John M. (John McAuley) Palmer.

The bench and the bar of Illinois : Historical and reminiscent (Volume v.2) online

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school days grew less until they were confined to the winter term each year.
At the age of fourteen William met with the greatest loss that ever befalls a
young boy, in the death of his mother.

His mother was a daughter of Washington Neal, who came to Clark-
county from Boone county, Kentucky, and was a woman of fine natural abili-
ties, with a mind well cultivated for the times in which she lived. The family
was soon scattered and William hired out as a farm hand during the summer
and worked Saturdays, evenings and mornings of winter to pay his board while
he attended school. This continued until he was nineteen years old, when, by
frugal habits and the diligent improvement of his time he had saved enough to
pay his way at the Southern Illinois Normal University at Carbondale for a
year. Not being able to continue his course at the Normal for longer than the
year he returned to his native county and again went to work on the farm and
attended school in the winter. He obtained a teacher's certificate to teach
school in the spring of 1882, but not wishing to enter that profession he went
to Logan county and hired as a farm-hand east from Atlanta, where he worked
just a month, when he accidentally received a severe kick on the head from a
vicious horse, which disabled him so that he left the farm and returned to Clark
county and began teaching school in the village of Walnut Prairie. As a teacher
he was very successful and remained in charge of that school for six consecutive
terms and was offered an increase of wages to continue. He had other plans in
view, however, and went to Terre Haute and entered the Indiana State Normal.
From this institution he went to the Terre Haute Commercial College, at which
he graduated. After receiving his diploma he remained in Terre Haute as a
bookkeeper for about two years. But clerical work was not in the line that
young Hollenbeck had marked out for his life-work; so he returned to Clark
county and again entered the school-room. Here his labors were marked with
brilliant success; he was re-elected as president of the Clark County Teachers'
Association term after term, and his' services were in demand as a teacher at the
very highest wages paid in the county.

One of the marked traits of Hollenbeck's character is thoroughness of
preparation for any work he undertakes. Having his aim fixed upon the law as
the ultimate work to be pursued in life, he planned to make every undertaking,
even his amusements, contribute to fitting him for his chosen profession. De-


sirous of widening his fund of general information he planned for a brief tour
of Europe, and in the summer of 1889 he traveled in England, Ireland, Scot-
land, Wales and France, spending some time at the World's Fair in Paris;
Germany, Holland and Belgium. Upon his return from Europe he re-entered
the law office of Golden & Hamill, at that time the leading law firm in Marshall,
and read with them for about two years, and then entered the law department of
the Ann Arbor University, at which institution he graduated with high honors
in 1892. Returning to Marshall he formed a partnership with F. W. Booth,
under the firm name of Hollenbeck & Booth. The firm soon had a large law
practice, which continued until the fall of 1894, when Mr. Hollenbeck was nom-
inated by the Republican party as their candidate for county and probate judge
of Clark county, which usually gave a Democratic majority of three hundred;
Mr. Hollenbeck was triumphantly elected by nearly five hundred majority. He
immediately dissolved partnership with Mr. Booth and in December of the same
year entered upon the duties of his office.

Judge Hollenbeck's good knowledge of the law, his legal acumen and
sound judgment, which he has displayed in an eminent' degree, have won for
him the respect and high consideration of the members of the bar who have
practiced in his court in Clark and surrounding counties, and he has gained the
confidence of the people whom he has served with impartiality and faithfulness.
Judge Hollenbeck is a self-made man in the fullest sense of the term and has
overcome difficulties and surmounted obstacles that might well dampen the
ardor of the stoutest-hearted. In 1896 he was married to Louise M. Rackerby,
daughter of M. P. Rackerby of Hutsonville. They have one son, Neal Au-
gustus Hollenbeck, born August 18, 1897. Mrs. Hollenbeck is highly ac-
complished, especially as a musician, and they have an ideal home, which is
always a pleasant resort for their wide circle of friends and acquaintances.



