The Lost Speech

by Thomas J. Henderson

But the great speech of that convention was the speech made by Abraham Lincoln. His speech was of such wonderful eloquence and power that it fairly electrified the members of the convention and everybody who heard it. It was a great speech in what he said, in the burning eloquence of his words, and in the manner in which he delivered it. If ever a speech was inspired in this world, it has always seemed to me, that that speech of Mr. Lincoln's was. It aroused the convention, and all who heard it, and sympathized with the speaker, to the highest pitch of enthusiasm.

I have never heard any other speech that had such great power and influence over those to whom it was addressed. I have always believed it to have been the greatest speech Mr. Lincoln ever made, and the greatest speech to which I ever listened. I can never forget that speech, and especially that part of it where, after repelling with great power and earnestness the charge of disunion made against the Anti-Nebraska party, he stood as if on tip-toe, his tall from erect, his long arms extended, his face fairly radiant with the flush of excitement, and, as if addressing those preferring the charge of disunionism, he slowly, but earnestly and impressively, said:

"We do not intend to dissolve the Union, nor do we intend to let you dissolve it."

As he uttered these memorable and, I may say, prophetic words, the members of the convention and everybody present rose as one man to their feet, and there was a universal burst of applause, repeated over and over again, so that it was some moments before Mr. Lincoln could proceed with his speech.

John Cockle, of the city of New York, brother of Washington Cockle, a prominent citizen of Peoria, and a life-long Democrat, sat by my side during Mr. Lincoln's speech; and was profoundly impressed by his wonderful eloquence. He said to me he was greatly surprised to find that Illinois had such a man as Abraham Lincoln, and that they knew nothing about him in New York; that he had lived in New York all his life and had heard most of the great men of the country speak at one time or another in that city; that he had heard Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, John C. Calhoun, Martin Van Buren, Levi Woodbury, Silas Wright, and others. But, he said, he had never before heard from any one so great a speech as the one just delivered by Mr. Lincoln. The speech converted him, and he became, as I was informed afterwards, a good Republican.

Mr. Lincoln's speech was delivered without manuscript, and I think, without notes; and no report of it was made. Nor has it ever been published until within a few years when a report of it written, as it is said, from notes taken at the time, was published as the "Lost Speech." And I am forced to say that I rather regret the publication, for I do not think it does justice to the speech that Mr. Lincoln delivered. In fact, I am strongly impressed with the belief, that no report could have been made and published then or since, especially after the lapse of so many years, which would give a just conception of the great power and magnetic effect of that memorable speech.


Transactions of the McLean County Historical Society
Pantagraph Printing and Stationery Company, Bloomington Illinois, 1900