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

To John J. Hardin [1]

Dear Genl. [2] Springfield, Jany. 19th. 1846

I do not wish to join in your proposal [3] of a new plan for the selection of a whig candidate for congress, because

1st. I am entirely satisfied with the old system [4] under which you and Baker were successively nominated and elected to congress; and because the whigs of the District are well acquainted with that system, and, so far as I know or believe, are universally satisfied with it. If the old system be thought to be vague, as to all the delegates of a county, voting the same, way; or as to instructions to them, as to whom they are to vote for; or as to filling vacancies, I am willing to join in a provision to make these matters certain.

2nd. As to your proposals that a poll shall be opened in every precinct, and that the whole shall take place on the same day, I do not personally object. They seem to me to not be unfair; and I forbear to join in proposing them, only because I rather choose to leave the decision in each county to the whigs of the county, to be made as their own judgment and convenience may dictate.

3rd. As to your proposed stipulation that all the candidates shall remain in their own counties, and restrain their friends to the same, it seems to me that on reflection you will see, the fact of your having been in congress, has, in various ways, so spread your name in the district, as to give you a decided advantage in such a stipulation. I appreciate your desire to keep down excitement; and I promise you to ``keep cool'' under all circumstances.

4th. I have already said I am satisfied with the old system,Page  357 under which such good men have triumphed; and that I desire no departure from its principles. But if there must be a departure from it, I shall insist upon a more accurate and just apportionment of delegates, or representative votes, to the constituent body, than exists by the old; and which you propose to retain in your new plan.

If we take the entire population of the counties as shown by the late census, we shall see that by the old plan, and by your proposed new plan

Morgan county with a population of 16.541 has 8 votes

while Sangamon with 18.697---2156 greater has but 8 do

So, Scott, with 6553---has 4 do

while Tazewell with 7615---1062 greater--- has but 4 do---

So, Mason with 3135 has 1. do

while Logan with 3907---772 greater has but 1. do---

And so, in a less degree, the matter runs through all the counties; being not only wrong in principle, but the advantage of it being all manifestly in your favour, with one slight exception in the comparison of two counties not here mentioned.

Again: If we take the whig votes of the counties as shown by the late presidential election as a basis, the thing is still worse. Take a comparison of the same six counties---

Morgan, with her 1443 whig votes has 8 votes

Sangamon with her 1837--- 394 greater only 8 do.

Mason with her 255--- has 1 do

Logan do do 310--- 55 greater only. 1. do

Scott do do 670--- has 4. do

Tazewell do do 1011. 341 greater---only 4. do---

It seems to me most obvious that the old system needs adjustment in nothing so much as in this; and still by your proposal, no notice is taken of it.

I have always been in the habit of acceeding to almost any proposal that a friend would make; and I am truly sorry I can not in this.

I perhaps ought to mention that some friends at different places, are endeavouring to secure the honor of the sitting of a convention at their towns respectively; and I fear they would not feel much complimented, if we were to make a bargain that it shall sit no where. Yours as ever A. LINCOLN


[1]   ALS, ICHi.

[2]   Hardin was made a brigadier general of militia on November 9, 1840.Page  358

[3]   As published in the Sangamo Journal, February 26, 1846, Hardin's proposals were as follows:

Proposals for the selection of a candidate for Congress by the Whig voters of this District:

[1]   Each county to have double as many voters as it has members in the House of Representatives---being the same number allowed in the two last Conventions---that is:

Sangamon, 8 votes Logan, 1 vote

Morgan, 8 do Mason, 1 do

Tazewell, 4 do Woodford, 1 do

Scott, 4 do Marshall, 1 do

Cass, 2 do Putnam, 1 do

Menard, 2 do

[2]   The Whigs to meet at the various precincts in the District, and appoint two Judges (who shall have power to select a third in case of difference of opinion on any question) and vote by ballot for the person they prefer for candidate.

[3]   The Judges to take a list of the names of voters, and keep and open the ballots after all the votes are given, and then to return a written or printed statement of the number of votes for each candidate to a central committee at Springfield.

[4]   A central committee of three persons at Springfield, shall open and examine the returns, and within two weeks after the vote is taken, or sooner if all the returns are in, or any person has a majority of the votes, they shall make out and publish the result, and state who has been selected as the Candidate of the Whigs of the district.

[5]   The election to be held on one day, and no person to vote by proxy. And in counting the votes, the Central Committee to exclude no vote for informality, if they can fairly ascertain for whom it was intended to be given.

[6]   Whoever gets the most votes in a county shall be entitled to the vote in that county in the general result made out by the central committee.

[7]   Should it happen that no candidate has a majority of the thirty-three votes, by reason of there being more than two candidates---then the hindermost candidate is to decline or be dropped, and the committee shall order a new election in those counties which voted for the hindermost candidate.

[8]   The central committee to prepare a handbill stating this plan, and to circulate it in every precinct of the District.

[9]   All whig voters to be entitled to vote.

[10]   Each person who is spoken of as a candidate to give a pledge to the committee and the public, that he will not go into any other county than the one in which he resides for the purpose of influencing the voters---and to further pledge himself that as far as is practicable he will restrain his friends from going out of their counties to electioneer, or attempt to influence voters. The object of this being to prevent excitement between the candidates and their friends, and to leave the voters of the counties to their unbiased choice.

[11]   The expenses of the central committee in printing circulars, and in postage, shall be paid by the person getting the nomination.

[12]   The vote to be taken on Saturday the --- day of March.

[4]   The convention system, for which Lincoln had labored so heartily and which many Whigs, Hardin among them, had opposed as undemocratic because it restricted party candidacy. Prior to the adoption of the system, any Whig could announce, as a Whig, for any office. Consequently, the Democrats, who had first adopted the convention system, were often able to elect candidates even in Whig territory, by reason of their uniting on one candidate while Whig support was divided among several. Hardin was nominated by convention in 1843, Edward D. Baker in 1845, and Lincoln now regarded it to be his turn. That Hardin's proposals were not merely in the interest of party harmony is obvious.