The Lost Speech

by James S. Emory

As I stepped aside, Mr. Lincoln was called for from all sides. I then for the first time, and the last, fixed my eyes on the great president. I thought he was not dressed very neatly, and that his gait in walking up to the platform was sort of swinging. His hair was sort of rather rough and the stoop of his shoulders was noticeable; but what took me most was his intense serious look. He at once held his big audience and handled it like the master he was before the people pleading in a great and just cause.

Today, that "Lost Speech" looks quite conservative; his chief contention all through it was that Kansas must come in free, not slave, he said he did not want to meddle with slavery where it existed and that he was in favor of a reasonable fugitive slave law. I do not now recall how long he spoke, none of us did, I judge. He was at his best and the mad insolence of the slave power as at that time exhibited before the country furnished plenty of material for his unsparing logic to effectively deal with before a popular audience.

Men that day hardly were able to take the true gauge of Mr. Lincoln. He had not yet been recognized as a great man and so we were not a little puzzled to know where his power came from. He was not eloquent, like Phillips, nor could he electrify an audience like Lovejoy, but he could beat them both in the deep and lasting convictions he left on the minds of all who chanced as I did to listen to him in those dark days, now receding into the mystic past.


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