From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

fount, pushing on in clouds of dust and beneath the blazing sun; settling down at the town where the meeting is, with hardly a chance for sitting, and even less opportunity for eating, waiting in anxious groups for hours at the places of speaking, talking, discussing, litigious, vociferous, while the war artillery, the music of the bands, the waving of banners, the huzzahs of the crowds, as delegation after delegation appears; the cry of the peddlers vending all sorts of ware, from an infalliable cure of 'agur' to a monster watermelon in slices to suit purchasers—combine to render the occasion one scene of confusion and commotion. The hour of one arrives and a perfect rush is made for the grounds; a column of dust is rising to the heavens and fairly deluging those who are hurrying on through it. Then the speakers come with flags, and banners, and music, surrounded by cheering partisans. Their arrival at the ground and immediate approach to the stand is the signal for shouts that rend the heavens. They are introduced to the audience amidst prolonged and enthusiastic cheers; they are interrupted by frequent applause; and they sit down finally amid the same uproarious demonstration. The audience sit or stand patiently throughout, and, as the last word is spoken, make a break for their homes, first hunting up lost members of their families, getting their scattered wagonloads together, and, as the daylight fades away, entering again upon the broad prairies and slowly picking their way back to the place of beginning."— Special correspondence from Charleston, Illinois, to the New York Post, September 24, 1858.

The patience of the crowd in listening to lengthy speeches, as noted by this correspondent, finds many illustrations elsewhere. Three hours was the usual time allotted to a speaker. Sometimes after listening to a discussion of this length during the afternoon, the crowd would disperse for supper and then return to hear another speaker for an equal length of time during the evening. The spirit of fairness to both sides prompted the people to furnish one speaker with as large an audience as the other enjoyed. This spirit was manifested at Peoria in 1854 as the following extract from a contemporary newspaper shows:

"On Monday, October 16, Senator Douglas, by appointment, ad-