Summary of Speech at Belleville, Illinois, 18 October 18561
Splendid Torch-Light Procession.
A magnificent demonstration in favor of Fremont and Bissell, and in favor of Free Kansas and the rights of man in opposition to Border Ruffianism and Slavery extension, took place in Belleville on Saturday last, the 18th. The number in procession and hearing the speakers, might be estimated at five or six thousand. Lebanon came in at an early hour, three hundred strong, having traveled twelve miles. Mascoutah, from an equal distance, came in with a force not far behind her rival. Her neighbor, Fayetteville, was well represented. Centreville displayed a strong array. Monroe County and Waterloo were on the ground by a depution with banners and mottoes. Many of these of all the delegations were very beautiful and appropriate. “Fremont and ‘Free-Soil;” “Union and Liberty;” Cara patria, carior Libertas;”2 “ We earn the bread we eat; we eat the bread we earn;” and many others. The last mentioned was alluded to by Mr. Lincoln in one of the most thrilling bursts of eloquence ever uttered in behalf of Liberty and the toiling millions.3
We have given the substance of Senator Trumbull’s speech.4 We regret that our space precludes for the present that of Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Miller’s. All the speakers desplayed much ablility; our true representative spoke, as he always does, with power and effect.5 The palm, however, belongs to Mr. Lincoln; his was the speech of the day. We have heard him twice before, at Bloomington, on the 29th of May last, and at Springfield, on the 25th ult. 6 The delighted thousands who heard him then will appreciate his eloquence when they learn that he surpassed those efforts in his speech to the vast assembly of Republicans in Belleville. He showed that there are only two parties and only two questions now before the voters. A Kentuckian, as he is, familiar with Slavery and its evils, he vindicated the cause of free labor, “that national capital,” in the language of Col. [Colonel] Fremont, “which constitutes the real wealth of this great country, and creates that intelligent power in the masses alone to be relied on as the bulwark of free institutions.”7 He showed the tendency and aim of the Sham Democracy to degrade labor to subvert the true ends of Government and build up Aristocricy, Despotism and Slavery. The platforms of Buchanan and Fremont were contrasted, and the opposite tendency of each to the other was shown with the clearness of light.8 The rights of man were eloquently vindicated. The only object of government, the good of the governed, not the interests of Slaveholders— the securing of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; this true end of all Government was well enforced.9 The Kentuckian, Lincoln, defended the Declaration of American Independence against the attacks of the degenerate Vermonter, Douglas, and against Breckenridge and the whole ruling class of the South. Here was a Southerner, with eloquence that would bear a comparison with Henry Clay’s, defending Liberty and the North against the leaders of the Border Rufffians and Doughfaces of Illinois.10 Stephen A. Douglas, the traitor to Freedom, was exposed, and his arguments refuted by Lincoln. This associate of Hecker referred to the Germans and the noble position taken by them in just and dignified terms.11 When he called down the blessings of the Almighty on their heads, a thrill of sympathy and pleasure ran through his whole audience. They all rejoiced that clap-traps, false issues and humbugs are powerless with the great heart of Germany in America.12 Lincoln and Hecker were inscribed on many banners. They are worthy advocates of a worthy cause— honest men and lovers of Liberty, whose hearts beat in unison with the heart of the people all over the world. Patrick Henry and Jefferson and Washington were not more devoted to our great and noble cause than are these two eloquent men. They are as true Democrats as ever trod the earth, and what is more in modern America, they are Republicans. Compared with Douglas, Lincoln is like Hyperion to a Satyr.13 The one is a man of genius, of ideas, of principle, of eloquence, and the noblest work of God— an honest man. The other is the friend and associate of Don Morrison— a man of mere words, a stump orator of mechanical clap trap, without ideas, and hardly with the pretension to any principle or honesty. Such are the representatives of the two principal parties in our State. Let Abraham Lincoln succeed Stephen A. Douglas in the Senate of the United States. Let the Republican press nominate him, Let the Republican party elect him to that high office. It will be a great trust bestowed upon integrity and capability. It will be a high honor conferred upon high merit. Lincoln deserves well of the Republic; all honor to him.14
1This summary of a speech by Abraham Lincoln is excerpted from a longer, unsigned article published by the Belleville Advocate describing a Republican meeting in support of presidential candidate John C. Fremont and Illinois gubernatorial candidate William H. Bissell at Belleville, Illinois, on October 18, 1856. No other account of this speech by Lincoln has been located.
