Report of Speech of Peleg S. Perley to Abraham Lincoln, 23 August 18581
Mr. Lincoln: In behalf of the Republicans here assembled, whose humble mouth-piece I am to-day, permit me to greet you and to welcome you to our home, our hearts, our votes. We are, each and every one of us, most happy and proud to greet you—to grasp your hand with a hearty Republican grasp—to take a look that will last us for six years at your honest, though not altogether handsome face, and to drink in once more, ere you leave us, the treasured tones and truths of your unpretending but effective speech. I am not going to bore you, sir, and this crowd, which waits to hear you, with lengthy remarks of mine, but am simply going to tell you in a few words, what we think of you and what we expect of you.And, sir, we do think, that that man Lincoln, familiarly known as “Abe,” is the ablest and fittest man in Illinois to represent us in the Senate of the United States. We intend to send you there. We mean to give you a seat by the side of Seward and Sumner and Hale and Fessenden and Wade and Trumbull.2 We know you are worthy of the companionship of these great and good men and we look to see you with them bearing bravely up the Republican banner against all odds; and we know that in such hands our cause, though it may for the moment be defeated, can never be disgraced.3
Our opponents tell us you are a very good and a very able man, but that your reputation is merely a state reputation, while Douglas’s is national. We answer them, that every Republican and every Democrat in the land is anxiously watching the result of the war here waged, and that the slayer and successor of Douglas will thenceforth be known as the “Giant-Killer”—as such will have a reputation more than national—wider than the Republic, and that in the event of Douglas’s defeat, which we see plainly foreshadowed, the names of Lincoln and the “Little Giant” will go down to posterity together, as indissolubly linked in fame, as the names of David and Goliath have come down to us.4
An honest man’s the noblest work of God,” and as such we honor you.5 As our unpretending champion and standard bearer we hail you and will follow you—and as a fearless and undaunted patriot who lifts up an honest voice and a brave arm for right and freedom in the land, our hearts go out to you in fervent admiration and our prayers go up for you in love to heaven.
1This transcription appeared in the August 27, 1858 edition of the Courier in Henry, Illinois.
Initially, Peleg S. Perley sent a petition to Abraham Lincoln on July 12, 1858, with the signatures of thirty Democrats and fifty Republicans, inviting him to visit Henry, Illinois. Lincoln agreed on August 3. The invitation stemmed from Lincoln’s recent nomination at the 1858 Illinois Republican Convention to run against incumbent Stephen A. Douglas to represent Illinois in the U.S. Senate. At this time the Illinois General Assembly elected the state’s representatives in the U.S. Senate, thus the outcome of races for the Illinois House of Representatives and Illinois Senate were of importance to Lincoln’s campaign. Lincoln and Douglas both focused their campaign efforts on the former Whig stronghold of central Illinois, where the state legislative races were the closest. See 1858 Federal Election.
Lincoln boarded a train at 3 a.m. on August 23 and arrived in Henry, Illinois, to address the town for several hours on his promised date. This document is Perley’s introduction to Lincoln’s speech, which he addressed to a crowd that was several thousand strong.
Marshall County was a northern Illinois county assumed to be strongly Republican in 1858, and that proved to be the case in the state election of that year. Marshall was in the Eighth Illinois Senate District, where Republican George C. Bestor defeated Democrat William S. Moss, and the Forty-Second Illinois House District, which elected Republican John A. McCall over Democrat Washington E. Cook.
Allen C. Guelzo, “Houses Divided: Lincoln, Douglas, and the Political Landscape of 1858,” The Journal of American History 94 (September 2007), 392-99, 400-401; Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 1:457-58, 476-77; Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield), 4 November 1858, 3:2; Chicago Daily Press and Tribune (IL), 5 November 1858, 1:3; The Weekly Pantagraph (Bloomington, IL), 10 November 1858, 2:1; 24 November 1858, 2:3; John Clayton, comp., The Illinois Fact Book and Historical Almanac 1673-1968 (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1970), 219-22; The Lincoln Log: A Daily Chronology of the Life of Abraham Lincoln, 23 August 1858,
2Each of the named men was opposed to slavery in some form. William H. Seward had already become a well-known antislavery politician by the 1850s. Charles Sumner‘s father taught him as a child that slavery was wrong and that the enslaved deserved freedom, equality, and happiness--a lesson Sumner remembered throughout his life. John P. Hale could not be labeled an abolitionist, but by 1843 he had embraced antislavery to the point that he voted against the gag rule in the House. William P. Fessenden‘s antislavery developed out of his hostility to the slave power subordinating northern interests. Benjamin F. Wade, in 1854, stated in a speech, “You may call me an Abolitionist, if you will. I care little for that; for, if an undying hatred to slavery constitutes an Abolitionist, I am that Abolitionist.” Lyman Trumbull considered popular sovereignty to be a sham and believed that the pro-slavery powers were determined to spread slavery across the United States against the wishes of America’s founding fathers.
Daniel W. Crofts, “Seward, William Henry,” American National Biography, ed. by John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 19:677; David Herbert Donald, Charles Sumner and the Coming of the Civil War (Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks, 2009), 109; Donald B. Cole, “Hale, John Parker,” American National Biography, 9:827; Michael Les Benedict, “Civil War Senator: William Pitt Fessenden and the Fight to Save the American Republic by Robert J. Cook,” Journal of the Civil War Era 2 (December 2012), 622; Lewis E. Lehrman, Lincoln at Peoria: The Turning Point. Getting Right with the Declaration of Independence (Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2008), 84; Paul M. Rego, Lyman Trumbull and the Second Founding of the United States (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2022), 224.
3Perley is likely referring to the Republican cause of quashing the spread of slavery in the new territories, which also meant fighting against the concept of popular sovereignty. Lincoln defined popular sovereignty as the right to allow people of a territory to have slavery if they wanted it, but it did not allow them not to have it if they did not want it. See Bleeding Kansas.
First Debate with Stephen A. Douglas at Ottawa, Illinois; First Debate with Stephen A. Douglas at Ottawa, Illinois; First Debate with Stephen A. Douglas at Ottawa, Illinois; Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life, 1:408-9.
4According to 1 Samuel 17, David, armed with only a sling and pebbles, overcame the giant Goliath in a single combat. David represents Lincoln, the underdog in the 1858 Senate race.
1 Samuel 17:1-58; The Encyclopædia Britannica (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1910), 12:225.
5This quote is derived from Alexander Pope’s Essay on Man, in Four Epistles, Epistle IV. Of the Nature and State of Man with Respect to Happiness. Pope’s Essay has been described as “a treatise...on the moral order of the world of which man is part,” and argues that happiness through virtue is only reached within society or social order.
Mark Pattison, ed., Pope: Essay on Man, 6th ed. (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1879), 3, 66.

Copy of Printed Document, 1 page(s), Henry Weekly Courier , (Henry, Illinois) , 27 August 1858, 2:1.