Letter to Ichabod Codding (November 27, 1854)

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#124 on the list of 150 Most Teachable Lincoln Documents

Annotated Transcript

“Your note of the 13th. requesting my attendance of the Republican State Central Committee, on the 17th. Inst. at Chicago, was, owing to my absence from home, received on the evening of that day (17th) only. While I have pen in hand allow me to say I have been perplexed some to understand why my name was placed on that committee. I was not consulted on the subject; nor was I apprized of the appointment, until I discovered it by accident two or three weeks afterwards.” 

 

On This Date

HD Daily Report, November 27, 1854

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How Historians Interpret

“Lincoln advised Whigs to ‘stand with anybody that stands RIGHT,’ even if it meant standing with the ‘abolitionist in restoring the Missouri Compromise,’ suggesting that there were moments when principle must overcome party.  His words were put to a test almost immediately. . . The fusionists placed his name on the Republican State Central Committee, even though some of them expressed doubts about the sincerity of his views on slavery.  The Douglas press gleefully pounced on the action as proof that Lincoln was an abolitionist after all.  Deeply annoyed and perplexed, Lincoln protested that his name had been used without consulting him first.  ‘I suppose my opposition to the principle of slavery is as strong as that of any member of the Republican party, he explained to Ichabod Codding, ‘but I had also supposed that the extent to which I feel authorized to carry that opposition, practically, was not at all satisfactory to that party.’  His response was equivocal; this time, political expediency overcame principle.  Still, he did not ask that his name be removed, and he only implied that he was unwilling to serve.  Perhaps the Republicans had misunderstood his position, he suggestion.  Or had he misunderstood theirs?  He was unwilling to commit himself to their cause, but he did not want to alienate them either.”

Robert W. Johannsen, Lincoln, The South, and Slavery: The Political Dimension (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Press, 1993), 45-46

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Searchable Text

Springfield,
Novr. 27. 1854
 
I. Codding, Esq
Dear Sir 
Your note of the 13th. requesting my attendance of the Republican State Central Committee, on the 17th. Inst. at Chicago, was, owing to my absence from home, received on the evening of that day (17th) only. While I have pen in hand allow me to say I have been perplexed some to understand why my name was placed on that committee. I was not consulted on the subject; nor was I apprized of the appointment, until I discovered it by accident two or three weeks afterwards. I suppose my opposition to the principle of slavery is as strong as that of any member of the Republican party; but I had also supposed that the extent to which I feel authorized to carry that opposition, practically; was not at all satisfactory to that party. The leading men who organized that party, were present, on the 4th. of Oct. at the discussion between Douglas and myself at Springfield, and had full oppertunity to not misunderstand my position. Do I misunderstand theirs? Please write, and inform me. 
Yours truly 
A. LINCOLN
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