Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Volume 2.
Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865.
Page  158

Speech at Peoria, Illinois [1]

September 17, 1852

The people of this city were addressed at the court house on Friday evening last, by Hon. A. LINCOLN, of Springfield. He showed up the inconsistency of the sham democracy on the question of internal improvements in such a manner that it is not to be wondered at that the friends of Pierce and King were dissatisfied. On the subject of the tariff he advocated the American side of the question, asking why, instead of sending a distance of 4,000 miles for our railroad iron, the immense iron beds of Missouri were not worked, affording a better article than that of English manufacture, and giving employment to American labor. On this point, he agreed with that distinguished democrat, Benton, [2] who does not believe with the President of the Peoria Pierce Club, that a protective tariff is a tax on the poor for the benefit of the rich. After alluding to the evasiveness exhibited in the celebrated platform adopted by the Democratic National Convention, the speaker contrasted the claims of the respective candidates to the support of the American people. Gen. Pierce had been a member of the U.S. Senate for five years and of the Lower House four years, and if he is the possessor of the great civil qualifications claimed for him by his friends, where is the evidence? Instead of possessing eminent civil abilities, said Mr. LINCOLN, did not an examination of the record prove that he is not worthy of the extravagant praises now bestowed upon him by his partizan friends. His votes show that he was the steady, consistent enemy of western improvements, and judging of the future by the past, should Mr. Pierce be elected he would surely veto such internal improvement bills as the one recently passed by Congress. The speaker also contended that as Mr. Pierce was a member of Congress a number of years without being appointed on any important committee, it was evidence of the estimation in which he was held in Washington, and was democratic testimony against his claims to great civil attainments. As a legislator he was noted for his bitter opposition to western interests, showing his hatred of the west, by voting with a minority of three or four congenial spirits against western measures. The speaker next alluded to the evidences of the civil qualifications of WINFIELD SCOTT as exhibited in his settlement of the troubles growing out of the Canadian Patriot war, the North-Eastern Boundary question, the Nullification excitement, and the removal of the Cherokee Indians. In this connexion, Mr. L. read extracts from several ``democratic'' papers applying opprobrious epithets to Gen. Scott, and among others a paragraph from an organ of the party calling Gen. SCOTT a fool. ``Can it be possible,'' said he,

Page  159``that Gen. Jackson appointed a FOOL to the important duties connected with the settlement of the South Carolina difficulty, where, as the agent of the General Government those duties were performed in such a manner as to win the thanks of Gen. Lewis Cass, Andrew Jackson's Secretary of War? Can it be possible that the man selected by President Van Buren to adjust the difficulties on the Northern frontier is a fool? Is it true that the noble hearted man and Christian gentleman who as the agent of a democratic administration, removed the Cherokee Indians from their homes to the west of the Mississippi in such a manner as to gain the applause of the great and good of the land, is a fool?'' Mr. L. also, in substantiating the claims of Scott spoke of his successful effort in procuring the enactment of a law by Congress authorizing retaliation on the part of our authorities in the event of the execution of the twenty-three Irishmen who were taken prisoners with Scott at the battle of Queenstown. [3]

On the conclusion of the speech an excellent song, composed by a member of the Glee Club, was sung, and the meeting adjourned with three cheers for Winfield Scott and three more for Abram Lincoln.

We understand that Mr. L. will visit us again previous to the election and address the people.


[1]   Peoria Weekly Republican, September 24, 1852. This is the only report of the speech available, but the Peoria Democratic Press, September 22, 1852, devoted a paragraph to ridiculing it as ``little worthy of attention'' and suggested that ``if Mr. Lincoln has made no better speeches during the campaign, he had better `rub out, and begin again.' ''

[2]   Thomas H. Benton.

[3]   October 13, 1812.