitution
and the Union. I do oppose the extension of slavery because my
judgment and feeling so prompt me, and I am under no obligations
to the contrary. If for this you and I must differ, differ we
must. You say, if you were President, you would send an army and
hang the leaders of the Missouri outrages upon the Kansas
elections; still, if Kansas fairly votes herself a slave State
she must be admitted or the Union must be dissolved. But how if
she votes herself a slave State unfairly, that is, by the very
means for which you say you would hang men? Must she still be
admitted, or the Union dissolved? That will be the phase of the
question when it first becomes a practical one. In your
assumption that there may be a fair decision of the slavery
question in Kansas, I plainly see you and I would differ about
the Nebraska law. I look upon that enactment not as a law, but
as a violence from the beginning. It was conceived in violence,
is maintained in violence, and is being executed in violence. I
say it was conceived in violence, because the destruction of the
Missouri Compromise, under the circumstances, was nothing less
than violence. It was passed in violence because it could not
have passed at all but for the votes of many members in violence
of the known will of their constituents. It is maintained in
violence, because the elections since clearly demand its repeal;
and the demand is openly disregarded.

You say men ought to be hung for the way they are executing the
law; I say the way it is being executed is quite as good as any
of its antecedents. It is being executed in the precise way
which was intended from the first, else why does no Nebraska man
express astonishment or condemnation? Poor Reeder is the only
public man who has been silly enough to believe that anything
like fairness was ever intended, and he has been bravely

That Kansas will form a slave constitution, and with it will ask
to be admitted into the Union, I take to be already a settled
question, and so settled by the very means you so pointedly
condemn. By every principle of law ever held by any court North
or South, every negro taken to Kansas is free; yet, in utter
disregard of this,–in the spirit of violence merely,–that
beautiful Legislature gravely passes a law to hang any man who
shall venture to inform a negro of his legal rights. This is the
subject and real object of the law. If, like Haman, they should
hang upon the gallows of their own building, I shall not be among
the mourners for their fate. In my humble sphere, I shall
advocate the restoration of the Missouri Compromise so long as
Kansas remains a Territory, and when, by all these foul means, it
seeks to come into the Union as a slave State, I shall oppose it.
I am very loath in any case to withhold my assent to the
enjoyment of property acquired or located in good faith; but I do
not admit that good faith in taking a negro to Kansas to be held
in slavery is a probability with any man. Any man who has sense
enough to be the controller of his own property has too much
sense to misunderstand the outrageous character of the whole
Nebraska business. But I digress. In my opposition to the
admission of Kansas I shall have some company, but we may be
beaten. If we are, I shall not on that account attempt to
dissolve the Union. I think it probable, however, we shall be
beaten. Standing as a unit among yourselves, You can, directly
and indirectly, bribe enough of our men to carry the day, as you
could on the open proposition to establish a monarchy. Get hold
of some man in the North whose position and ability is such that
he can make the support of your measure, whatever it may be, a
Democratic party necessity, and the thing is done. Apropos of
this, let me tell you an anecdote. Douglas introduced the
Nebraska Bill in January. In February afterward there was a
called session of the Illinois Legislature. Of the one hundred
members composing the two branches of that body, about seventy
were Democrats. These latter held a caucus in which the Nebraska
Bill was talked of, if not formally discussed. It was thereby
discovered that just three, and no more, were in favor of the
measure. In a day or two Douglas’s orders came on to have
resolutions passed approving the bill; and they were passed by
large majorities!!!! The truth of this is vouched for by a
bolting Democratic member. The masses, too, Democratic as well
as Whig, were even nearer unanimous against it; but, as soon as
the party necessity of supporting it became apparent, the way the
Democrats began to see the wisdom and justice of it was perfectly

You say that if Kansas fairly votes herself a free State, as a
Christian you will rejoice at it. All decent slaveholders talk
that way, and I do not doubt their candor. But they never vote
that way. Although in a private letter or conversation you will
express your preference that Kansas shall be free, you would vote
for no man for Congress who would say the same thing publicly.
No such man could be elected from any district in a slave State.
You think Stringfellow and company ought to be hung; and yet at
the next Presidential election you will vote for the exact type
and representative of Stringfellow. The slave-breeders and
slave-traders are a small, odious, and detested class among you;
and yet in politics they dictate the course of all of you, and
are as completely your masters as you are the master of your own
negroes. You inquire where I now stand. That is a disputed
point. I think I am a Whig; but others say there are no Whigs,
and that I am an Abolitionist. When I was at Washington, I voted
for the Wilmot Proviso as good as forty times; and I never heard
of any one attempting to un-Whig me for that. I now do no more
than oppose the extension of slavery. I am not a Know-Nothing;
that is certain. How could I be? How can any one who abhors the
oppression of negroes be in favor of degrading classes of white
people? Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty
rapid. As a nation we began by declaring that “all men are
created equal.” We now practically read it “all men are created
equal, except negroes.” When the Know-Nothings get control, it
will read “all men are created equal, except negroes and
foreigners and Catholics.” When it comes to this, I shall prefer
emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving
liberty,–to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken
pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy.

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