Summary of Remarks at Bloomington, Illinois, 28 May 18561Bloomington, May 30th 1856.Editors State Register:—
Your readers would probably like to know something about the abolition convention, which met, at this place yesterday, for the purpose of nominating their candidates for the different state offices, and appointing presidential electors and delegates to the Philadelphia convention. They would, also, perhaps like to know who were there, and what they did &c. [etc.] We will tell them a part of what was done.
On Wednesday evening quite a number arrived on the different trains, among’st whom we noticed Messrs. [Messieurs] Lovejoy, Codding, Lincoln, Yates, Wentworth, Palmer, Browning, Williams, Washburne and Norton, the two last named being members of congress.
In the evening a meeting was held in front of Pike House, and several speeches were made. The speakers were Lincoln, Washburne, Palmer, Swett, Lovejoy and Wentworth.
Lincoln led off; said he did’nt expect to make a speech then; that he had prepared himself for one, but ’twas not suitable at that time; but that after awhile he would make them a most excellent one. Notwithstanding, he kept on speaking, told his old story about the fence (meaning Missouri restriction) being torn down and the cattle eating up the crops,3 then talked about the outrages in Kansas; said a man could’t think, dream or breathe of a free state there, but what he was kicked, cuffed, shot down and hung; he then got very pathetic over poor Delahay and Tom Shoemaker. By the way, Mr. Register, I wonder if any one in this community knows Delahay and Shoemaker;4 if so we pass them and also Lincoln’s speech, and come next to that of Washburne, which was celebrated only for the vehement and uproarious manner with which it was delivered. Then came Mr Palmer, one of the new converts, who like all other young beginners in the cause, showed his devotion to it by the zeal he manifested.5 He was exceedingly witty, told several stories &c.; said he was in the same predicament— with the democrats on one side and the k. n.’s on the other— that the darkey was when he heard the preacher say there were but two roads, one leading to hell, the other to damnation; “then,” said Mr. Palmer, “this nigger takes to the woods,” and we suppose from the woods he wil take to Africa. Codding and Lovejoy were next called, a loud cry was made for Lovejoy, but the leaders were afraid to let Mr. Lovejoy speak for fear of damaging the cause.6 One or two called for Swett, who immediately made his appearance, and said that he expected to be excused from making a speech in his own town, upon the plea of “the poor ye have with ye always.” We regarded his speech as a lame affair and thought, with him, that if all others there were like him, they certainly had the poor with them always.7
After Swett’s speech, another call was made for Lovejoy, when Mr. Arny, who seemed to be grand officer of the proceedings,8 said that ’twas time for the meeting to adjourn, but he was cried down, and Lovejey again called for; “we must have him” said the crowd. He then appeared amid great cheering, made but few remarks, and retired.9 John Wentworth was then called upon who made a long speech, the whole of which was directed against Judge Douglas personally. He said Douglas married two hundred negroes down south; that he wanted to extend slavery to make them more valuable, for the purpose of putting money in his pocket, and consequently introduced the Nebraska-bill.10 He (Wentworth) also said— which should be taken notice of by every one who desires to see the Union lost— that “so far as we are concerned, the Union might as well be dissolved,” “if one portion are going to rule over another, it ought to be.”
Thus ended the entertainment on Wednesday evening. It was quite late when the crowd dispersed.11
1The Daily Illinois State Register published this summary of remarks by Abraham Lincoln as part of a longer, unsigned letter to the editors describing the proceedings of the 1856 Illinois Anti-Nebraska Convention. No other account of these remarks has been located.
On May 24, 1856, a Springfield convention, attended by citizens opposed to the Kansas-Nebraska Act and its repeal of the Missouri Compromise, and who also opposed the administration of Franklin Pierce, elected Lincoln as a delegate to the Illinois Anti-Nebraska Convention to be held May 29 in Bloomington. Lincoln started for the convention on May 27 and arrived the next day, when he made the impromptu speech summarized here. The day of the convention, May 29, Lincoln made a longer speech, then returned to Springfield the following day.
Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield), 26 May 1856, 2:2-3; The Lincoln Log: A Daily Chronology of the Life of Abraham Lincoln, 27 May 1856, http://www.thelincolnlog.org/Results.aspx?type=CalendarDay&day=1856-05-27; 28 May 1856, http://www.thelincolnlog.org/Results.aspx?type=CalendarDay&day=1856-05-28; 29 May 1856, http://www.thelincolnlog.org/Results.aspx?type=CalendarDay&day=1856-05-29; 30 May 1856, http://www.thelincolnlog.org/Results.aspx?type=CalendarDay&day=1856-05-30.
