LINCOLN, Abraham (1809-1865), President. Autograph letter signed ("A. Lincoln") to "B. Clarke Lundy and others" (a group of Illinois Republicans), Springfield, 28 July 1856. 1 page, 4to, one edge neatly reinforced, otherwise in excellent condition.
"STAND BY THE CAUSE, AND THE CAUSE WILL CARRY YOU THROUGH": LINCOLN TAKES THE STUMP IN THE FIRST REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN
A striking letter written at a highly interesting and eventful juncture in Lincoln's political career. In the aftermath of the Kansas-Nebraska Act a re-energized Lincoln had re-dedicated himself to the campaign against the spread of slavery, and played a commanding role in the founding and establishment of the Illinois Republican Party, whose first state convention met at Bloomington on 29 May 1856. The Republican party, openly sectional in its appeal, nominated John C. Frémont (1813-1890) for President, chose a slogan ("Free Speech, Free Press, Free Soil, Free Men, Frémont and Victory!"), and adopted a platform which opposed the extension of slavery into any new territories and called for Kansas to be admitted as a free state. On 23 June, Lincoln addressed a political gathering in Urbana, and proclaimed, that he "heartily endorses the nomination of the gallant Frémont, and as elector in this state, will, during this campaign, we are told, devote considerable of his time to the work" (quoted in Meirs, Lincoln Day by Day, 1:172).
Lincoln kept that public pledge, and while handling a full load of court business for his legal clients, threw himself vigorously and wholeheartedly into the contest. The campaign of 1856, notes one observer, "rivaled that of 1840 in excitement and far excelled it in importance." In it "a major party was contesting a national election on frankly sectional grounds" (E. Roseboom, History of Presidential Elections, p.165). Lincoln perceptively "recognized that the Republican party faced formidable problems," (D.H. Donald, Abraham Lincoln, p.194), and in the course of this spirited election campaign, delivered at least 50 speeches before audiences throughout Illinois and as far afield as Kalamazoo, Michigan. Here, writing in evident haste, the overworked Lincoln declines an invitation from the son of a prominent abolitionist to appear at a Frémont rally in Putnam County:
"On reaching home day before yesterday, I found your letter of the 15th. I regret to say I can not be with you on the 4th of September. I am under prior obligation to attend a meeting of our friends at Galesburg on that day, if I can possibly leave our courts, which will then be in session."
"Stand by the cause, and the cause will carry you through."
Lincoln's striking use of the non-specific but stirring term "the cause," is of considerable interest. As Mark Neely notes, during this critical campaign, Lincoln "still avoided the Republican name; instead he identified with the 'Frémont men' or the 'anti-Nebraska men," perhaps because "all that united the leaders of the Republican party was opposition to slavery" (Abraham Lincoln Encyclopedia, pp.262-263). Lincoln again referred to "the cause," on 27 September, in response to a suggestion from J. M. Sturtevant, President of Illinois Congress, that he run for Senator. Lincoln declined, "on my clear conviction, that my running would hurt, and not help, the cause. I am willing to make any personal sacrifice, but I am not willing to do, what in my own judgment, is a sacrifice of the cause itself" (Basler 2:378-379). In the end, the election was decided in three critical states: Pennsylvania, Indiana and Illinois, which went to the Democrat, James Buchanan. Published in Collected Works, ed. R.P. Basler, 2:356-357.
Lincoln's Republican correspondent, Dr. B. Clarke Lundy of Putnam County, Illinois, was the son of noted abolitionist Benjamin Lundy (1789-1839), "a pioneer in the organization of anti-slavery societies" (DAB). Lundy first recruited William Lloyd Garrison into the movement and in correspondence with John Quincy Adams "doubtless supplied Adams with much of the information concerning the Texas situation which he used so effectively in his speeches in Congress." A Philadelphia mob looted and burned his home in May 1838, and the following year he moved to Hennepin, Illinois, where he launched another anti-slavery paper before his death in August 1839.