Lincoln's Life in Letters:
1860 Campaign

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Private & confidential

Springfield, Ills. Oct. 27. 1860

Geo. T. M. Davis, Esq

My dear Sir:
     Mr Dubois has shown me your letter of the 20th; and I promised him to write you– What is it I could say which would quiet alarm? Is it that no interference by the government, with slaves or slavery within the states, is intended? I have said this so often already, that a repetition of it is but mockey, bearing an appearance of weakness, and cowardice, which perhaps should be avoided–
     Why do not uneasy men read what I have already said? and what our platform says? If they will not read, or heed, then, would they read, or heed, a repetition of them? Of course the

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declaration that there is no intention to interfere with slaves or slavery, in the states, with all that is fairly implied in such declaration, is true; and I should have no objection to make, and repeat the declaration a thousand times, if there were no danger of encouraging bold bad men to believe they are dealing with one who can be scared into anything–
     I have some reason to believe the Sub-National Committee, at the Astor House, may be considering this question; and if their judgment should be different from mine, mine might be modified by theirs–

Yours very truly
A. Lincoln.

Lincoln's Platform 

The national slavery debate peaked with Lincoln’s 1860 presidential campaign. He ran against three other candidates—two from the fracturing Democratic Party and one from the “Constitutional Union” party specifically focused on fostering sectional compromise. Lincoln and the Republicans ran on a platform of preventing slavery’s expansion, but opponents frequently accused them of being abolitionists seeking slavery’s immediate end.

In this letter, candidate Lincoln walks a fine line to resist being characterized as an abolitionist. He notes that he has never publicly called for the immediate end of slavery, nor was it included in the Republican Party platform. While this surely persuaded some moderate Northerners, many white Southerners remained committed to preventing a Republican administration from ever assuming the presidency. With Lincoln’s election, secessionists made good on their promise to treasonously try to form an independent, slaveholding nation.


A crowd of Lincoln supporters gather at his home during the 1860 election.
Republican supporters called Wide Awakes march for Lincoln in New York.
Courtesy of the Library of Congress.
Abraham Lincoln poses for a photograph only days after receiving the Republican presidential nomination.
A Lincoln-Hamlin campaign pin. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

The Lincoln Family

Emancipation

Gettysburg Address

Mary Lincoln


The documents highlighted in this exhibit are all drawn from our own collection. The originals are in our vault and the images were created by our Papers of Abraham Lincoln project. To see more documents written to and by Lincoln from all over the world, please visit www.papersofabrahamlincoln.org. If you have a Lincoln document, or know someone who does, please reach out to us. We are always looking for new discoveries.

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