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

Debate at Jacksonville, Illinois [1]
October 21, 1848

Jacksonville, Oct. 24

Gents: On Friday night, Mr. Lincoln, member of Congress from this district, had an appointment to speak in Jacksonville, but gave way to the other branch of the whig family---the barnburner-abolition-free-negro party. On Saturday night, he renewed his appointment,Page  12 and Mr. McConnel, [2] having arrived from the north, gave notice that he would be with him. The consequence was that a general rally took place.

The debators were confined to an hour each. . . . Lincoln spent his first hour in persecuting his free-negro friends, that their object of promoting freedom would be easier and better attained by voting for Taylor, the owner of three hundred negro slaves, because Taylor would not veto the Wilmot proviso if passed by Congress. It is true, said L., that Taylor has not pledged himself to that effect, but he had pledged himself generally against the exercise of the veto power.

McConnel enquired of L. why the Taylor faction of the whig party did not go over to the free-negro faction, and then they would be sure to have a man . . . about whom, in relation to the free-soil question, there was no doubt. To this Lincoln said he would have no objection, if there were not other questions about which Taylor and Van Buren disagreed. But when McConnel thrust the question upon him: in what do they disagree, what is Taylor for or against? Lincoln could not answer, and was most palpably exposed before his friends. . . .

Mr. Lincoln in his second hour, made a weak attempt at a justification of his course, but the flood of authorities thrust upon him by Mr. McConnel, were evidently new to him. . . .

Lincoln then took a turn at the veto power, and attempted to show that Taylor was against it generally, and against executive patronage especially, but in this he was equally unhappy as in his efforts upon the slavery question. . . .

At the close of this debate a rather exciting scene occurred. Mr. Lincoln charged that Mr. Polk had constantly been trying to drive Wentworth [3] to vote upon certain subjects in accordance with the democratic platform, and to misrepresent his constituents and vote contrary to their wishes.

Mr. McConnel denied the charge, and called on Lincoln for his authority. He gave Mr. Wentworth as his informant, and then pronounced the conduct of Mr. Polk, and the democratic party, anti-democratic and wrong, and said it was the duty of every representative truly to represent his constituents.

Mr. McConnel then took up a copy of the journal of the House of Representatives . . . of January last, and showed that Mr. Lincoln had refused to vote for a resolution of thanks to General Taylor and his brave comrades for his and their conduct at the battle of Buena Vista, until he had first voted an amendment thereto, that this battle was fought in a war unconstitutionally and unnecessarilyPage  13 begun by the President. . . . He asked if Mr. Lincoln did not know when he gave that vote that he was misrepresenting the wishes of the patriotic people of this district, and did he do so by the influence of Mr. Polk or some whig leader. In the midst of the shower of fire that fell around him, Lincoln cried out, ``No, I did not know it, and don't believe it yet.''. . . . Lincoln crouched in silence beneath the blows that fell thick and fast around him, and his friends held down their heads with shame.

Lincoln has made nothing by coming to this part of the country to make speeches. He had better have stayed away. Yours, &c.,

J. H.


[1]   Illinois State Register, October 27, 1848. The only account available.

[2]   Murray McConnel, Morgan County Democrat.

[3]   John Wentworth, Democrat and congressman from Illinois, fourth district.