Page:Lincolndouglas2184linc.djvu/34

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2
ILLINOIS HISTORICAL COLLECTIONS

championed in song and speech by their supporters in the Middle West, the political "stump" became the favorite hustings. The news that a leader was to "take the stump" in a certain district was sufficient promise of enlightenment on the political issues of the day in a region where newspapers and campaign literature were meager; and also the occasion was likely to afford a diversion in the way of rival processions and to furnish an opportunity of meeting one's friends and neighbors. The community which was favored as the scene of a political debate immediately awoke to unwonted activity. Banners were painted, flags flung from staff and building, and lithographs of rival candidates displayed in windows. Great barges or wagons, especially decorated for the occasion, were filled with "first voters," or with young women dressed to symbolize the political aspects of the campaign. Local merchants hurriedly stocked up on novelties likely to be in demand, while itinerant venders altered their schedules and hurried to the promising center of trade. Upon the public square each party erected a "pole" with a banner bearing the name of its candidates flying from the lofty top. The rural male voter did not appropriate to himself all the joys of the occasion, but the entire family "went to town," to enjoy the unusual day of diversion in the round of a monotonous and isolated life. A reporter connected with a New York newspaper was sent to Illinois to write up one of these "stump" campaigns, and both vividly and appreciatively he described the gathering of the people for the chief event of the summer:

"It is astonishing how deep an interest in politics this people take. Over long weary miles of hot and dusty prairie the processions of eager partisans come — on foot, on horseback, in wagons drawn by horses or mules; men, women, and children, old and young; the half sick, just out of the last 'shake;' children in arms, infants at the maternal