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IN THE WIGWAM AT CHICAGO.
In 1858, after Lincoln had been defeated by Douglas as a Senator from Illinois, he wrote to a friend: "You doubtless have seen ere this the result of the election here. Of course, I wished, but I did not much expect, a better result. I am glad I made the late race. It gave me a hearing on the great and durable question of the age" (slavery) "which I could have had in no other way; and though I now sink out of sight and shall be forgotten, I believe I have made some marks which will tell for the cause of civil liberty long after I am gone."
Lincoln was here referring to his debates with Douglas of that same year when Douglas was running for Senator and Lincoln had brought him so before the country by Douglas' own words in his political answers that in 1860, when Douglas wanted to be President, the South would have nothing to do with him, although
he had gone through some of the Southern States making speeches to uphold slavery. The Convention at Charleston said that Douglas had gone back from his former position because he was so anxious to please the people of Illinois; and he had secured his election as Senator from that State. But he should never get votes for President from the South.
And he never did.
When the Republican National Convention met in Chicago, May 16, 1860, important events had happened since the Philadelphia Convention of 1856. Kansas had narrowly escaped by fraud and violence within its borders and aid of the administration from being forced to become a slave State contrary to the wishes of its people; Charles Sumner, Senator from Massachusetts, who in 1856 had been struck down and nearly murdered in the Senate because he had declared the wrongs of Kansas, had come back to his seat there after years of illness, had declared the "Barbarism of Slavery" in a speech in the Senate which rang through the North; Lincoln in his own State, in Ohio, in New York, New England and elsewhere had thoroughly shown that the aggressions of the slave power were contrary to the Constitution; that the famous "Dred Scott" decision of the Supreme Court of the United States, that the black man had no rights
which the white man was bound to respect, was illegal and monstrous, and many others whether lawyers or not held the same opinion; John Brown's raid and execution had aroused public feeling North and South; many things had served to prove that the contest between slavery and freedom was growing hotter and that the Republican party, if it would make a firm stand against more aggression, if it would again put slavery upon the ground that it had when the government was formed, must make choice of a leader wise and firm, and one who would be able to secure the support of the people.
Of late years one name had been more and more frequently in the hearts and on the lips of Republicans, the name of the man who in 1858 had been defeated as Senator from Illinois, but whose words of wisdom and courage and power had been taken up all over the land. The Lincoln-Douglas debates had been published and had been sold by many thousands, so that those who had never heard Lincoln speak had read his words.
Something else also happened before the meeting of the Republican National Convention at Chicago. The Republican State Convention of Illinois was held at Decatur about a week earlier than the other. Mr. Lincoln's friends determined that the first Convention should
But they said
sound the note for the other one. nothing to him of their plans. attended the Convention, but he was among the audience. Gov. Oglesby rose and said, as Mr. Stoddard tells us: "I am informed that a distinguished citizen of Illinois, and one whom Illinois will ever be delighted to honor, is present; and I wish to move that this body invite him to a seat upon the stand." After pausing a moment he added in a clear voice: "Abraham Lincoln!"'
The dense crowd shouted its enthusiasm, and Lincoln was actually borne over their heads and shoulders to his seat of honor. After the business of the meeting had gone on for a while, the Governor rose again, and said: "There is an old Democrat outside who has something he wishes to present to this Convention." Then the door opened and a strong old man came marching in with two fence rails on his shoulder and on them a banner which had in large letters: "TWO RAILS
from a lot made by Abraham Lincoln and John Hanks, in the Sangamon Bottom, in the year 1830."
The bearer was John Hanks.
In an instant, "Abraham Lincoln, the railsplitter" was accepted as "the representative of the working man and the embodiment of the
American idea of human freedom and possible human elevation." A great wave of enthusiasm swept over the audience. It was destined to sweep to Chicago, and thence over the North.
When the crowd called on Lincoln for a speech, he said that in 1830, John Hanks and he did make some rails in the Sangamon bottom to fence a piece of land; he didn't know whether those were the same rails; he didn't think they were a credit to their makers; and he thought he could make better rails now. His listeners laughed and shouted and listened to him further. But the thing was done. Abraham Lincoln was the choice of the Convention for President of the United States, and the delegates were instructed to cast the vote of the State as a unit for him.
In the National Republican Convention at Chicago, William H. Seward was considered the strongest man; and besides the regular delegates many of his personal and political friends were present, as were those of the other possible candidates. There was no building in Chicago at that time which had a hall large enough to accommodate ten thousand persons, and it was estimated that about that number was at the Convention. A temporary frame building called "The Wigwam" was put up for the occasion, so arranged that all the important personages