Robert H. (Robert Henry) Browne.

Abraham Lincoln and the men of his time online

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give; but they were only partisans enougli to fill Cabinet
positions, to be judges, marshals, and attorneys or general
managers, while the common people were expected to sus-
tain them in any serTice required for the good of the cause.
This was not unusual service, but it should have been recipro-
cated by this little knot of Whigs, who would not make
speeches or support an "Abolitionist" for office.

We have run through this explanation that it may be
shown that Mr. Lovejoy was as careful an observer of the
services of Douglas and as fully capable and qualified to esti-
mate the effect as any man in Congress. As we proceed, we
shall learn how these Whigs would not support Owen Lovejoy.

From these events and concurrent ones happening in the
opening of the memorable and exciting Douglas-Lincoln
campaign of 1858, the writer had relation to them where he
obtained a knowledge of the men, before unknown, and in-
ner knowledge of the true character and greatness of Lin-
coln that is ineffaceable. I was busily engaged in profes-
sional work requiring such constant labor and attention that
I had no desire for political place or emplojTnent. In the
fall of 1857 I attended a county Convention in Champaign
County, where I then resided, for party organization and
other political purposes, where, without thought or appre-
ciation of what it was to be, I was made secretary of the
County Committee, which place I held until the opening of
the war in 1861. Champaign County was then an extremely
important community in the strongly-contested campaigns in
the State, principally because the Eepublican majority ran
from 800 to 1,000; but it had a larger body than any one
suspected, before it was developed, of independents and
Abolitionists, who often varied it 400 or 500 votes, and in
some eases elected a favorite Democrat rather than an unsatis-
factory or apologizing Eepublican. This position, held unin-
terruptedly for five years, gave me personal knowledge and
acquaintance with prominent party leaders in the State and


a knowledge of public affairs in all the movements of that

In the beginning of 1858, Judge J. 0. Cunningham,
then and still a prominent and highly-respected citizen of
Champaign County, with myself, attended the Eepublican
Congressional Convention at Bloomington as delegates. The
Judge was chairman of the County Committee. As it hap-
pened, no other of the eight delegates to which we were en-
titled attended, and, as usual, we were given the full vote
of the county. We found, on arrival, that the contest be-
tween Lovejoy and his opponents was so close that our votes
would nominate or defeat him, as we determined. Judge
Cunningham being a discreet and prudent man in such an
emergency, we kept silent. Keeping our own counsel and
gathering all the information that was possible in the early
morning gave us a cleax understanding of the situation be-
fore the assembling at eleven o'clock. Before the noon re-
cess, after the Convention was organized, we ascertained that
four of our eight votes would renominate Mr. Lovejoy, and
that we could vote for him and compliment some other gen-
tlemen with the other four votes as we liked. After full de-
liberation, our conclusion was that Lovejoy deserved the
approval and indorsement for faithful amd courageous serv-
ice in Congress, where he had made a manly defense of the
cause and our people, then the most populous district in the
United States.

This conclusion we reached on consideration of all the
infornjation at hand concerning the wishes of the people
of the county whom we represented; and though it accorded
with our inclinations, it was not for these that we concluded
to vote for him, but because it was the desire of our people,
w"ho believed, as we did, that because of his faithful service
he deserved it. The contest against him was conducted with
vigor and vehement denouncement of his abolition belief,
as far as it was prudent to venture it.


"We determined not to disclose our intentions, unless
there was some necessity for it, and so save ourselves from
the bitter disputes of the almost furious leaders prevailing
and raging all about us. We were called on and visited and
argued with in the zeal and earnestness of the leaders of the
opposing factions, but without any declaration on our part
until a few minutes before the time of the reassembling at
one o'clock.

By this time the contention had r^iched such intense
interest on the part of Lovejoy's opponents that Judge
Davis approached me in an austere, authoritative sort of
manner, and demanded why I was not in sympathy and
why I had not been in counsel with those "who desired the
nomination of some Eepublican who could be elected rather
than training with the Abolitionist, Love joy, who could not
be." Presuming on my former relation, w'hen. a student at
college, he assumed a patronizing air, which was very unpleas-
ant, if no more.

