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Wilson, Douglas L., ed.; Davis, Rodney O., ed.; Pierce, Edward L. 'Edward L. Pierce (Statement for William H. Herndon)' in 'Herndon's Informants: Letters, Interviews, and Statements About Abraham Lincoln' . Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1998. [format: book], [genre: history]. Permission: University of Illinois Press
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=herndon688b.html


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578. Edward L. Pierce (Statement for William H. Herndon).

[Enclosure I]

[1887?]

It is not known at whose instance Mr. Lincoln made his visits to Massachusetts in 1848. The Whigs of the State were hard pressed at the time by a formidable secession growing out of General Taylor's nomination, and led by Henry Wilson, Charles Francis Adams, Charles Allen, Charles Sumner, Stephen C. Phillips, John G. Palfrey, E. Rockwood Hoar, Richard H. Dana, Jr., Anson Burlingame, John A. Andrew, and other leaders who had great weight with the people and were all effective public speakers. The Whig State Convention met at Worcester, September 13th. The Free-Soil secession was greater here than in any part of the State.

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It was led by Judge Charles Allen, who was elected to Congress from the district. There was a meeting of the Whigs at the City Hall on the evening before the convention. Ensign Kellogg presided and except for his introductory remarks, Mr. Lincoln's speech, which lasted one and a half or two hours, was the only one. The Boston Advertiser's report was nearly a column in length. It said: "Mr. Lincoln has a very tall and thin figure, with an intellectual face, showing a searching mind and a cool judgment. He spoke in a clear and cool and very eloquent manner, carrying the audience with him in his able arguments and brilliant illustrations, only interrupted by warm and frequent applause. He began by expressing a real feeling of modesty in addressing an audience 'this side of the mountains,' a part of the country where, in the opinion of the people of his section, everybody was supposed to be instructed and wise. But he had devoted his attention to the question of the coming presidential election, and was not unwilling to exhange with all whom he might meet the ideas to which he had arrived." This passage gives some reason to suppose that, conscious of his powers, he was disposed to try them before audiences somewhat different from those to which he had been accustomed, and therefore he had come to New England. The first part of his speech was a reply, at some length, to the charge that General Taylor had no political principles; and he maintained that the General stood on the true Whig principle, that the will of the people should prevail against executive influence or the veto power of the President. He justifed the Whigs for omitting to put a national platform before the people, and, according to a Free-Soil report, said that a political platform should be frowned down whenever and wherever presented. But the stress of his speech was against the Free-Soilers, whose position as to the exclusion of slavery from the territories, he claimed, to be that of the Whigs; while the former were subject to the further criticism that they had but one principle, reminding him of the Yankee peddler, who, in offering for sale a pair of pantaloons, described them as "large enough for any man, and small enough for any boy." He condemned the Free-Soilers as helping to elect Cass, who was less likely to promote freedom in the territories than Taylor and passed judgment on them as having less principle than any party. To their defence of their right and duty to act independently, "leaving consequences to God," he replied, that "when divine or human law does not clearly point out what is our duty, it must be found out by an intelligent judgment, which takes in the results of action." The Free-Soilers were much offended by a passage which does not appear in the Whig report. Referring to the anti-slavery men, he said they were better treated in Massachusetts than in the West, and, turning to William S. Lincoln, of Worcester, who had lived in Illinois, he remarked that in that State they had recently killed one of them. This allusion to Lovejoy's murder at Alton, was thought by the Free-Soilers to be heartless, and it was noted that Mr. Lincoln did not repeat it in other speeches. It was probably a casual remark, which came into his mind at the moment, and meant but little, if anything. Cheers were given at the end of the speech for the eloquent Whig member from Illinois. The Whig reports spoke of the speech as "masterly and convincing" and "one of the best ever made in Worcester;" while the Free-Soil report describes it as "a pretty tedious

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affair." The next morning he spoke at an open-air meeting, following Benjamin F. Thomas and Ex-Governor Levi Lincoln, but his speech was cut short by the arrival by train of the delegates from Boston, who, with the speakers, proceeded at once to the hall. The convention listened to a long address to the people, reported by a committee, and then to a brilliant speech from Rufus Choate, followed by others from Robert C. Winthrop, the Whig Speaker of the House of Representatives, Charles Hudson, M.C., and Benjamin F. Thomas. Mr. Lincoln listened to these, but was not himself called out.

