Political Life Case C

MS-1856-07-07 – Lincoln to Davis disappointed but hopeful about Lovejoy’s election

Lincoln Still Walking the Tightrope

In 1856, Abraham Lincoln and his new Republican Party were still concerned about being too closely associated with abolitionists. Unlike the Whigs, Republicans made the extension of slavery a pillar of their platform but believed this must be achieved within the confines of the law. Because some abolitionists advocated more radical measures, many Republicans considered them problematic allies.

That is why Lincoln writes here that Owen Lovejoy’s nomination as a Republican candidate for Congress “turned me blind.” Lovejoy’s brother Elijah was an abolitionist newspaper editor in Alton who had been lynched and murdered in 1837 by a proslavery mob. Owen vowed to continue his brother’s work and campaigned on an abolitionist platform—making Lincoln and other Republicans nervous he would make them appear too radical. They were wrong. Lovejoy won the Congressional seat and held it for the rest of his life—supporting Lincoln’s 1858 senatorial and 1860 presidential campaigns.

Gift of the Heirs of David Davis III, 1984

Label Audio

Abraham Lincoln to David Davis, 7 July 1856

Springfield, July 7. 1856

Dear Judge:

When I heard that Swett was beaten, and Lovejoy nominated, it turned me blind–I was, by invitation, on my way to Princeton; and I really thought of turning back–However, on reaching that region, and seeing the people there— their great enthusiasm for Lovejoy— considering the activity they will carry into the contest with him— and their great disappointment, if he should now be torn from them, I really think it best to let the matter stand– It is not my business to advise in the case; and if it were, I am not sure I am capable of giving the best advice; but I know, saying what I do, will not be offensive to you– Show this to Gridley and other friends, or not, just as you may judge whether it do good or harm–

Yours as ever

A. Lincoln–



Document Date: 07/XX/1856

docketing Author: Davis, David

docketing Order: 1

A. Lincoln.

Recd[Received] & ansd[answered]

July 1856

Letter Audio

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