Lincoln’s Weighs His Options



This letter finds Abraham Lincoln at a critical moment in his political career. The Kansas-Nebraska Act had passed Congress only months earlier, heightening the political crisis over slavery’s westward expansion and motivating Lincoln to once again actively campaign for office. His Whig Party was collapsing, but a new coalition was forming that would eventually become the Republican Party.

Here, Lincoln has just begun dipping his toe in the political water, having won election to the Illinois legislature but eyeing bigger things. As he informs political ally Elihu N. Powell, Lincoln declined his Illinois House seat because it would have made him ineligible for the United States Senate—Lincoln’s true goal. He then unsuccessfully ran for Senate twice, which included the 1858 campaign against Stephen A. Douglas that catapulted Lincoln to the leadership of the Republican Party and eventually the presidency.

Gift of Guy C. Fraker, 2021



Springfield, Nov. 27, 1854

E. N. Powell, Esq

My dear Sir:
Acting on your advice, and my own judgement, I have declined accepting the office of Representative of this county. I only allowed myself to be elected, because it was supposed my doing so would help Yates. Things look reasonably well; but I fear some will insist on a platform, which I can not stand upon.
Please write me again when you discover any thing worth writing about.

Yours as ever
A. Lincoln.

P. S. Can I venture to write directly to Dr Arnold?

A. L.


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