Prior to this speech, Lincoln spoke at a Republican rally in Clinton on October 13, and two days after this speech he gave an address in Urbana. From July 1856 onwards, Lincoln gave over fifty speeches across Illinois in support of Fremont and to rally the disparate elements of the emerging Republican Party. See the 1856 Federal Election.
The Lincoln Log: A Daily Chronology of the Life of Abraham Lincoln, 13 October 1856,; 20 October 1856,; Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 1:425-33.
2This phrase, also sometimes rendered as “patria cara, carior libertas,” can be translated as “My country is dear, but liberty is dearer.”
A Dictionary of Select and Popular Quotations, Which are in Daily Use: Taken from the Latin, French, Greek, Spanish, and Italian Languages, 6th Amer. ed. (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1861), 199.
3In 1888, then Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Daniel Kerr, reminisced on attending this speech as a young man, and recollected that it was Peter J. Osterhaus who carried the banner bearing the final slogan on enjoying the fruits of one’s labor. In Kerr’s memory, the banner inspired Lincoln to argue in his speech that the sentiment was the base policy of the United States government, and that “every man should have the full benefit of all his labor, developing the ability to care for himself, rather than trusting to the care of employers.”
A paragraph from the newspaper article is here editorially omitted. The omitted paragraph describes the animating sentiment of the meeting as opposition of the extension of slavery into the territories, recounts the arrival of a delegation from St. Louis, and laments the absence of speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nathaniel P. Banks whose attendance had been promised.
Congressional Record: Containing the Proceedings and Debates of the Fiftieth Congress, First Session (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1888), 19:3474; Biographical Directory of the American Congress 1774-1996 (Alexandria, VA: CQ Staff Directories, 1997), 1327.
4The Belleville Advocate printed Trumbull’s speech in its entirety following this article.
Belleville Advocate (IL), 22 October 1856, 2:3-5.
5Lyman Trumbull is likely here referenced as the “true representative” of the Eight District of Illinois because although he had vacated his seat as the district’s member in the U.S. House of Representatives, no replacement had yet been chosen. Trumbull had been elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in November 1854, but prior to the beginning of his term in Congress, in February 1855 the Illinois General Assembly instead selected him to represent Illinois in the U.S. Senate. When Trumbull presented his credentials in the U.S. Senate, his eligibility for that office was challenged, and it was March 1856 before he was confirmed as a senator.
While the matter of Trumbull’s Senate seat was being resolved, Philip B. Fouke began petitioning the U.S. House of Representatives in February 1856 claiming Trumbull’s as-yet-unvacated House seat. Fouke was one of the candidates that Trumbull had defeated for the seat in the election of 1854. The House of Representatives ultimately rejected Fouke’s petition on April 10, 1856, stating that he had not been duly elected to the position, and at that same time the body finally declared Trumbull’s House seat vacant. The Eighth Congressional District of Illinois would ultimately vote in a special election on November 4, 1856, for a representative to fill Trumbull’s vacancy. James L. D. Morrison won that election with 55.8 percent of the vote and served from November 1856 to March 1857.
Howard W. Allen and Vincent A. Lacey, eds., Illinois Elections, 1818-1990 (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1992), 10, 11, 141; Ralph J. Roske, His Own Counsel: The Life and Times of Lyman Trumbull (Reno, NV: University of Nevada Press, 1979), 23-26, 31-33; U.S. House Journal. 1856. 34th Cong., 1st sess., 552, 805-7; Daily Illinois State Register (Springfield), 4 November 1856, 2:1; Biographical Directory of the American Congress 1774-1996, 1557, 1965.