Maintaining my composure as well as I could under the
prevailing excitement, I replied that Judge Cunningham and
myself were representing our county, and that we did not
recognize his or any one's authority in it, except that of
our own people, to catechise or arrogate the rig'ht to dictate
to us what we should do; that, while we were there to carry
into effect our people's and our own wishes as well as we
could, I would be glad to have him understand that Mr.
Lovejoy was no more an Abolitionist than I was, and had
been such for years, as he well knew, and that was the belief
of thousands of like-minded voters in our district.

At this he took it for granted that we intended to give
the vote of Champaign to Lovejoy, when he swelled up and
roared out his condemnation of Lovejoy and his agitating
Abolition supporters. Including me, of course, like one of
the bulls of Bashan. Pointing his finger menacingly at me,
he declared: "You had better training than this. Mr, Lin-


coin's advice and prudent interest should have left a deeper
impression on you." Saying this, he stormed away, and
strode ofE in anger.

In this passionate episode, walking along, we had reached
one of the office rooms in the court-house. The Convention
was assembhng. Several eager contestants of both factions
followed us in. When Davis made the accusation that Lovejoy
was an Abolitionist, and I had retorted as stated, it was taken
for granted that we of Champaign were for Lovejoy, and, being
so, his nomination was certain. This was taken up by the hun-
dred or more Lovejoy delegates and friends with so much
noise, shouting, and enthusiasm for him as to smother all
remonstrance of Davis and his little crowd, who had gathered
about him. They left at once, chagrined, outwitted, and
beaten in their determined effort against one noted Aboli-
tionist, for the time at least. The Convention soon reassem-
bled, when Lovejoy was renominated, as he deserved to be,
for faithful service and manly conduct in perilous times
and against blusterers and braggarts in Congress.

Judge Davis having accused me of disregard and want
of respect of Mr. Lincoln, concerning whom of all men I
held and entertained the highest opinion, I determined it
was a duty to see him and make an explanation, and have
some kind of understanding and settlement, if it were pos-
sible, because it was a situation t)hat seriously concerned
others, and consequently it was more than a personal differ-
ence between us. When I called on the judge, I introduced
the subject, saying: "Notwithstanding your open declaratiooi
that you would not support Lovejoy, and would absolve me
from all need of seeking any kind of explanation, my con-
cern for the welfare of others involved has led me to ask you
why you asserted so emphatically that I have disregarded
the teaching and inJterest Mr. Lincoln has shown and con-
tinued in me, and how I 'have crossed it by a preference for
Mr. Lovejoy?"


He was still in bad humor, but mellowed down from the
higher pitch of the morning. To my question he muttered
something, and said: "Mr. Lincoln is opposed to the nomi-
nation of all such Abolitionists as Lovejoy, and you ought
to know it, with the knowledge you have of him, as, well as
any one else." I replied that I did not believe what he said
of Mr. Lincoln, and that if he would agree to it, we would
su/bmit it to him, with the understanding *that we would
abide by the settlement. He did not like this; but as I told
him I intended to see Mr. Lincoln and submit the facts
about it, seeing it could not be avoided, he yielded reluctant

We agreed to turn it over to Mr. Lincoln, who, as we
knew, would be in Bloomington shortly. In the interval,
Davis and the 'Tjolting delegates" offered the dissenting
nomination, with the promise of Democratic support, and
no other candidate in the way, to Mr. Leonard Swett, one
of the ablest lawyers of the Bloomington bar and a strong
supporter and a warm personal friend of Mr. Lincoln. As
Davis understood it, Swett had it under serious considera-
tion for reply on the day that we submitted the subject.