IT IS too early even now for an impartial review of the great debate, which
commenced at Ottawa on the 2ist of August and was continued at Free-
port on the 27th of August, at Jonesboro on the I5th of September, at
Charleston on the i8th of the same month, at Galesburg October 7th, Ouincy
October I3th, and which ended at Alton on the I5th of October, 1858. The
places I have mentioned were the mere points of contact between these great
leaders of public opinion, as they traversed the state.

In the intervals between their formal meetings both of them addressed large
popular assemblies in different parts of the state, and in that manner continued
the discussion of the questions of the day until the people were fully aroused and
watched this battle of the giants with the most profound and absorbing interest.

I have said that it is too early for an impartial review of the "debate of
1858," for though thirty-eight years have elapsed since the historic meeting
of Douglas and Lincoln, which occurred on this spot, some of the subordinate
actors in the drama of that year still survive, while some of them preceded
Douglas into the land of shadows and did not live to hear his words of burning
patriotism, when, with transcendent eloquence, he pleaded with his countrymen
to save the states from distintegration, and the Union, under the constitution,
from subversion.

Others of their hearers died under the flag, in the hospitals or on battle-
fields, and did not witness the tragedy of the I4th of April, 1865, or share in the
almost despairing gloom which that event cast upon the country. Still others
have fallen by the wayside, as the days and years have passed, and now a few,
ah, how few ! linger, as if reluctant to quit the stage. After a while, when all
of them are gone, the historian will with judicial accuracy arrange his pitiless
facts, and then, and not until then, the world will be given a calm and impartial
review of the great debate of 1858, with all of its attendant characteristic cir-
cumstances. Still, on this occasion, without injustice to the memory of the
dead and without risk of wounding the sensibilities of the living, I may con-
tribute something to the picture which this assemblage is intended to recall,
and commemorate.

The personalities of Douglas and Lincoln are almost as well known to
the people of Illinois as to their contemporaries. It is difficult to imagine men
more unlike in their origin, their education, their intellectual and personal

* Oration of Hon. John M. Palmer, delivered at Galesburg, Illinois, October 7, 1896.



habits and appearance. Mr. Douglas was of New England birth, had the ad-
vantages afforded by the public schools of his native "state, and had some share
of classical training. He came to Illinois and found employment as a teacher.
Mr. Lincoln was born in Kentucky, where, at that time, public schools were
unknown. His opportunities for mere elementary education were of the most
humble character. The story of his earlier years is familiar, and I will not at-
tempt to repeat it. It is the history of a life commenced under most unfavorable
circumstances, and its lesson is that under American institutions eminence is
attainable by the most humble.

I became acquainted with Mr. Douglas in the month of June, 1838, when
he was a candidate for a seat in the second branch of the congress of the United
States. The district he sought to represent included Quincy and Chicago,
Danville and Rock Island, Springfield and Galena. At that time Illinois was
entitled to but three members of "the house," and the population, as shown by
the preceding census, made it proper to provide two districts in southern Illi-
nois and but one for the whole northern half of the state. I heard Mr. Douglas
on the clay after our first meeting, and was impressed with his remarkable power
as a popular orator. My subsequent acquaintance with him ripened into the
most profound respect for his great abilities. ,

In December, 1839, when I visited Springfield to obtain admission to the
bar, 'he took charge of my application, obtained an order for the appointment of
a committee, consisting of himself and Jonathan Young Scammon (a name
venerable in the law) to examine me, touching my qualifications to practice as
an attorney and counselor at law; made a favorable report; wrote my license;
obtained the signature of two of the judges of the supreme court; handed me
the license and congratulated me on my entry upon what he called "the hon-
orable profession of the law." It can be readily imagined that from that time
until later political events separated us I was his devoted follower, always ready
and eager to serve him.

In December, 1839, while in Springfield on the errand I have just men-
tioned, I saw Abraham Lincoln for the first time, but not under circumstances
favorable to the formation of intimate personal or political relations between
us. He came into the building occupied by the second branch of the legis-
lature, and made what was called in the language of the times "a Whig speech,"
in which he assailed the Democratic party with great severity. Although at
that time the Democratic party in Illinois held all the departments of the state
government there were even then rumblings of the storm which came in 1840.

