Report of Speech at a Republican Banquet, Chicago, Illinois, 10 December 18561
The cloth being removed, the President, Hon. J. Y. Scammon, proceeded to open the Banquet.2 He said it was fit that the friends of freedom should meet and congratulate each other. The flag of Freedom floats on the State Capitol, and every man elected to the State Department. (Loud cheers.) Those principles which we nailed upon our banners are triumphant in our State, and although we did not elect the President of the United States, he joined with Whittier in waiting for Fremont and 1860.3 (Cheers.)
The President then read the first regular toast:
1st. THE UNION— The North will maintain it— the South will not depart therefrom.
Hon. Abram Lincoln of Springfield, amid most deafening cheers, arose to reply to this toast. He said he could most heartily indorse the sentiment expressed in the toast. During the whole canvass we had been assailed as the enemies of the Union,4 and he often had occasion to repudiate the sentiments attributed to us. He said that the Republican party was the friend of the Union.5 (Cheers.) It was the friends of the Union now; and if it had been entirely snccessful, it would have been the friend of the Union more than ever. (Loud and long continued cheers.) He maintained that the Liberty for which we contended could best be obtained by a firm, a steady adherence to the Union. As Webster said, “Not Union without liberty, nor liberty without Union; but Union and liberty, now and forever, one and inseparable.”6 (Loud cheers.) The speaker said we had selected and elected a Republican State ticket. We have done what we supposed to be our duty. It is now the duty of those elected to give us a good Republican Administration. In regard to the Governor-elect, Col. Bissell,— (Loud and long-continued cheers and waving of handkerchiefs)— he referred to the opposite party saying that “he couldn’t take the oath.”7 Well, they said “he couldn’t be elected,” and as they were mistaken once, he thought they were not unlikely to be mistaken again. “They wouldn’t take such an oath!” Oh, no! (Laughter.) “They would cut off their right arm first.” He would like to know one of them who would not part with his right arm to have the privilege of taking the oath. Their conduct reminded him of the darkey who, when a bear had put its head into the hole and shut out daylight, cried out, “What was darkening de hole?,’ “Ah,” cried the other darkey, who was holding on to the htail of the animal, “if de tail breaks you’ll find out.” (Laughter and cheers.) Those darkies at Springfield see something darkening the hole, but wait till the tail breaks on the 1st of January, and they will see. (Cheers.) The speaker referred to the anecdote of the boy who was talking to another as to whether Gen. Jackson could ever get to Heaven. Said the boy, “He’d get there if he had a mind to.” (Cheers and laughter.) So was it with Colonel Bissell,— he’d do whatever he had a mind to. (Cheers.) He then referred to the President’s Message,8 and after dissecting it in a humorous manner, he concluded by saying, “He’s a shelled peascod.”9 He said that our Government was based upon public opinion, and whenever that changes, so does the Government. “Equality of men” has been our central idea, and although we have progressed, yet we have been patient to a wonderful degree, with certain inequa[l]ities that existed. We must change these inequalities— we must reform public opinion— we must found our principles, our central idea, in the hearts of the people, that slavery is sectional and that Freedom is national,10 and we will not fail to achieve the victory. We must drown the cry now raised of “Equality of States” by the loud cry of “All men are created free and equal.”11(Loud and long-continued cheers.)
1On December 11, 1856, The Daily Democratic Press published this report of a speech that Abraham Lincoln delivered on December 10. The original speech in Lincoln’s hand has not been located. The Daily Illinois State Journal also published a report of Lincoln’s speech in its December 16 issue, in which it noted that Lincoln provided a “verbatim report” of his remarks.
Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield), 16 December 1856, 2:3.
2Jonathan Y. Scammon served as host and president of the December 10 banquet, which the Illinois Republicans’ Banquet Committee organized.
The Daily Democratic Press (Chicago, IL), 13 December 1856, 2:3; Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield), 13 December 1856, 2:6.
3In the 1856 Federal Election, the Republican Party swept the races for every state office in Illinois, including the governorship, which William H. Bissell won. The Democratic Party, however, won the presidency. In Illinois, James Buchanan won 44.1 percent of the total vote to Republican presidential candidate John C. Fremont’s 40.2 percent and American Party presidential candidate Millard Fillmore’s 15.7 percent.
Poet and abolitionist John G. Whittier had supported Fremont for president. After Fremont’s defeat, Whittier composed and published a poem in the National Era entitled “A Song, Inscribed to the Fremont Clubs,” in which he looked optimistically toward Fremont’s chances in the 1860 Federal Election.
Howard W. Allen and Vincent A. Lacey, eds., Illinois Elections, 1818-1990 (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1992), 10; Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield), 20 November 1856, 2:2; The National Era (Washington, DC), 21 August 1856, 3:8; 20 November 1856, 2:6.
4During the election campaign of 1856, Fillmore delivered a prominent speech in which he accused the Republican Party of being a “sectional party” that represented only the interests of the free states of the nation. He argued this was dangerous, and that if the Republican Party gained power it would lead “inevitably to the destruction” of the nation.
Frank H. Severance, ed., Millard Fillmore Papers, vol. 11 of Publications of the Buffalo Historical Society (Buffalo, NY: Buffalo Historical Society, 1907), 2:3, 19, 21.
5Lincoln was in high demand as a speaker for the Republican Party during the 1856 election campaign. He delivered more than fifty speeches throughout Illinois as he stumped on behalf of Republican candidates.
Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 1:425.