6No text of Lincoln’s speech at Springfield on September 25, 1856 has been located, but the Illinois State Journal described it as “a most masterly speech,” and reported that Lincoln “reviewed the whole action of the Government on the subject of slavery, from its earliest history down to the present time, and showed what has ever been the policy of the country, until Douglas and the present Administration attempted to inaugurate a new and dangerous theory.” According to the newspaper, “never was he so powerful, so strong in argument, so convincing in logic. It was a most masterly effort, and sent conviction to the hearts of all who heard him.”
Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield), 26 September 1856, 2:2.
7Fremont described free labor in this way in his letter of July 8, 1856 accepting the presidential nomination of the 1856 Republican National Convention.
John Bigelow, Memoir of the Life and Public Services of John Charles Fremont (New York: Derby & Jackson, 1856), 459.
8For the respective 1856 presidential platforms of James Buchanan and Fremont see the 1856 Democratic National Convention and the 1856 Republican National Convention.
9The United States Declaration of Independence of July 4, 1776, includes the statement that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
Julian P. Boyd et al., eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1950), 1:429.
10The term doughface was adapted by John Randolph of Roanoke during debates over the Missouri Compromise to refer to northern men with southern principles. In the 1840s and 1850s, it became synonymous with northern politicians, particularly Democrats, who voted with the South regardless of their motivation.
Leonard L. Richards, The Slave Power: The Free North and Southern Domination, 1780-1860 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2000), 85-86, 106.
11Lincoln and Friedrich K. F. Hecker were associates in the campaign of 1856 as fellow Illinois presidential electors for the state at large for Fremont. They had been recommended by committee and unanimously approved as electors for what would become the Illinois Republican Party at the Illinois Anti-Nebraska Convention in Bloomington on May 29, 1856. Hecker was viewed as a boon to the Republican cause during the 1856 election due to his appeal among German American voters, who were familiar with his political activities in Germany. Passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854 caused German Americans who opposed the expansion of slavery to re-evaluate their political affiliations. The nascent Republican Party, with its free-soil position, appealed to German immigrants and party leaders actively worked to recruit German American voters in the 1856 election.
Ezra M. Prince, ed., “Meeting of May 29, 1900 Commemorative of the Convention of May 29, 1856 That Organized the Republican Party in the State of Illinois,” Transactions of The McLean County Historical Society 3 (1900), 158; Sabine Freitag, Friedrich Hecker: Two Lives for Liberty, trans. by Steven Rowan (St. Louis: St. Louis Mercantile Library, University of Missouri–St. Louis, 2006), 168-69, 171; Zachary Stuart Garrison, German Americans on the Middle Border: From Antislavery to Reconciliation, 1830-1877 (Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 2020), 44-64.
12A claptrap was an expression, device, sentiment, or pretentious but empty assertion designed to merely invoke applause. A humbug was a hoax, trick, or deception.
Lesley Brown, ed., The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993), 1:410, 1277.
13This contrast of the noble Hyperion with a brutish satyr is a reference to William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, in which the title character compares his father and his uncle saying, “So excellent a king, that was to this Hyperion to a satyr.” In classical mythology, satyrs are wild and lascivious creatures of the forest who often appear less than human, with the legs and horns of a goat.
William Shakespeare, Hamlet (ca. 1600), Act 1, Scene 2, Lines 139-40, in William Shakespeare, Hamlet, ed. G. R. Hibbard (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987), 163; Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, Revised and Enlarged (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1953), 805.
14The remainder of the article describes a speech by Alexander Kayser, an evening procession, and a speech by Josiah Miller, then mentions that Franz Grimm and Adam Hammer both spoke.

Copy of Printed Document, 1 page(s), Belleville Advocate (IL), 22 October 1856, 2:1-2.