Mr. Lincoln spoke at Washingtonian Hall, Bromfield street, Boston, on the 15th, his address lasting an hour and a half, and, according to the report, "seldom equaled for sound reasoning, cogent argument and keen satire." Three cheers were given for "the Lone Star of Illinois," on account of his being the only Whig member from the State. He spoke at Lowell on the 16th, and at the Lower Mills, Dorchester, now a part of Boston, on Monday, the 18th. At this last place the meeting was held in Richmond Hall, and the chairman was N. F. Safford, living till 1891, [1] who introduced him as one of the Lincolns of Hingham, and a descendant of Gen. Benjamin Lincoln. Mr. Lincoln, as he began, disclaimed descent from the Revolutionary officer, but said, playfully, that he had endeavored in Illinois to introduce the principles of the Lincolns of Massachusetts. A few of his audience are still living. They were struck with his height, as he arose in the low-studded hall. He spoke at Chelsea on the 19th, and a report states that his speech "for aptness of illustration, solidity of argument, and genuine eloquence, was hard to beat." Charles Sumner had defended the Free-Soil cause at the same place the evening before. Mr. Lincoln spoke at Dedham, in Temperance Hall, on the 20th, in the daytime. Two Whig nominating conventions met there the same day, at one of which Horace Mann was nominated for a second term in Congress. A report states that he "spoke in an agreeable and entertaining way." He left abruptly to take a train in order to meet another engagement, and was escorted to the station by the Dorchester band. The same evening he spoke at Cambridge. The report describes him as "a capital specimen of a Sucker Whig, six feet at least in his stockings." Of his speech, it was said that "it was plain, direct, to the point, powerful and convincing, and telling with capital effect upon the immense audience. It was a model speech for the campaign." His last speech was on 22d, at Tremont Temple, with George Lunt presiding, in company with William H. Seward, whom he followed, ending at 10.30 P.M. The Whig newspaper, the Atlas, the next morning gave more than a column to Mr. Seward's speech, but stated that it had no room for the notes which had been taken of Mr. Lincoln's, describing it, however, as "powerful and convincing, and cheered to the echo." The Free-Soil paper (Henry Wilson's) refers to the meeting, mentioning Mr. Seward but not Mr. Lincoln. The next day Mr. Lincoln left Boston for Illinois. The Atlas on Monday contained this paragraph: "In answer to the many applications which we daily receive from different parts of the State for this gentleman to speak, we have to say that he left Boston on Saturday morning on his way home to Illinois."

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It is evident from all the contemporaneous reports, that Mr. Lincoln made a marked impression on all hs audiences. Their attention was drawn at once to his striking figure; they enjoyed his quaintness and humor; and they recognized his logical power and his novel way of putting things. Still, so far as his points are given in the public journals, he did not rise at any time above partisanship, and he gave no sign of the great future which awaited him as a political antagonist, a master of language, and a leader of men. But it should be noted, in connection with this estimate, that the Whig case, as put in that campaign, was chiefly one of personalities, and was limited to the qualities and career of Taylor as a soldier, and to ridicule of his opponent, General Cass. Mr. Lincoln, like the other Whig speakers, labored to prove that Taylor was a Whig.

Seward's speech at Tremont Temple, to which Lincoln listened, seems to have started a more serious vein of thought on slavery in the mind of the future President. That evening, when they were together as fellow-lodgers at a hotel, Lincoln said: "Governor Seward, I have been thinking about what you said in your speech. I reckon you are right. We have got to deal with this slavery question, and got to give much more attention to it hereafter than we have been doing." [2]

