To Schuyler Colfax


Hon: Schuyler Colfax:                    Springfield, Ills, July 6, 1859.

My dear Sir: I much regret not seeing you while you were here among us. Before learning that you were to be at Jacksonville on the 4th. I had given my word to be at another place. Besides a strong desire to make your personal acquaintance, I was anxious to speak with you on politics, a little more fully than I can well do in a letter. My main object in such conversation would be to hedge against divisions in the Republican ranks generally, and particularly for the contest of 1860. The point of danger is the temptation in different localities to “platform” for something which will be popular just there, but which, nevertheless, will be a firebrand elsewhere, and especially in a National convention. As instances, the movement against foreigners in Massachusetts; in New-Hampshire, to make obedience to the Fugitive Slave law, punishable as a crime; in Ohio, to repeal the Fugitive Slave law; and squatter sovereignty in Kansas. In these things there is explosive matter enough to blow up half a dozen national conventions, if it gets into them; and what gets very rife outside of conventions is very likely to find it’s way into them. What is desirable, if possible, is that in every local convocation of Republicans, a point should be made to avoid everything which will distract republicans elsewhere. Massachusetts republicans should have looked beyond their noses; and then they could not have failed to see that tilting against foreigners would ruin us in the whole North-West. New-Hampshire and Ohio should forbear tilting against the Fugitive Slave law in such way as [to] utterly overwhelm us in Illinois with the charge of enmity to the constitution itself. Kansas, in her confidence that she can be saved to freedom on “squatter sovereignty”—ought not to forget that to prevent the spread and nationalization of slavery is a national concern, and must be attended to by the nation. In a word, in every locality we should look beyond our noses; and at least say nothing on points where it is probable we shall disagree.

I write this for your eye only; hoping however that if you see danger as I think I do, you will do what you can to avert it. Could not suggestions be made to the leading men in the State and congressional conventions; and so avoid, to some extent at least, these apples of discord?

Yours very truly



To Nathan Sargent


Hon. Nathan Sargent.                    Springfield, Ills.
My dear Sir                                   June 23, 1859

Your very acceptable letter of the 13th. was duly received. Of course I would be pleased to see all the elements of opposition united for the approaching contest of 1860; but I confess I have not much hope of seeing it. You state a platform for such union in these words “Opposition to the opening of the Slave-trade; & eternal hostility to the rotten democracy.” You add, by way of comment “I say, if the republicans would be content with this, there will be no obstacle to a union of the opposition. But this should be distinctly understood, before Southern men are asked to join them in a National convention” Well, I say such a platform, unanamously adopted by a National convention, with two of the best men living placed upon it as candidates, would probably carry Maryland, and would certainly not carry a single other state. It would gain nothing in the South, and lose every thing in the North. Mr. Goggin has just been beaten in Virginia on just such a platform. Last year the Republicans of Illinois cast 125-000 votes; on such a platform as yours they can not cast as many by 50.000. You could not help perceiving this, if you would but reflect that the republican party is utterly pow[er]less everywhere, if it will, by any means, drive from it all those who came to it from the democracy for the sole object of preventing the spread, and nationalization of slavery. Whenever this object is waived by the organization, they will drop the organization; and the organization itself will dissolve into thin air. Your platform proposes to allow the spread, and nationalization of slavery to proceed without let or hindrance, save only that it shall not receive supplies directly from Africa. Surely you do not seriously believe the Republicans can come to any such terms.

From the passage of the Nebraska-bill up to date, the Southern opposition have constantly sought to gain an advantage over the rotten democcracy, by running ahead of them in extreme opposition to, and vilifacation and misrepresentation of black republicans. It will be a good deal, if we fail to remember this in malice, (as I hope we shall fail to remember it;) but it is altogether too much to ask us to try to stand with them on the platform which has proved altogether insufficient to sustain them alone.

If the rotten democracy shall be beaten in 1860, it has to be done by the North; no human invention can deprive them of the South. I do not deny that there are as good men in the South as the North; and I guess we will elect one of them if he will allow us to do so on Republican ground. I think there can be no other ground of Union. For my single self I would be willing to risk some Southern men without a platform; but I am satisfied that is not the case with the Republican party generally.

Yours very truly


To Salmon P. Chase


Hon. S. P. Chase                        Springfield, Ills.
My dear Sir                            June 20. 1859

Yours of the 13th. Inst. is received. You say you would be glad to have my views. Although I think congress has constitutional authority to enact a Fugitive Slave law, I have never elaborated an opinion upon the subject. My view has been, and is, simply this: The U.S. constitution says the fugitive slave “shall be delivered up” but it does not expressly say who shall deliver him up. Whatever the constitution says “shall be done” and has omitted saying who shall do it, the government established by that constitution, ex vi termini, is vested with the power of doing; and congress is, by the constitution, expressly empowered to make all laws which shall be necesary and proper for carrying into execution all powers vested by the constitution in the government of the United States. This would be my view, on a simple reading of the constitution; and it is greatly strengthened by the historical fact that the constitution was adopted, in great part, in order to get a government which could execute it’s own behests, in contradistinction to that under the Articles of confederation, which depended, in many respects, upon the States, for its’ execution; and the other fact that one of the earliest congresses, under the constitution, did enact a Fugitive Slave law.