Under the provisions of the constitution of 1818, which was in force until
superseded by that of 1848, the executive officers of the state government (with
the exception of the secretary of state, who was appointed by the governor),
the judges of the courts, the attorney-general and the state's attorney were
elected by the legislature in joint session. The party leaders therefore attended
the legislative sessions, and the "lobby," as it was termed, was the theater of
their eloquence.

I there heard Alexander P. Field, who afterward left the state and died in


New Orleans ; Abraham Lincoln ; E. D. Baker, who fell at Ball's Bluff during
the late civil war; O. H. Browning, late secretary of the interior, for the Whigs,
and Stephen A. Douglas, John Calhoun, Isaac P. Walker (afterwards senator
from Wisconsin), Democrats. They were all stars of the first magnitude, but
I then imagined that the respective parties relied upon Lincoln and Douglas
as the pillars of their strength.

Mr. Lincoln, in the speech I heard him deliver on the occasion I have
mentioned, surprised me by his ability and by his apparent logical frankness.
He seemed to concede to his adversary almost everything he could claim, but
I observed that he always found means to escape the effect even of his own
concessions. His language was simple but exact. His statements were clear
and his arguments must have given great satisfaction to the party he repre-
sented. He asserted his propositions with firmness and supported them in
the most effective manner.

Mr. Douglas was then, as afterward, aggressive, bold and defiant. He was
quick to perceive the strong as well as the weak points of his adversary. He
approached the strong with caution, but assailed the weak ones with irresistible
force. Nor was he mistaken in the strength of his own positions. He invited
attack upon those that were impregnable, but covered the weak ones with mar-
velous ingenuity. These were my estimates of Lincoln and Douglas, made per-
haps as early as 1839, but were corrected and matured by subsequent acquaint-

The annexation of Texas, in 1845, and the acquisition of the large terri-
tories gained by the United States as the result of the war with Mexico gave
in some quarters a new importance to the subject of slavery. The sectional
strife which that subject occasioned, was, as was believed, or hoped rather than
believed, settled by the passage by congress of what were called the compro-
mise measures of 1850. Both the great parties pledged themselves, by the
action of their national conventions in 1852, to maintain "the compromise of
1850" as a final and satisfactory settlement of the question of slavery in the
United States. No one exerted himself more earnestly and efficiently than did
Mr. Douglas to secure the adoption by congress of the so-called "compromise,"
and the result was most favorable to the Democratic party, of which he had
become one of the national leaders.

His supporters in Illinois hoped for his nomination as the Democratic
candidate for the presidency in 1852, but he was defeated by the almost un-
known Franklin Pierce. The Democrats won an overwhelming victory in the
November election of that year. General Winfield Scott, the Whig candidate,
who was the foremost American soldier then living, was defeated. But the per-
manent success of the Democratic party was destroyed by an event which was
intended to insure its predominance.

Mr. Douglas, then a senator from Illinois and chairman of the senate com-
mittee on territories, early in January, 1854, reported a bill for the organization
of the territory of Nebraska. In the report accompanying the bill he said:


The principal amendments which your committee deemed it their duty to commend
to the favorable action of the senate, in a special report, are those in which the principles
established by the compromise measures of 1850, so far as they are applicable to territorial
organizations, are proposed to be affirmed and carried into practical operation within
the limits of the new territory.

With a view of conforming their action to what they regard as the settled policy
of the government, sanctioned by the approving voice of the American people, your com-
mittee had deemed it their duty to incorporate and perpetuate, in their territorial bill,
the principles and spirit of those measures. If any other considerations were neces-
sary to render the propriety of this course imperative upon the committee, they may
be found in the fact that the Nebraska country occupies the same relative position to
the slavery question as did New Mexico and Utah when those territories were organized.

