Letter to Elihu Washburne (February 9, 1855)

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#94 on the list of 150 Most Teachable Lincoln Documents

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“The agony is over at last; and the result you doubtless know. I write this only to give you some particulars to explain what might appear difficult of understanding. I began with 44 votes, Shields 41, and Trumbull 5—yet Trumbull was elected. In fact 47 different members voted for me—getting three new ones on the second ballot, and losing four old ones. How came my 47 to yield to T’s 5? It was Govr. Matteson’s work.”

On This Date

HD Daily Report, February 9, 1855

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Springfield, Feby. 9-1855
 
Hon: E. B. Washburne
 
My dear Sir: 
The agony is over at last; and the result you doubtless know. I write this only to give you some particulars to explain what might appear difficult of understanding. I began with 44 votes, Shields 41, and Trumbull 5—yet Trumbull was elected. In fact 47 different members voted for me—getting three new ones on the second ballot, and losing four old ones. How came my 47 to yield to T’s 5? It was Govr. Matteson’s work. He has been secretly a candidate every since (before even) the fall election. All the members round about the canal were Anti-Nebraska; but were, nevertheless nearly all democrats, and old personal friends of his. His plan was to privately impress them with the belief that he was as good Anti-Nebraska as any one else—at least could be secured to be so by instructions, which could be easily passed. In this way he got from four to six of that sort of men to really prefer his election to that of any other man—all “sub rosa” of course. One notable instance of this sort was with Mr. Strunk of Kankakee. At the beginning of the session he came a volunteer to tell me he was for me & would walk a hundred miles to elect me; but lo, it was not long before he leaked it out that he was going for me the first few ballots & then for Govr. Matteson.
 
The Nebraska men, of course, were not for Matteson; but when they found they could elect no avowed Nebraska man they tardily determined, to let him get whomever of our men he could by whatever means he could and ask him no questions. In the mean time Osgood, Don. Morrison & Trapp of St. Clair had openly gone over from us. With the united Nebraska force, and their recruits, open & covert, it gave Matteson more than enough to elect him. We saw into it plainly ten days ago; but with every possible effort, could not head it off. All that remained of the Anti Nebraska force, excepting Judd, Cook, Palmer[,] Baker & Allen of Madison, & two or three of the secret Matteson men, would go into caucus, & I could get the nomination of that caucus. But the three Senators & one of the two representatives above named “could never vote for a whig” and this incensed some twenty whigs to “think” they would never vote for the man of the five. So we stood, and so we went into the fight yesterday; the Nebraska men very confident of the election of Matteson, though denying that he was a candidate; and we very much believing also, that they would elect him. But they wanted first to make a show of good faith to Shields by voting for him a few times, and our secret Matteson men also wanted to make a show of good faith by voting with us a few times. So we led off. On the seventh ballot, I think, the signal was given to the Neb. men, to turn on to Matteson, which they acted on to a man, with one exception; my old friend Strunk going with them giving him 44 votes. Next ballot the remaining Neb. man, & one pretended Anti- went on to him, giving him 46. The next still another giving him 47, wanting only three of an election. In the mean time, our friends with a view of detaining our expected bolters had been turning from me to Trumbull till he he [sic] had risen to 35 & I had been reduced to 15. These would never desert me except by my direction; but I became satisfied that if we could prevent Matteson’s election one or two ballots more, we could not possibly do so a single ballot after my friends should begin to return to me from Trumbull. So I determined to strike at once; and accordingly advised my remaining friends to go for him, which they did & elected him on that the 10th. ballot.
 
Such is the way the thing was done. I think you would have done the same under the circumstances; though Judge Davis, who came down this morning, declares he never would have consented to the 47 men being controlled by the 5. I regret my defeat moderately, but I am not nervous about it. I could have headed off every combination and been elected, had it not been for Matteson’s double game—and his defeat now gives me more pleasure than my own gives me pain. On the whole, it is perhaps as well for our general cause that Trumbull is elected. The Neb. men confess that they hate it worse than any thing that could have happened. It is a great consolation to see them worse whipped than I am. I tell them it is their own fault—that they had abundant opertunity [sic] to choose between him & me, which they declined, and instead forced it on me to decide between him & Matteson.
 
With my grateful acknowledgments for the kind, active, and continued interest you have taken for me in this matter, allow me to subscribe myself
Yours forever
A. LINCOLN—
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