But I did not write you on this subject, with any view of discussing the constitutional question. My only object was to impress you with what I believe is true, that the introduction of a proposition for repeal of the Fugitive Slave law, into the next Republican National convention, will explode the convention and the party. Having turned your attention to the point, I wish to do no more.

Yours very truly


See June 9, 1859.

To Samuel Galloway

June 19, 1860

Especially Confidential
Hon: Saml. Galloway: Springfield, Ills.

My dear Sir

Your very kind letter of the 15th. is received. Messrs. Follett, Foster & Co’s Life of me is not by my authority; and I have scarcely been so much astounded by anything, as by their public announcement that it is authorized by me. They have fallen into some strange misunderstanding. I certainly knew they contemplated publishing a biography, and I certainly did not object to their doing so, upon their own responsibility. I even took pains to facilitate them. But, at the same time, I made myself tiresome, if not hoarse, with repeating to Mr. Howard, their only agent seen by me, my protest that I authorized nothing—would be responsible for nothing. How, they could so misunderstand me, passes comprehension. As a matter, wholly my own, I would authorize no biography, without time, and opertunity to carefully examine and consider every word of it; and, in this case, in the nature of things, I can have no such time and opertunity. But, in my present position, when, by the lessons of the past, and the united voice of all discreet friends, I am neither [to] write or speak a word for the public, how dare I to send forth, by my authority, a volume of hundreds of pages, for adversaries to make points upon without end. Were I to do so, the convention would have a right to reassemble, and substitute another name for mine.

For these reasons, I would not look at the proof sheets. I am determined to maintain the position of truly saying I never saw the proof sheets, or any part of their work, before it’s publication.

Now, do not mistake me. I feel great kindness for Messrs. F. F. & Co—do not think they have intentionally done wrong. There may be nothing wrong in their proposed book. I sincerely hope there will not. I barely suggest that you, or any of the friends there, on the party account, look it over, & exclude what you may think would embarrass the party—bearing in mind, at all times, that I authorize nothing—will be responsible for nothing.

Your friend, as ever


To Carl Schurz

June 18. 1860

Carl Schurz, Esq
Springfield, Ills.

My dear Sir:

Yours of May 22nd. was duly received; and now, on a careful re-perusal of it, I am much mortified that I did not attend to it at once. I fear I have no sufficient apology. I received it with multitudes of others, glanced over it too hastily to properly appreciate its’ importance, laid it by, and it passed from my mind, till Gov. Koerner mentioned it to-day. In a general bringing up of my correspondence, I perhaps should have reached it to-day.The main object of the letter—time—so far as it depended on me, is lost. I hope you have gone forward on your plan without my advice. To me it appears an excellent plan; and I have no sufficient experience to suggest any improvement of it. I think it would be desireable to have the opinion of the National committee upon it, if it can be obtained without too much loss of time.

And now, upon this bad beginning, you must not determine to write me no more; for I promise you, that no letter of yours to me, shall ever again be neglected.

I beg you to be assured that your having supported Gov. Seward, in preference to myself in the convention, is not even remembered by me for any practical purpose, or the slightest u[n]pleasant feeling. I go not back of the convention, to make distinctions among its’ members; and, to the extent of our limited acquaintance, no man stands nearer my heart than yourself.

Very truly your friend


Memorandum Concerning His Birthplace

June 14, 1860

I was born Feb. 12. 1809 in then Hardin county Kentucky, at a point within the now recently formed county of Larue, a mile, or a mile & a half from where Hodgin’sville now is. My parents being dead and my own memory not serving, I know no means of identifying the precise locality. It was on Nolin Creek.

June 14. 1860.


To Salmon P. Chase

A few days late again, I know.  This was written in 1859, after Lincoln’s defeat by Stephen Douglas for the Illinois senate seat.  The upcoming presidential election is clearly on Lincoln’s mind and this letter shows Lincoln’s growing involvement in national politics.  Salmon Chase was to become Lincoln’s Treasury Secretary.

Hon: S. P. Chase:            Springfield, Ills.
Dear Sir                            June 9. 1859

Please pardon the liberty I take in addressing you, as I now do. It appears by the papers that the late Republican State convention of Ohio adopted a Platform, of which the following is one plank, “A repeal of the atrocious Fugitive Slave Law.”

This is already damaging us here. I have no doubt that if that plank be even introduced into the next Republican National convention, it will explode it. Once introduced, its supporters and it’s opponents will quarrel irreconcilably. The latter believe the U.S. constitution declares that a fugitive slave “shall be delivered up”; and they look upon the above plank as dictated by the spirit which declares a fugitive slave “shall not be delivered up

I enter upon no argument one way or the other; but I assure you the cause of Republicanism is hopeless in Illinois, if it be in any way made responsible for that plank. I hope you can, and will, contribute something to relieve us from it.

Your Obt. Servt.