It was a disputed point whether slavery was prohibited by law in the country
acquired from Mexico. On the one hand, it was contended, as a legal proposition, that
slavery having been prohibited by the enactments of Mexico, according to the laws of
nations, we received the country with all its local laws and domestic institutions attached
to the soil, so far as they did not conflict with the constitution of the United States; and
that a law either protecting or prohibiting slavery was not repugnant to that instrument,
as was evidenced by the fact that one-half of the states of the Union tolerated, while
the other half prohibited, the institution of slavery. On the other hand, it was insisted
that, by virtue of the constitution of the United States, every citizen had a right to
remove to any territory of the Union and carry his property with him under the pro-
tection of law, whether that property consisted of persons or things. The difficulties
arising from this diversity of opinion were greatly aggravated by the fact that there were
many persons on both sides of the legal controversy who were unwilling to abide the
decision of the courts on the legal matters in dispute; thus among those who claimed
that the Mexican laws were still in force, and, consequently, that slavery was already pro-
hibited in those territories by valid enactments, there were many who insisted upon
congress making the matter certain by enacting another prohibition. In like manner
some of those who argued that Mexican law had ceased to have any binding force, and
that the constitution tolerated and protected slave property in those territories, were
unwilling to trust the decision of the court upon the point and insisted that congress
should, by direct enactment, remove all legal obstacles to the introduction of slaves into
those territories.

Your committee deem it fortunate for the peace of the country and the security
of the Union that the controversy then resulted in the adoption of the compromise meas-
ures, which the two great political parties, with singular unanimity, have affirmed as
a cardinal article of their faith and proclaimed to the world as a final settlement of the
controversy and an end of the agitation. A due respect, therefore, for the avowed opinions
of senators, as well as a proper sense of patriotic duty, enjoins upon your committee the
propriety and necessity of a strict adherence to the principles, and even a literal adoption
of the enactments of that adjustment in all their territorial bills, so far as the same are
not locally inapplicable. These enactments embrace, among other things, less material
to the matters under consideration, the following provisions:

When admitted as a state the said territory, or any portion of the same, shall be
received into the Union with or without slavery, as their constitution may prescribe at
the time of their admission.

That the legislative power and authority of said territory shall be vested in the
governor and a legislative assembly.

That the legislative power of said territory shall extend to all rightful subjects of
legislation consistent with the constitution of the United States and the provisions of this
act: but no law shall be passed interfering with the primary disposal of the soil; no tax
shall be imposed upon the property of the United States; nor shall the land or other
property of non-residents be taxed higher than the lands or other property of residents


Mr. Douglas afterward offered an amendment to the bill, which, referring
to the Missouri compromise, declared: "Which being inconsistent with the
principle of non-intervention by congress with slavery in the states and terri-
tories as recognized by the legislation of 1850, commonly called the compro-
mise measure, is hereby declared inoperative and void, it being the true intent
and meaning of this act not to legislate slavery into any territory or state nor
exclude it therefrom, but to leave the people thereof perfectly free to frame
and regulate their domestic institutions in their own way, subject only to the
constitution of the United States.

The proposition to repeal the Missouri Compromise or declare it void,
because of its opposition to the compromise measures of 1850, startled the
whole country. The people of the United States had submitted to the com-
promise measures of 1850 especially to the fugitive-slave law with reluc-
tance. They yielded to that measure only to discharge their obligations under
the constitution, but when it was proposed to repeal the compromise of 1820,
or to declare it inoperative because of its supposed conflict with the compro-
mise of 1850, they were astounded. They had accepted the compromise meas-
ures of 1850 as a supplement to that provision of the compromise of 1820, which
excluded slavery from the territories of the United States north of thirty-six
degrees and thirty minutes. No one can doubt that Mr. Douglas in his action
upon the Kansas-Nebraska bill committed the tactical mistake of his lifetime.
He relied upon the strength of merely partisan organization. He did not
understand what he afterward found to be true, that the questions he had
raised were of the most dangerous character and would destroy the Democratic
party. The language of his amendment to the Nebraska bill presented a conun-
.drum of almost impossible solution. It declared that it was not the intention of
the act to introduce slavery into any state or territory or to exclude it therefrom,
but to leave the people thereof perfectly free to regulate their own institution
in their own way, subject only to the constitution of the United States.