6Lincoln is paraphrasing a well-known quote from an address that Daniel Webster delivered in the U.S. Senate on January 27, 1830 as part of a debate with Senator Robert Y. Hayne. Although the Webster-Hayne debate initially centered upon proposed limits to federal land sales in the American West, it soon shifted to a more general debate about the role of the federal government and the issue of slavery. Webster’s January 27 address focused on the origin and nature of the Union, and is widely considered one of the best speeches ever delivered in the U.S. Congress. After discussing the preservation of the Union, Webster concluded his address with the declaration, “Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable!”
6 Cong. Deb., 73-80 (1830); Harlow W. Sheidley, “The Webster-Hayne Debate: Recasting New England’s Sectionalism,” The New England Quarterly 67 (March 1994), 5, 13-19.
7This is a reference to assertions that Democrats made both during the campaign of 1856 and after the election that Bissell was ineligible for state office. The 1848 Illinois Constitution prohibited anyone who had participated in a duel from holding office and required all elected and appointed state officers to take an oath swearing that they had never challenged someone to a duel, accepted or fought in a duel, or served as a second in a duel. In 1850, Bissell had accepted Jefferson Davis’ challenge to a duel. Although Bissell and Davis ultimately did not duel, Democrats asserted that Bissell was ineligible for state office per the Illinois Constitution and would perjure himself if he took the anti-dueling oath. Bissell argued that it had never been legally established that he had accepted Davis’ challenge to duel and that the Illinois Constitution did not apply at any rate since he had accepted the duel in the District of Columbia, not Illinois. He was inaugurated as governor on January 12, 1857, took the required oath, and served as governor until his death.
Robert P. Howard, Mostly Good and Competent Men: Illinois Governors 1818-1988 (Springfield: Illinois Issues, Sangamon State University and Illinois State Historical Society, 1988), 109, 111-13; Ill. Const. of 1848, art. XIII, § 25-26; David L. Lightner, “Bissell, William Henry,” American National Biography, ed. by John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 2:844.
8President Franklin Pierce delivered his annual message to Congress on December 2, 1856. Much of his address focused on the issue of slavery and the supposed threat to the Union presented by those who pretend “to seek only to prevent the spread of the institution of slavery” while actually being “inflamed with desire to change the domestic institutions of existing states.”
Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield), 5 December 1856, 2:2-6, 3:1.
9This is an allusion to a line from Shakespeare’s King Lear in which the fool points at Lear and proclaims, “That’s a shelled peascod,” meaning that Lear is impotent much like an empty peapod.
William Shakespeare, King Lear (ca. 1606), Act 1, Scene 4, Line 205.
10Salmon P. Chase was known for frequently employing the expression “slavery is sectional; freedom is national,” and the expression may have originated in his arguments in the case Jones v. Van Zandt, which came before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1846. While representing John Van Zandt, a Methodist farmer who had helped a group of Kentucky runaways, Chase argued that Van Zandt did not owe damages to Wharton Jones, the enslaver and owner of the runaways, in part because slavery was a local institution that was neither sanctioned nor supported by the federal government. Although Chase and Van Zandt ultimately lost the case, Chase’s Van Zandt brief was published as a pamphlet and his arguments regarding slavery as a local rather than national institution received wide circulation, earning him a national reputation as an opponent of slavery and defender of the U.S. Constitution. For Chase’s arguments in the case, see S. P. Chase, Reclamation of Fugitives from Service: An Argument for the Defendant, Submitted to the Supreme Court of the United States, at the December Term, 1846, in the Case of Wharton Jones vs. John VanZandt (Cincinnati: R. P. Donough, 1847).
W. H. DePuy, The Encyclopædia Britannica: A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, and General Literature (Chicago: Werner, 1895), 5:433; Carter B. Westmoreland, “The Legacy of Salmon P. Chase,” Freedom Center Journal (2015), 22; H. T. Peck, ed., The International Cyclopædia: A Compendium of Human Knowledge (New York: Dodd and Mead, 1899), 3:708; Randy E. Barnett, “From Antislavery Lawyer to Chief Justice: The Remarkable but Forgotten Career of Salmon P. Chase,” Case Western Reserve Law Review 63 (2013), 667-68.
11Article four, sections three and four of the U.S. Constitution stipulate that all states within the Union are formed and admitted to the Union on equal terms and guaranteed the same rights to a republican form of government, protection against invasion, and protection against domestic violence. Southern Democrats in particular touted the concept of equality of states in the years leading up to the Civil War, asserting that the North sought to infringe upon the southern states’ equal rights as they related to the institution of slavery. Lincoln credited the Richmond Enquirer with “inventing” the phrase “state equality” and President Pierce with endorsing it, since, in his annual message to Congress on December 2, 1856, Pierce had declared that through their election of Buchanan to the presidency, the people of the United States “have asserted the Constitutional equality of each and all the States of the Union, as States.”
In the verbatim report of this speech that the Daily Illinois State Journal stated that Lincoln shared with the paper, the phrase “All men are created free and equal” does not appear. Instead, the report credits Lincoln with stating that “all men are created equal”—the phrase that appears in the United States Declaration of Independence—and that Lincoln emphasized that equality among men was “the broader, better declaration” than equality among states.
U.S. Const. art. IV, § 3-4; Robert C. Childers, “Popular Sovereignty, Slavery in the Territories, and the South, 1785-1860,” (PhD diss., Louisiana State University, 2010), 144, 319; Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield), 5 December 1856, 2:2; Thomas Jefferson et al, July 4, Copy of Declaration of Independence 07-04 1776.

Printed Document, 1 page(s), The Daily Democratic Press (Chicago, IL), 11 December 1856, 2:2.