Lincoln Letter to Martin Morris, March 26, 1843
After Sangamon County Whig leaders chose to support Edward Baker over the politically ambitious Abraham Lincoln in 1843, the disappointed Lincoln began to quietly strategize. In this letter to Martin Morris of Petersburg, Lincoln wryly remarks that those who knew his humble beginnings at New Salem would be astonished that he was now “the candidate of pride, wealth, and arristocratic family distinction.” Lincoln then lays out a strategy in which counties might support different candidates and writes that if Baker should be thrown out of the fight, Lincoln will accept the nomination.
Gift of Robert Scott Terry, 2022
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Abraham Lincoln to Martin S. Morris, 26th March, 1843
Springfield, March 26th 1843–
Your letter of the 23rd was received yesterday morning; and for which, (instead of an excuse, which you though proper to ask) I tender you my sincere thanks– It is truly gratifying to me to learn, that while the people of Sangamon have cast me off, my old friends of Menard, who have known me longest and best of any, still retain their confidence in me– It would astonish, if not amuse, the older citizens of your county, who twelve years ago knew me a strange, friendless, uneducated pennyless boy, working on a flat boat at ten dollars per month, to learn that I have been put down here, as the candidate of pride, wealth, and aristocratic family distinction– Yet so, chiefly, it was– There was too, the strangest combination of church influence against me– Baker is a Campbellite, therefore I suppose, with few exceptions, got all that church– My wife has some relatives in the Presbyterian and some in the Episcopal churches; and therefore, wherever it would tell, I was set down as either the one or the other, while it was every where contended that no christian ought to go for me, because I belonged to no church, and was suspected of being a deist, and had talked about fighting a duel– With all these things Baker, of course, had nothing to do– Nor do I
complain of them– As to his own church going for him, I think that was right enough; and as to the influences I have spoken of in the others, though they were very strong, it would be grossly untrue and unjust to charge that they acted upon them in a body, or even very nearly so– I only mean that those influences levied a tax of considerable per cent upon my strength throughout the religious community– But enough of this–
You say, that in choosing a candidate for Congress you have an equal right with Sangamon; and in this you are undoubtedly correct– In agreeing to withdraw, if the whigs of Sangamon should go against me, I did not mean that they alone were worth consulting; but that if she, with her heavy delegation, should be against me, it would be impossible for me to succeed— and therefore I had as well decline– And in relation to Menard having rights, permit me to fully recognize them, and to express the opinion, that if she and Mason act circumspectly, they will, in the convention, ^be able^ so far to enforce their rights, as to decide absolutely which one of the candidates shall be successful– Let me show you the reason of this–
Hardin or some other Morgan candidate will get Morgan, Scott & Cass— 14– Baker has Sangamon already; and he, or he and some one else, not the Morgan man, will get Putnam Marshall, Woodford, Tazewell & Logan, which with Sangamon make 16– Then you & Mason having three, can give the victory to either side–
You say you shall instruct your delegates to go for me unless I object– I certainly shall not object– That would ^be^ too pleasant a compliment for me to tread in the dust– And besides, if any thing should happen (which however is not probable) that ^by which^ Baker should be thrown out of the fight, I would be at liberty to acceptance the nomination if I could get it– I do however feel myself bound not to hinder him in any way from getting the nomination– I should despise myself, were I to attempt it– I think then, that it would be proper for your meeting to appoint there delegates, and instruct them to go for some one as a first choice, some one else as a second choice, and perhaps, some one as a third— and if in those instructions I were named as the first choice, it would gratify me very much. If you wish to hold the ballance of power, it is important for you to attend to, and secure the vote of Mason also– You should be sure to have men appointed delegates, that you know
you can safely confide in– If yourself and James Short were appointed for your county; ^all would be safe^ but whether Jim’s woman affair a year ago, might not be in the way of his appointment, is a question– I dont know whether you know it, but I know him to be as honorable a man as there is in the world– You have my permission, and even request, to show this letter to Short; but to no one else, unless it be a very particular friend who you know will not speak of it–
Yours as ever
P.. S. Will you write me again?