It was a delightful summer day when we met in Bloom-
ington to lay the whole proceeding before Mr. Lincoln. It
came about in the form of a friendly conversation, in which
Davis and myself answered Mr. Lincoln's questions, which
were brief and strongly in the direction of the facts, espe-
cially those not published. After this, to the surprise of
both of us, he reviewed the ease impartially, with the rela-
tions of the contestants fairly stated and the strained condi-
tions before us at home and in the whole country, with
knowledge and grasp of the delicate political situation so
complete that the contest was decided in his general remarks
before he reached it in form or detail. By this Davis became
aware intuitively that the case was going against him, that
Lincoln was on Lovejoy's side, and had been, even before


the meeting, in all probability. This angered him at once.
Being a stout mam, the bloodrush filled his face and throat
to the point of choking his free utterance; but, stammering
it out as best he could, he remarked, rising and pacing the
floor in a state of suppressed agitation, because it was Lin-
coln, bringing 'his heavy fist down on a table of books that
shook and rattled every one of them, he said in his deciding
sort of emphasis, "We will not support such an Abolition-
ist, such an outspoken one as Lovejoy; and we are sure that
Swett can defeat him," and, pointing his finger almost in
Mr. Lincoln's face, inquired, "Do n't you believe it?"

Mr. Lincoln turned about in his chair, with his face break-
ing into a smile, and said: "Judge, I understand it all. As
I was crossing over to the court-house, I met Mr. Swett,
who told me that you had offered 'him a sort of nomination
for Congress, but that he would under no circumstances ac-
cept it, and asked me whether he was right. I told him,
as I tell you, that he was wise in having nothing to do with
it, and that the very best thing for all of us is to unite, and
not to divide, and elect Mr. Lovejoy to Congress; for he has
fairly earned and deserves re-election." Lincoln was evi-
dently much affected by the remarkable fervor of Davis's
opposition and the excitement he had worked himself into.
They had been intimate friends for years, which no doubt
restrained him; but his statements, although pleasantly
spoken, had no lack of firm and positive expression. He
sat for awliile thoughtful and motionless, save the pene-
trating cast of his rolling brown eyes. Finally, in minutes
or moments — none of us remembered which — ^his humor
came; and with a great broad smile he turned to Da-
vis, who was still striding the floor in a sort of growl. He
said: "Jildge, Lovejoy is only a little ahead of us. We will
soon catch up. And, by the way, did you know that they
say Seward is ahead of bim now, and that he has taken a
notion to Lovejoy, and is giving 'him his full sympathy and


eountenance as he can? You know it is not wise to antag-
onize hina. He is one of the prophets. And, by the way.
Judge, did you ever hear Loyejoy? He fills the benches
with new converts every night, as the Methodist brethren
say. He is one of the most powerful and convincing speak-
ers in the country, and, without doubt, the ablest we have
in our State. He can talk to twice as many people as I
can; and I tell you. Judge, it won't do for us to be selfish.
and try to turn him out; and, further, we might not suc-
ceed if we tried."

In reply, Davig sounded out a kind of guttural, smoth-
ered, "No, I never have, and I do n't know that I ever will."
The temper and tone were away down and softened. Lin-
coln's reference to Seward had developed Davis's predomi-
nating caution; for above all other things, his desire was to
be a National figure in public affairs. Although he would
not tolerate such an Abolitionist as Lovejoy at home, he
could bear them just as well as not in New York or Massa-
chusetts, or even as near as Chase in Ohio, if he regarded
them as prominent and influential leaders.

The distinct result of this transaction was the suppres-
sion of Davis in the most skillful and effectual way. Lin-
coln calmed the domineering judge in his fit of rage, or the
appearance of it. Eealizing this at once, an.d that his plan
was working, he continued saying: "Judge, Lovejoy will
be here on a date near at hand. He is an entertaining
speaker, and what I like so much about him is that he is
always so much in earnest that you know he believes what
he says. You will be delighted. I am going to be here
to meet him. He has sustained Douglas, and says that his
opposition to Lecompton was the greatest defeat slavery ever
had in Congress. I do n't want him to follow Douglas too
far. We will all go and hear him; and the first one of us
that don't support him, seeing that his nomination was
regular and fair every way, we will have to discipline in some


way; but we won't turn anybody out of the church, for just
now we are weak, and we want all of the converts we can
get. Our good-natured friend here — Eobert — ^is young and
ambitious. He will get over it and forgive everybody and
vote for the first Old-line Whig we put up."

Davis yielded in silence, although there was small proba-
bility that he supported Lovejoy. At the best, his candi-
date declined his "sort of nomination," and his opposition
to Lovejoy was shorn of all its power, save his own vote; for
at that day no one acting with the party would have under-
taken the serious task of opposing Mr. Lincoln, least of all
conservatives like Davis, who stood waiting, "ready for a bet-
ter office."