It is curious to recall how little support, in the grave moments of his national career which came twelve years later, Mr. Lincoln received from the Whigs of Massachusetts, then conspicuous in public life, whom he met on his visit. Mr. Lunt, who presided at Faneuil Hall, was to the end of his life a pro-slavery conserative. Judge Thomas, in Congress, during the early part of the civil war, was obstructive to the President's policy. Mr. Winthrop voted against Lincoln in 1860 and 1864. Mr. Choate died in 1859, but judged by his latest utterances, his marvelous eloquence would have been no patriotic inspiration if he had outlived the national stuggle. On the other hand, the Free-Soilers of Massachusetts, whom Mr. Lincoln came here to discredit, became to a man, his supporters; and on many of their leaders he relied as his support in the great conflict. Sumner was chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs during the war; Wilson was chairman of the Committee on Military Affairs; Adams was Minister to England; and Andrew War-Governor of the State. These, as well as Palfrey, Burlingame and Dana, who, in 1848, almost every evening addressed audiences against both Taylor and Cass, while Mr. Lincoln was here, were earnest and steadfast in their devotion to the Government during the civil war; and the last three received important appointments from him. How the press treated Mr. Lincoln may be learned from the following editorial in the Lowell Journal and Courier, in its issue of September 18, 1848:

WHIG MEETING.

The sterling Whigs of Lowell came together last Saturday evening, at the City Hall. The meeting was called to order by the Chairman of the Whig

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Central Committee, Hon. Linus Child. Homer Bartlett, Esq., was chosen chairman, and A. Gilman, secretary. After a few animating remarks from the Chairman, he introduced George Woodman, Esq., of Boston, who made a very pertinent and witty off-hand speech, which was frequently interrupted by the spontaneous plaudits of the audience. At the close of his speech Mr. Woodman introduced the Hon. Abraham Lincoln, of Illinois. It would be doing injustice to his speech to endeavor to give a sketch of it. It was replete with good sense, sound reasoning, and irresistable argument, and spoken with that perfect command of manner and matter which so eminently distinguishes the Western orators. He disabused the public of the erroneous suppositions that Taylor was not a Whig; that Van Buren was anything more than a thorough Loco-foco on all subjects other than Free Territory, and hardly safe on that; and showed up, in a masterly manner, the inconsistency and folly of those Whigs, who, being drawn off from the true and oldest free-soil organization known among the parties of the Union, would now lend their influence and votes to help Mr. Van Buren into the presidential chair. His speech was interrupted by frequent cheers of the audience. At the close the secretary, by request, read the letter of General Taylor to Captain Alison, which had just been received, in which he says: "From the beginning till now, I have declared myself to be a Whig, on all proper occasions."

Library of Congress: Herndon-Weik Collection. Manuscript Division. Library of Congress. Washington, D.C. 3634 — 35 (cover letter), Herndon-Weik Collection. Manuscript Division. Library of Congress. Washington, D.C. 3592 (enclosure A), Herndon-Weik Collection. Manuscript Division. Library of Congress. Washington, D.C. 3589 — 90 (enclosure B), Herndon-Weik Collection. Manuscript Division. Library of Congress. Washington, D.C. 3584 — 86 (enclosure C), Herndon-Weik Collection. Manuscript Division. Library of Congress. Washington, D.C. 3591 (enclosure D), Herndon-Weik Collection. Manuscript Division. Library of Congress. Washington, D.C. 3587 — 88 (enclosure E), Herndon-Weik Collection. Manuscript Division. Library of Congress. Washington, D.C. 4687 (Bartlett letter), Herndon-Weik Collection. Manuscript Division. Library of Congress. Washington, D.C. 4354 — 55 ("Spy" extracts) (enclosure F), Herndon-Weik Collection. Manuscript Division. Library of Congress. Washington, D.C. 4356 — 59 ("Journal and Courier" extracts) (enclosure G), Herndon-Weik Collection. Manuscript Division. Library of Congress. Washington, D.C. 5366 (enclosure H); Herndon-Weik Collection. Manuscript Division. Library of Congress. Washington, D.C. (1892), 1:281 — 89 (enclosure I)

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Wilson, Douglas L., ed.; Davis, Rodney O., ed.; Pierce, Edward L. 'Edward L. Pierce (Statement for William H. Herndon)' in 'Herndon's Informants: Letters, Interviews, and Statements About Abraham Lincoln' . Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1998. [format: book], [genre: history]. Permission: University of Illinois Press
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=herndon688b.html
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