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12
ILLINOIS HISTORICAL COLLECTIONS

LINCOLN AT THE STATE FAIR

My acquaintance with Mr. Lincoln began in October, 1854.[1] I was then in the employ of the Chicago Evening Journal. I had been sent to Springfield to report the political doings of State Fair week for that newspaper. Thus it came about that I occupied a front seat in the Representatives' Hall, in the old State House when Mr. Lincoln delivered a speech already described in this volume. The impression made upon me by the orator was quite overpowering. I had not heard much political speaking up to that time. I have heard a great deal since. I have never heard anything since, either by Mr. Lincoln, or by anybody, that I would put on a higher plane of oratory. All the strings that play upon the human heart and understanding were touched with masterly skill and force, while beyond and above all skill was the overwhelming conviction pressed upon the audience that the speaker himself was charged with an irresistible and inspiring duty to his fellowmen. . . . .

Although I heard him many times afterward, I shall longest remember him as I then saw the tall, angular form with the long, angular arms, at times bent nearly double with excitement, like a large flail animating two smaller ones, the mobile face wet with perspiration which he discharged in drops as he threw his head this way and that like a projectile—not a graceful figure and yet not an ungraceful one.

Lincoln spoke until half-past five; Douglas replied for an hour and then announced that he would leave off to enable the listeners to have their suppers and would resume at early candle light. But when that time arrived, Douglas for some reason failed to resume, other speakers took the platform, and Douglas' "unfinished speech" was the cause of endless raillery on the part of the Whigs who claimed that he found Lincoln's arguments unanswerable. The style of argument of each was known to the other because they had debated public questions in Springfield as early as seventeen years before. Trumbull arrived in time to speak on Thursday evening and his speech was widely copied in the press of the state as

  1. Mr. Horace White in Herndon's Life of Lincoln, by permission of D. Appleton & Co.