No man was more capable of defending this most remarkable provision
than was Mr. Douglas. I have mentioned my acquaintance with him up to
and including 1839. He had occupied public positions, embracing twelve years
in the senate of the United States, and was unmistakably a popular leader, who
up to that time had no peer in the state. Mr. Lincoln, on the other hand,
had devoted himself to the practice of his profession. His habits and his meth-
ods of reasoning had been formed in the courts, where exactness of statement
and clear and consistent arguments are necessary. It was apparent to men
who were acquainted with Mr. Douglas and Mr. Lincoln when the controversy
in regard to the Nebraska bill commenced that they would be the leaders in
the struggle. I have observed before that as early as 1839 the leaders of the
Whig and the Democratic parties looked to Douglas and Lincoln as the pillars
of their strength. They were undoubtedly natural rivals. I am unable to say
from anything that I know how far mere personal associations and possible
social asperities may have whetted the spirit of antagonism between them. In
1854 Mr. 'Lincoln was a candidate for a seat in the senate of the United States,


but at the subsequent session of the legislature he was defeated. His conduct
on that occasion only added to his strength as a popular leader, and gave him
the confidence of a small party in the legislature, "the Anti-Nebraska Demo-
cratic party." .Mr. Lincoln had personally appeared in the joint session of the
legislature when an election for senator was pending and urged his friends to
vote for Mr. Trumbull. That act of personal disinterestedness gave him a claim
upon the "Anti-Nebraska Democracy," which they were fully prepared to re-
deem in the contest of 1858. In 1856 he was present at Bloomington and made
a speech which, though it has not been preserved, was one of remarkable power.
In 1858 the Republican convention selected him as its candidate for senator.
The language with which his nomination was accompanied was emphatic. It
declared him to be not only the candidate, but the only candidate of the Re-
publican party for a seat in the senate of the United States. Thus endorsed
and supported he met Mr. Douglas as his accredited adversary. The corre-
spondence which led to the debate of 1858 is so familiar to the people of the
state that I omit it. It was preliminary to the meeting of Douglas and Lincoln,
at Ottawa, on the 2ist of August, 1858. Perhaps at this point it may be well
to present my estimate of Mr. Douglas and Mr. Lincoln as they appeared to me
just before the time of their meeting at Ottawa. I think it is impossible to
overestimate Mr. Douglas as a popular orator. I have stated before that he
was bold, aggressive and defiant; that no man better understood either the
strength or the weakness of his own position, and no man could with more skill
frame the issues upon which he had determined to conduct his canvass. Judge
Allen, of the district court of the United States for the southern district of Illi-
nois, who was an earnest friend and supporter of Judge Douglas, said to me in
a recent letter: "Judge Douglas was the beau ideal orator, statesman and poli-
tician of the young Democrats of the state at that time, and easily the first in
the estimation of all members of the party in Illinois, without reference to age
or circumstances. * * * Judge Douglas, as you know, always mapped out
his own campaign, framed his own issues and supported them with unequaled
power. His speech from the balcony of the Tremont House, in July of that
year, was on lines drawn by himself, and from them he never deviated substan-
tially until the contest closed, resulting in his success." Mr. Lincoln, on the
other hand, accustomed, from his professional habits, to accurate reasoning,
was compelled from the necessities of his situation to exert himself to force
Judge Douglas to a definition of the real meaning of the Nebraska bill and
to a clear statement of his own opinion of the effect of the constitution of the
United States in its operation upon the territories with respect to the admission

Online LibraryJohn M. (John McAuley) PalmerThe bench and the bar of Illinois : Historical and reminiscent (Volume v.2) → online text (page 22 of 83)