LINCOLN, Abraham. Autograph letter signed ("A. Lincoln"), as presidential candidate, to John D. Candee, Exeter, 29 February 1860. 1 page, 8vo, blue ruled paper.
LINCOLN'S EMERGENCE AS A NATIONAL CANDIDATE IN THE IMMEDIATE WAKE OF THE COOPER UNION ADDRESS: "THEY HAVE GOT ME INTO SUCH TROUBLE HERE..."
Just forty-eight hours after taking New York City by storm with his speech at Cooper Union, a busy Lincoln writes from New Hampshire, where he was visiting his son Robert at Philips Exeter academy: "Your letter of yesterday was received here this evening, as was your despatch at Providence yesterday evening. They have got me into such trouble here, that I must postpone your Connecticut meetings. Fix them as follows:
Hartford, Monday evening March 5th
Meriden, Tuesday " 6th
New-Haven, Wednesday " 7th
You can make this known at once; and, I take it, it will not inconvenience you much, while it will relieve me considerably."
Lincoln's "trouble" was the furor of favorable publicity stirred up by the New York press. On 28 February four New York papers printed the full text of the Cooper Union speech, and papers as far away as Chicago and Detroit quickly issued copies in pamphlet form. Readers throughout New England thrilled to Lincoln's arguments denouncing slavery and attacking Douglas and his doctrine of popular sovereignty. New Hampshire Republican leaders--delighted to have the new political star in their midst--demanded that Lincoln address meetings at Concord, Manchester, Dover, and Exeter, from which he writes Candee, asking to push back his already scheduled slate of appearances in Connecticut. He hadn't intended on speaking much in New Hampshire, apart from impromptu remarks at Robert's school. In fact, the paternal visit was really a cover for getting to meet Republican leaders in New England in the hopes of offering himself as a moderate presidential alternative to abolitionist William H. Seward. He had already won over Seward's New York opponents on the night of 27 February in New York. And he made an equally powerful impression in New Hampshire and Connecticut (he stayed out of Massachusetts in this trip, knowing it was solid Seward country).
These new engagements compelled Lincoln to come up with some new material. "The difficulty," Lincoln told his wife, "was to make nine [new speeches] before reading audiences who had already seen all my ideas in print" (Basler, 3:555). He managed some effective new thrusts: What will satisfy the angry Southerners? he asked a crowd at Manchester: "This, and this only; cease to call slavery wrong, and join with them in calling it right." Yet Lincoln deflected the charge of radicalism by pointing out that he and other Republicans only wanted to uphold the tradition of the Founders, who had banned the expansion of slavery into the Northwest Territories. He distanced his party from John Brown's violence. It was the Democrats, he claimed, who were pushing for radical expansion of slavery into the Territories, and for tearing up the Missouri Compromise. The Democrats were for violent change; the Republicans wanted a return to the status quo.
He struck a powerful image in the Hartford speech he gave on 5 March: If he caught a rattle snake on the open prairie and killed it, he said, "everyone would applaud." But if he found the snake in a bed alongside children, attacking it would harm the innocent. "Thus, by meddling with him here, I would do more hurt than good" (Basler, 4:5). This skillful blend of moral denunciation of slavery but moderate handling of Southerners proved very effective. The ungainly, somewhat rumpled Illinois lawyer had become a national figure--literally overnight after Cooper Union. He solidified that reputation over his exhausting regimen of more than ten speeches in seven days. He had to turn down still more offers that flooded in from New York and Pennsylvania. Exhausted before he was halfway through this tour, he told his wife on 4 March: "If I had forseen...this toil...I think I would not have come east at all" (Basler, 6:555). But he relished it. Back home in Illinois in April he confessed that the prospect of running for President--and winning--was palpable: "I will be entirely frank," he told Lyman Trumbull. "The taste is in my mouth a little" (Basler, 4:45). Published in Basler, 10:48-49.