2Black Republican” was a scornful epithet for members of the Republican Party. See Republican Party.
3This analogy of the Missouri Compromise as a fence torn down by the Kansas-Nebraska Act, with the spread of slavery as the inevitable result, was used by Lincoln in an earlier speech and in an editorial presumed to have been authored by him.
4Mark W. Delahay and Thomas C. Shoemaker had both suffered for expressing Free Soil leanings after settling in Kansas Territory. After Delahay left the Democratic party and began advocating a Free Soil position, the printing press at his Leavenworth newspaper office was destroyed by a mob from Missouri in December 1855. Shoemaker also developed Free Soil sympathies after moving to Kansas, and so was removed from his position as receiver of public monies in October 1856. He was subsequently beaten in a fight over politics in a Leavenworth barroom in 1857 and died of his injuries.
This editorial author’s implication that Delahay and Shoemaker were unknowns was likely a reflection of the fact that both men had Springfield rather than Bloomington ties, as well as connections to Lincoln’s circle. Delahay was married to Louisiana Hanks, the daughter of a purported cousin of Lincoln’s, and Shoemaker was married to Tennessee Pierce, whose father Charles R. Pierce had served under Lincoln during the Black Hawk War.
Mary E. Delahay, “Judge Mark W. Delahay,” Transactions of the Kansas State Historical Society 10 (1907-1908), 638-41; Illinois Statewide Marriage Index, Greene County, 12 January 1843; Sangamon County, 25 September 1848, Illinois State Archives, Springfield, IL; H. Miles Moore, Early History of Leavenworth City and County (Leavenworth, KS: Sam’l Dodsworth, 1906), 102-3; Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield), 6 October 1856, 3:2; Genealogical and Biographical Record of North-Eastern Kansas (Chicago: Lewis, 1900), 147; Muster Roll of Abraham Lincoln's Company of Mounted Volunteers.
5John M. Palmer had broken with the Democrats over the Kansas-Nebraska Act and ran successfully for reelection to the Illinois Senate in 1854 as an anti-Nebraska Democrat. He served as president of this convention, which was a foundational moment for the Illinois Republican Party, and became a leading figure among Illinois Republicans.
Cullom Davis, “Palmer, John McAuley,” American National Biography, ed. by John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 16:951.
6The 1856 Illinois Anti-Nebraska Convention brought together men of a wide variety of political positions whose main point of agreement was opposition to the Kansas-Nebraska Act. The more conservative elements of the convention were particularly concerned that the small number of outspoken anti-slavery advocates in attendance, such as Ichabod Codding and Owen Lovejoy, would upset the fragile alliance.
Victor B. Howard, “The Illinois Republican Party: Part II: The Party Becomes Conservative, 1855-1856,” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 64 (Autumn 1971), 300-4.
7In several places in the New Testament of the Christian Bible, Jesus tells his audience that the poor will always be with them and need their attention, but that he would not always be present to speak the gospel.
Matthew 26:11; Mark 14:7; John 12:8.
8William F. M. Arny was a member of the local arrangements committee for the 1856 Illinois Anti-Nebraska Convention.
Lawrence R. Murphy, Frontier Crusader: William F. M. Arny (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1972), 40.
9Lovejoy had been warned by the more conservative organizers of the convention to be mild and to avoid arousing disunity, and in his comments took issue with his characterization as an abolitionist in order to combat distrust of the Liberty and Free Soil Party elements in attendance.
Victor B. Howard, “The Illinois Republican Party: Part II: The Party Becomes Conservative, 1855-1856,” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 64 (Autumn 1971), 304.
10Stephen A. Douglas’ first wife, Martha Martin Douglas, inherited a 2,500-acre Mississippi plantation and approximately one hundred enslaved people in 1848. Following her death in 1853, ownership passed to Douglas’ sons. Douglas acted as manager of the plantation and was compensated with twenty percent of the income generated at the property.
Robert W. Johannsen, “Douglas, Stephen Arnold,” American National Biography, ed. by John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 6:807.
11The remainder of the article summarizes the proceedings of the convention on Thursday, May 29, mentioning but not commenting on Lincoln’s speech, and reporting that he was selected as a presidential elector for the 1856 Federal Election.
Daily Illinois State Register (Springfield), 31 May 1856, 2:2-3.
Printed Document, 1 page(s), Daily Illinois State Register (Springfield, IL), 31 May 1856, 2:2.