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Abraham Lincoln Throws His Hat into the Ring: Developing the Strategy that Eventually Made Him President (SOLD)
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“the most revealing piece of correspondence that has come to light on the methods of personal approach used by the early political Lincoln. (Carl Sandburg)

ABRAHAM LINCOLN (1809-1865). Autograph Letter Signed, Springfield, 14 February 1843, to Alden Hull, who represented Tazewell County in Congress from 1838 to 1842. 1 page, 9 5/8 x 7 5/8 in, with autograph address panel.

Inventory #21994.99       SOLD — please inquire about other items

Transcript

                                                         Springfield Feby 14, 1843
Friend Hull
 

Your county and ours are almost sure to be placed in the same congressional district. I would like to be its Representative; still circumstances may happen to prevent my even being a candidate. If, however, there are any whigs in Tazewell who would as soon [sic] I should represent them as any other person, I would be glad they would not cast me aside until they see and hear further what turn things take.
Do not suppose, Esqr. that in addressing this letter to you, I assume that you will be for me against all other whigs; I only mean, that I know you to be my personal friend, a good whig, and an honorable man, to whom I may, without fear, communicate a fact which I wish my particular friends (if I have any) to know. There is nothing new here now worth telling.     

                                                       Your friend as ever
                                                       A. Lincoln

Historical Background

The final line of this 1843 letter, about friends “if I have any,” echoes his first and now famous statement upon entering local politics, in his “Address to the People of Sangamon County, March 9, 1832:  “I am young, and unknown to many of you.  I was born, and have ever remained, in the most humble walks of life.  I have no wealthy or popular relations or friends to recommend me. My case is thrown exclusively upon the independent voters of the country; and if elected, they will have conferred a favor upon me for which I shall be unremitting in my labors to compensate.  But, if the good people in their wisdom shall see fit to keep me in the background, I have been too familiar with disappointments to be very much chagrined.

Lincoln did attend the Whig District Convention in Pekin, Illinois, on May 1, 1843.  His friend, Edward Dickinson Baker, was nominated and elected.  At the time, there was an agreement that this secure Whig seat would be rotated among local leaders. Lincoln’s turn came two years later. He served in Congress from March 1847 to March 1849.

The strategy Lincoln developed here, of applying for support but not assuming that his correspondent “will be for me against all other whigs,” became a centerpiece of his 1860 campaign. Seeking the Republican nomination for the presidency, Lincoln wrote on March 24, 1860, “I suppose I am not the first choice of a very great many. Our policy, then, is to give no offence to others- leave them in a mood to come to us, if they shall be compelled to give up their first love.”  Lincoln won the nomination on the third ballot, after the “favorite sons” had failed to garner enough votes.

In Carl Sandburg’s 1925 appreciation of this letter (the original of which is included), he writes: “Lincoln as a ‘mixer’ in politics is seen; in a finely frank way he asks Hull to be for him, offers irresistible compliments, and then swiftly, whimsically, and with a hint of melancholy, brings to a close a letter that it wouldn’t worry him any if it were published to the world. It is the most revealing piece of correspondence that has come to light on the methods of personal approach used by the early political Lincoln.”

Provenance

Oliver R. Barrett, given by him, about 1925, to — Gretchen Vander Poel (accompanying correspondence discusses the gift).