1856 Illinois Anti-Nebraska Convention

Place: Bloomington, Illinois

The Bloomington, or Anti-Nebraska, Convention was held in Bloomington, Illinois, on May 29, 1856. Its primary purpose was to select a gubernatorial candidate to represent a loose coalition of politicians opposed to the Kansas-Nebraska Act but amounted to the founding convention of the Illinois Republican Party. Abraham Lincoln spoke at the convention but the specific contents of his speech are unknown. Reports and recollections indicate that Lincoln voiced his commitment to Union and opposition to slavery on political and moral grounds. William H. Bissell received the gubernatorial nomination and Francis A. Hoffman was nominated by the convention for the office of lieutenant governor, although the latter was ultimately replaced on the ticket by John Wood. The convention unanimously adopted resolutions presented by a committee appointed to prepare them. These resolutions included: a pledge to forego former political differences to unite in opposition to the administration of Franklin Pierce and the Democratic Party; a resolve to return the U.S. government to the principles and practices of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and other leaders of the American Revolution; the belief that under the U.S. Constitution the U.S. Congress had the power to prohibit slavery in the territories and that that power should be used to prevent the spread of slavery into territories where it had not historically existed; a denunciation of the repeal of the Missouri Compromise and a vow to secure a legal guaranty against slavery in Kansas and Nebraska territories; an assurance of devotion to the Union; a statement in favor of the immediate admission of Kansas as a state under the constitution adopted by its residents; and a commitment to freedom of conscience along with a pledge not to discriminate based on religion or place of birth. Following the adoption of the committee’s resolutions, several resolutions introduced by individuals were also adopted, including one that denounced Stephen A. Douglas for having overturned the Missouri Compromise.

Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 1:415-21; David Herbert Donald, Lincoln (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995), 191; Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield), 30 May 1856, 2:2-4; 25 September 1856, 2:1.