THIS unpleaeant episode that amused and proroked me
for several days was what drew Mr. Lincoln, in his

great, sympathetic nature, nearer to me than anything
that had happened between the kind-hearted man and the
hoy and growing man, Vho trusted Lincoln as a father.
After leaving the court-house he remarked: "Kobert, it is
past noon. We will go 'and get our dinner. Then we will
go out to the grove, and hear Judge Douglas this afternoon.
As you are to return by the way of Clinton, we can go that
far together. I am to speak there to-morrow. "We will
leave 'here on the late train, after my speech to-night, when
I intend something of a reply to Douglas, after hearing

This plan of something to do changed my gloomy reflec-
tions on the harassing episode. The invitation was so open
and cordial that the disagreeajble things passed from mind,
and I was pleased at the thought of passing the day and
evening with the great leader of the common people. I
had not had such an opportunity for something like three
years. It was in the time w'hen the correspondence was about
completed that resulted in the joint debate of that year.
When the day was gone, and we parted, long after mid-
night, the pleasure and the hopes of the morning had been
fax more than realized. I had been all day with God's
prophet-leader of the people, and in a conscious but in-
expressible way I knew and felt the full power of the man
and his leadership. I had seen his power in the morning,
how exerted, and how easily he turned and smoothed and

Vol. II.— 12 177


managed the wrathful and, to other men, unmanageable
judge. In the evening I had seen so much that was beauti-
ful and charming in character, sympathy, and integrity as
to make me feel the effect of it all my days.

When I saw him at night, and knew the man better
whom I had known so well for years, and yet had never
known, I left him, amazed and astonished at his inspiration,
his exaltation, whicli I never had doubts of afterward. As
we passed along to the hotel, he recognized and greeted
almost everybody, and was as warmly received in return;
for although the town was full of the thousands who were
there to hear Douglas in the daytime and Lincoln at night,
he knew almost every man at sight, and most of them by
name, besides a great many of their wives and children. He
spent a full hour on our way to dinner, going two or three
hundred yards. In illustration he was so genial, kind, and
attentive to all of them, that no one man, woman, or child,
was passed by who desired his friendly recognition. His
stature, his unequaled strength, remarkable and apparent
as he mingled in that multitude of strong, rugged farmers,
his majestic f)resence and bearing that gave him the strength
of a lion and the gentleness of a child, proved him at once
a leader among men without an equal, and still one of them
whose virtues and power were growing and gaining ascend-
ency the more they met and the better they knew him.

He had worked hard in travel and what we have related
all the morning, and was a big, hungry man as we sat down
to a well-cooked Illinois dinner. He told the waiter, "Bring
us a plain, well-cooked dinner, and plenty of it, with corn-
bread, a good, big slice of fat corned-beef, and, if you can
get it, a quart of fresh buttermilk." This was his dinner,
and it made a hearty one, which he fully enjoyed.

In the afternoon we walked out half a mile to a grove
to the Douglas meeting. The trees were thick enough to
give good shade and a pleasant grassy sward, as convenient


and suitable a location as could have been found. A small
platform for the speakers had been built, and there were rough
board seats for a few hundred; but most of the six or eight
thousand people stood around the platform, sat down, and
spread all over the soft grass within hearing.

The people were, most of them, farmers and their fami-
lies, all intent 'and anxious to hear one of the most promi-
nent leaders of the time discuss the topics that so fully
engaged and absorbed their minds. More than half of
them were Democrats; but Douglas, in the past session, had
been far more than a partisan leader. This was shown in
the meeting of the people -of all parties by thousands, Vho
were anxious to hear 'him and so far encourage him in his
manly and patriotic service as a distinguished citizen of
our State. There was enthusiasm for the great party leader;
but the bitterness of 1856 had perceptibly moderated, so
that those of all parties gave the senator careful and patient

We sat down on the grass at the root of a tree as near
to the speaker as we could locate ourselves. Mr. Lincoln
took his well-used silk hat, that was always full of letters,
references, and memorandums tucked in behind the band,
put it over one knee, and made a desk of it, on w^hich he
laid his scraps of paper, torn-up envelopes, and ends of let-
ters, which he wrote full. In this way he took a |airly good
synopsis of the important parts of Douglas's speech, with
his arguments.

