Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Volume 1.
Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865.

Campaign Circular from Whig Committee [1]

January [31?], 1840


To Messrs. ---

Gentlemen:---In obedience to a resolution of the Whig State Convention, [2] we have appointed you the Central Whig Committee of your county. The trust confided to you will be one of watchfulness and labor: but we do hope the glory of having contributed to the overthrow of the corrupt powers that now control our beloved country, will be a sufficient reward for the time and labor you will devote to it. Our whig brethren throughout the Union have met in convention, [3] and after due deliberation and mutual concessions have elected candidates for the Presidency and Vice presidency, not only worthy of our cause, but worthy of the support of every true patriot, who would have our country redeemed, and her institutions honestly and faithfully administered.

To overthrow the trained bands that are opposed to us, whose salaried officers are ever on the watch, and whose misguided followers are ever ready to obey their smallest commands, every Whig must not only know his duty, but must firmly resolve, whatever of time and labor it may cost, boldly and faithfully to do it.

Our intention is to organize the whole State, so that every Whig can be brought to the polls in the coming presidential contest. WePage  202 cannot do this, however, without your co-operation; and as we do our duty, so we shall expect you to do yours[.]

After due deliberation, the following is the plan of organization, and the duties required of each county committee.

1st. To divide their county into small districts, and to appoint in each a sub-committee, whose duty it shall be to make a perfect list of all the voters in their respective districts, and to ascertain with certainty for whom they will vote. If they meet with men who are doubtful as to the man they will support, such voters should be designated in separate lines, with the name of the man they will probably support.

2nd. It will be the duty of said sub-committee to keep a CONSTANT WATCH on the DOUBTFUL VOTERS, and from time to time have them TALKED TO by those IN WHOM THEY HAVE THE MOST CONFIDENCE, and also to place in their hands such documents as will enlighten and influence them.

3d. It will also be their duty to report to you, at least once a month, the progress they are making, and on election days see that every Whig is brought to the polls.

4th. The sub-committees should be appointed immediately; and by the last of April, at least, they should make their first report.

5th. On the first of each month hereafter, we shall expect to hear from you. After the first report of your sub-committees, unless there should be found a great many doubtful voters, you can tell pretty accurately the manner in which your county will vote. In each of your letters to us, you will state the number of certain votes, both for and against us, as well as the number of doubtful votes, with your opinion of the manner in which they will be cast.

6th. When we hear from all the counties, we shall be able to tell with similar accuracy, the political complexion of the State. This information will be forwarded to you as soon as received.

7th. Enclosed is a prospectus for a newspaper [4] to be published until after the Presidential election. It will be SUPERINTENDED BY OURSELVES, and every Whig in the State MUST take it. It will be published so low that every one can afford it. YOU MUST RAISE A FUND AND FORWARD US FOR EXTRA COPIES---every county ought to send FIFTY or ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS,---and the copies will be forwarded to you for distribution among our POLITICAL OPPONENTS. The paper will be devoted exclusively to the great cause in whichPage  203 we are engaged. Procure subscriptions and forward them to us immediately. [5]

8th. Immediately after any election in your county, you must inform us of its results; and as early as possible after any general election, we will give you the like information.

9th. A Senator in Congress is to be elected by our next Legislature. Let no local interests divide you, but select candidates that can succeed.

10th. Plan of operations will of course be CONCEALED FROM EVERY ONE except OUR GOOD FRIENDS, who of right ought to know them. [6]

Trusting much in our good cause, the strength of our candidates, and the determination of the Whigs every where, to do their duty, we go to the work of organization in this State, confident of success[.] We have the numbers, and if properly organized and exerted, with the gallant HARRISON at our head, we shall meet our foes, and conquer them in all parts of the Union.

Address your letters to Dr. A. G. Henry.





[1]   Illinois State Register, February 21, 1840. An inferior printing appears in the Sangamo Journal of the same date. Although bearing the January date, as printed in the Register, the circular seems not to have been put in the mail before February 4. The editor of the Democratic Register was responsible for the italicization of certain passages.

[2]   Held in Springfield, October 7-8, 1839.

[3]   At Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, December 4, 1839.

[4]   The Old Soldier, edited by the Whig State Central Committee, was printed by Simeon Francis and Company, publishers of the Sangamo Journal. The first number appeared February 1, and eighteen issues appeared before the November election. On February 17 Old Hickory, the Democratic campaign paper, made its initial appearance.

[5]   On February 25, Judge Thomas C. Browne of the Illinois Supreme Court wrote to Henry Eddy that The Old Soldier had eight thousand subscribers, and that he expected twenty thousand (transcript, Eddy MSS., IHi).

[6]   The object of secrecy was not very well achieved. The Democratic press gave wide and somewhat exaggerated publicity to the circular within a few weeks. The Whig committee's secrecy seems to have been intended to take the opposition by surprise. The Democrats had used a tight state organization to such good purpose that the Whigs were driven to it in self-defense. See the communication ``To the Readers of the Old Soldier,'' February 28, 1840 (infra).

[7]   Of these Whig leaders not previously identified, Dr. Richard F. Barrett was a physician who had migrated to Sangamon County from Green County, Kentucky, in 1831-1832. Joshua F. Speed, also a Kentuckian, was a merchant of Springfield whose close friendship with Lincoln had begun upon Lincoln's removal to Spring-field from New Salem in 1837.