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

Speech at Petersburg, Illinois [1]

August 30, 1856

Petersburg, September 1st.

Editors Register: On Saturday last our town was honored by the presence of that great high-priest of abolitionism, AbramPage  367

Lincoln. His mission had been foretold by hand-bills, stating that he would ``address the people of Menard upon the important issues of the day.'' The curiosity of many of our citizens was naturally aroused, as such a thing as a Fremont speech (which this promised to be) had never been heard in Menard county. A considerable number, therefore, turned out to hear him, among whom was your correspondent. I arrived there rather late, for the gentleman had commenced speaking. As I entered I heard him pronouncing, with thundering emphasis, a beautiful passage from Webster's compromise speech, and that, too, without the quotations. This was a promising commencement; but it was soon evident that he had read Webster for the letter rather than the spirit. He then branched off by condemning ``the representative system of the south,'' and displayed its alleged evils in every possible, and we may say impossible, manner. He then fell back, by spasmodic convulsions, to pronouncing eulogies upon the constitution, hardly remembering that this same ``damning representative system of the south'' was one of the essential compromises of that constitution, and that this same thing had been the rant and cant of all northern fanatics against the constitution ever since its adoption. He wished all to read the black republican platform; and, after reading that platform, he wished any man to point out the sectionalism in it. There was none. (Let him look at the flag of his country raised upon that platform, with fifteen glorious stars erased from its national constellation, and ask the same question.) ``It was a slander,'' he said, ``upon the good sense of the southern people to say that if Fremont is elected that the Union will be divided; that it matters not if both candidates be from free states,'' and here he repeats that which you have satisfactorily answered---that both president and vice president of the United States now are from the free states. He cited David Wilmot as one of his ``democratic'' authorities; gave a history of a bargain between Long John Wentworth and President Pierce, stating that when the Nebraska bill was first proposed, the president had called him (Wentworth) to his councils in order to find out what he had better do, and which side he should take, promising, in the meanwhile, that [he] would abide his (W'.s) decision; that he had broken his word, and taken the other side. All of this Lincoln knew to be true, for Long John had told him so! He said that when the Nebraska bill was first proposed, that there was not a man in Illinois in favor of it. Wonder how they came to be, and who brought about the mighty change, and how was it, if Mr. Lincoln speaks truth, that all the democrats, and with four exceptions only, all their opponents, including

Page  368Mr. O. M. Hatch, Mr. Lincoln's candidate for secretary of state, voted directly for a resolution in the house of representatives of Illinois in 1851 which indorsed the principles of the Nebraska bill, and how was it that all the democrats, and all their opponents but four, in the house of representatives of Illinois, in 1851, instructed our members of congress to organize all future territories on those principles, as a continuance of the adjustment of 1850? He said the democrats ``pronounced the declaration of independence a self-evident lie.''

After continuing in this strain for some time, a ``change came over the spirit of his dreams,'' while he directed his attention to the Fillmoreites present, advising them to fuse with abolitionism, for it was ``anything to beat the democrats.'' Ever and anon he raised his voice, and, with terrible ``shrieks for freedom,'' told them to ``come to the rescue,'' for the little mustang is in danger. For all this, receiving no signs of sympathy, he became disgusted at his own impudence.

And here quietly vanished away the post mortem candidate for the vice presidency of the abolition political cock-boat, the depot master of the underground railroad, the great Abram Lincoln. He left no traces of his appearance, and has now ``gone to be seen no more,'' leaving behind him, in Menard, half a dozen poor souls, to mourn the political death-knell of John C. Fremont in next November. Yours, MANLIUS.


[1]   Illinois State Register, September 4, 1856. This is the only report available which gives any indication of the contents of the speech.