Douglas was well aware of Lincoln's presence. He was
all the more cautious in consequence, and measured, shaped,
and shaded his address to protect himself; for no man knew
Mr. Lincoln's capacities better, if as well. He was there be-
fore the people as a candidate for re-election; and in compli-
ance with a well-observed custom, he was giving his ideas
and opinions on the questions of the day and his and their
relation to them. He had been the subject of unlimited abuse


and detraction. At the time every newspaper supporting
Buchanan's policy and Administration and every office-
holder having place or power under it, to the smallest post-
offices, were instructed and compelled to compass his defeat.
They were not only instructed, but a set of supernumeraries
scattered all over the State as inquisitors reported every
Douglas Democrat for lack of fealty or delinquency in the
slavery cause or any inclination to support Douglas for sena-
tor, for either of which reasons they were promptly removed.

Eemovals were frequent and made in the reckless man-
ner in which spiteful personal eamp'aigns are usually con-
ducted. There were many neighborhoods in the State where
all the Democrats were for Douglas, and the little post-
office had to be given to some Eepublican. This proscrip-
tion ended, as it mostly does, in uniting his followers all
the more zealously in support of their chosen leader.

His address on this occasion was nearly two hours long,
in which he reviewed the slavery question, the relation of
parties and his own relation to it, the 'history of the long
and bitter struggle over the Leeompton Constitution in the
session of Congress just then over. He arraigned the Re-
publican party for its narrow-minded policy on the slavery
question and its want of courage to declare itself what it
was in reality, an Abolition organization, an agitaltors' party,
and confined to one section of the Union — the Northern —
and by its policy of interference with domestic institutions
could never be other than a sectional party. He also ar-
raigned the party for its denunciation of the other "twin
relic of barbarism" — polygamy — declaring that "it was all
sound, and that Mormonism would not 'be seriously disturbed
if the Eepublican party came into power."

This he thought was not improbable, rather an event
to be expected, as the Democratic party was then dividing,
and all the more certain if the slaveholders controlled one
party and the Abolitionists the other. He closed his long


and able address with a defense of his own conduct and an
appeal to the people to sustain him and a loyal Democracy
that would save the Union.

When he finished his address, I went to the platform
and congratulated him on his stubborn and successful con-
test with the slave-leaders, assuring him that it was a pa-
triotic and praiseworthy service from an out-and-out Aboli-
tionist, as he knew us, father and -son, and that if he con-
tinued as faithful I would be willing to bear his strictures
on the "ATiolitionists." He was glad to meet me and pleased
with my reference to his contest.

He replied: "I recognized you in the audience with Mr.
Lincoln, and you both seemed interested in my statements.
I suppose you are logically a supporter of Lincoln." To
this I replied:. "I am, so far as to belong to the most ad-
vanced section on the slavery issue; and I believe if you
remain steadfast, as I fully expect, in your opposition, as
we always expect a Scotchman to do, you will be 'logically'
with us in a few yeaTS."

During this chat a strongly-inclined pro-slavery Demo-
crat, an opinionated man in whatever he did, finding a
chance, broke into the talk, saying: "Then I was not mis-
taken: that really was Abe Lincoln who sat in front of the
stand with you, leaning agin' a tree, and he was a-takin'
notes. I have always heerd that 'he looked like a nigger;
and he never knowed much anyway." I was indeed much
surprised that the man should make the very impolite re-
mark when he did, not any more at his remarks than his
temper; for stupid-minded and stubborn fanatics were as
ignorant then as now, for party divisions were strong and

In catching Judge Douglas's face I saw that he was
wrought up and angry, as well as provoked. Turning sud-
denly on the man, he gave him a sort of double penetrating
look that shook him all over, saying: "You are a fool. Mr.


Lincoln is one among the ablest lawyers and public men in
this country. He is fit and competent in every way to be
a leader, and, in my opinion, as much so as any man in

Online LibraryRobert H. (Robert Henry) BrowneAbraham Lincoln and the men of his time → online text (page 14 of 55)