Summary of Speech at Shelbyville, Illinois, 9 August 18561
Democracy of Shelby and Adjoining Counties.
Editors Register:—The democracy of old Shelby are up and doing. Every man is determined to do his whole duty in the great struggle in which we are engaged. There is no division among us; we are united as one man. The democracy in this and the adjoining counties have been holding a series of mass meetings, which have done great good. In this county, Gen. Wm. F. Thornton, S. W. Moulton, the democratic candidate for elector for the sixth district, and A. Thornton, are on the stump and doing yeoman service. John R. Eden, esq.[esquire], of Moultrie, is canvassing his county, and in a very effectual manner.
A Fremont meeting was advertised there for yesterday, 13th. Lincoln, Bromwell and others were to be there. Gen. Thornton, S. W. Moulton, and A. Thornton, went there from Shelby. Lincoln did not make his appearance. Bramwell was sick, and no Fremont speaker on the ground. Mr. Cullom, of your city, was there and opened the meeting with a Fillmore speech. He said Fillmore was a know-nothing, and was pledged to carry out the principles of the same. He made a flaming tirade against foreigners; was for 21 years residence before allowing them to vote; proscribed Catholics, &c[etc.]., &c. A regnlar k. n.[know nothing] speech.
Mr. Moulton replied to Mr. Cullom, with severity, showing up the absurdities of his principles, their antagonism to the policy and principles o our government, their injustice and inhumanity, and completely exposing the odious features of the order.
The discussion opened the eyes of those who had been drawn into the lodges. They fully saw the hypocrisy and evil tendency of the k. n. order, and determined to at once repudiate it.– Cullom’s speech made fifty votes for Buchanan. We hope he will continue in the work.
Gen. Thornton then addressed the meeting, in behalf of the Union and Buchanan. He made an able and eloquent speech.
At candle lighting the crowd again assembled, and Mr. A. Thornton made a very able argument in behalf of the great principles of self government; the preservation of the Union, and the policy of the democracy. Great good was done in Moultrie.
On Saturday, the 9th, the democracy had a great gathering in Shelbyville. Hon. A. Lincoln was present. The meeting was opened by a speech of about an hour and a half, by S. W. Moulton. Mr. M. took strong ground for the democracy, and exposed the hypocrisy and knavery of the black republicans. He made many strong points and called upon Lincoln to answer them.
Lincoln then took the stand and made a three hours speech. It was prosy and dull in the extreme— all about “freedom,” “libert” and niggers. He answered nothing that had been said by Mr. Moulton, and dodged every issue in the present canvass, and attempted to make small side issues of no importance. He ridiculed the idea of disunion, and used a great many sophisms to divert the public mind from the true issue of the day.2
He was replied to by Mr. A. Thornton, in a very effectual manner. His dodging of the true issue was exposed, and all the points made by Lincoln were effectually answered, and the true issue presented in an able manner. Mr. T. made a very able speech.
Our people were disappointed in Lincoln, but attributed his short comings to the want of merit in his cause. Old Shelby is good for 1,000 democratic majority over all the isms.3
1On August 19, 1856, the Daily Illinois State Register published this summary of the speech that Abraham Lincoln delivered in Shelbyville, Illinois on August 9. The original speech in Lincoln’s hand has not been located. The newspaper reprinted this same summary, verbatim, in its weekly edition, the Illinois State Register, published August 21.
Illinois State Register (Springfield), 21 August 1856, 2:3.
2Although no copy of Lincoln’s speech has been located, he delivered more than fifty speeches throughout Illinois during the 1856 election campaign, many of which addressed similar themes and issues.
Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 1:425-32. For examples of the content of some of Lincoln’s other speeches during the 1856 election campaign, see Report of Speech at Springfield, Illinois and Report of Speech at Galena, Illinois.
3Although it did not provide coverage of Lincoln’s Shelbyville speech, shortly after the Daily Illinois State Register published this speech summary, the Whig-turned-Republican Illinois State Journal criticized the Register for its “abuse” of Lincoln and other Republicans who were on the campaign trail.
In the 1856 Federal Election Samuel W. Moulton served as a presidential elector for Illinois on the Democratic Party’s ticket of James Buchanan and John C. Breckenridge. Shelby M. Cullom served as a presidential elector for the American Party’s ticket of Millard Fillmore and Andrew J. Donelson. Cullom also won election to the Illinois House of Representatives on a fusion ticket with both American Party and Free Soil Party support. John R. Eden won election for prosecuting attorney for Illinois’ Seventeenth Judicial District.
In the presidential contest, Buchanan triumphed over Fillmore and John C. Fremont. In Illinois, Buchanan won 44.1 percent of the total vote to Fillmore’s 15.7 percent and Fremont’s 40.2 percent. Voters in both Shelby and Moultrie counties elected Buchanan by strong majorities, although the majority was stronger in Shelby than Moultrie. In Shelby County, voters gave Buchanan 70.1 percent of the total vote to 22.4 percent for Fillmore and just 7.5 percent for Fremont. Moultrie County’s voters awarded Buchanan 48.5 percent of the vote, Fillmore 34.2 percent, and Fremont 17.3 percent.
Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield), 25 August 1856, 2:1; 27 August 1856, 2:1; Franklin William Scott, Newspapers and Periodicals of Illinois, 1814-1879, vol. 6 of Collections of the Illinois State Historical Library (Springfield: Illinois State Historical Library, 1910), 321; Biographical Directory of the American Congress 1774-1996 (Alexandria, VA: CQ Staff Directories, 1997), 1564; The United States Biographical Directory and Portrait Gallery of Eminent and Self-Made Men: Illinois Volume (Chicago: American Biographical, 1883), 25-26; Combined History of Shelby and Moultrie Counties, Illinois (Philadelphia: Brink & McDonough, 1881), 187; Howard W. Allen and Vincent A. Lacey, eds., Illinois Elections, 1818-1990 (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1992), 10, 136-37.

Printed Document, 1 page(s), Daily Illinois State Register (Springfield), 19 August 1856, 2:4.