DescriptionAbraham Lincoln Autograph Letter Signed with Original Envelope with Second Free Frank Signature. Two pages, 8" x 9.75", Springfield [Illinois], July 10, 1856. Leading up to the 1856 presidential election, incumbent President Franklin Pierce failed to gain the re-nomination of his party, the Democrats (whose slogan was "Anyone but Pierce"), due in part to his support of the controversial Kansas-Nebraska Act which would allow the people of the new territories of Kansas and Nebraska to determine for themselves whether they would allow or disallow slavery to flourish within their borders. The issue divided the Democratic Party along regional lines. Instead they chose James Buchanan, foreign minister to the United Kingdom, who claimed that the Republicans were extremists and, rightly, predicted civil war if they were elected. Running on the Republican ticket, the first ever presidential candidate from that party was "The Great Pathfinder," John C. Frémont, an ardent opponent of the Kansas-Nebraska Act and slavery in general. Frémont ran under the slogan, "Free Soil, Free Men, Frémont!"
Lincoln, writing to his friend and political comrade, James Berdan (1805-1884), county judge for Morgan County, Illinois, he discusses the upcoming election and how, if they band together with the third party Know-Nothings, they can achieve a victory in Illinois against Buchanan: "I have just received your letter of yesterday; and I shall take the plan you suggest into serious consideration. I expect to go to Chicago about the 15th, and I will then confer with other friends upon the subject. A union of our strength, to be effected in some way, is indispensable to our carrying the State against Buchanan. The inherent obstacle to any plan of union, lies in the fact that of those germans which we now have with us, large numbers will fall away, so soon as it is seen that their votes, cast with us, may possibly be used to elevate Mr. Filmore [sic]." Running for the American Party, also known as the Know-Nothing Party, was former President Millard Fillmore. The Know-Nothings remained neutral on the slavery issue, focusing their ire on Roman Catholics, both native and immigrant, and the Irish and German immigrants streaming into the country.
But Lincoln had a plan. "If this inherent difficulty were out of the way," he says, "one small improvement on your plan occurs to me. It is this. Let Fremont and Filmore [sic] men unite on one entire ticket, with the understanding that that ticket, if elected, shall cast the vote of the State, for whichever of the two shall be known to have received the larger number of electoral votes, in the other states. This plan has two advantages. It carries the electoral vote of the State where it will do most good; and it also saves the waste vote, which, according to your plan would be lost, and would be equal to two in the general result. But there may be disadvantages also, which I have not thought of." In the end, Buchanan won the election, but the results showed that Illinois was not a fully Democratic state and, if the Republicans could secure the electoral votes of two more states, they could achieve a victory in the 1860 election. This letter is found in full in The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Volume II, pages 347-348.
With the original transmittal envelope, measuring 5.5" x 3.25", addressed to Berdan in Lincoln's hand and free franked "Free A Lincoln M.C." A beautiful letter showing the usual folds, which bear some light toning.
W.C. Putnam Collection for the benefit of the Acquisition and Conservation Fund of the Putnam Museum.
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