In mid-August 1859, Abraham Lincoln was invited to speak to the Wisconsin Agricultural Society. Mr. Lincoln was reluctant to accept because September and October were normally devoted to traveling the Eighth Circuit and he had already committed to speaking engagements in Ohio in the middle of September. He must have convinced himself of the utility of the engagement because he devoted nearly a week to his first and only speaking trip to Wisconsin. He wrote D. J. Powers, who chaired the Executive Committee for the fair: "Reaching home after an absence [of] nine days I find yours of the 12th. I had also received that of July 27; and, to be plain, I disliked to decline the honor you tendered me. Two difficulties were in the way - first, I could not well spare the time, from the courts; and secondly, I had no address of the sort prepared; and could scarcely spare the time to prepare one; and I was waiting, before answering you, to determine whether these difficulties could be surmounted. I will write you definitely on the 1st day of September, if you can safely delay so long."1
Congressman Lincoln had briefly visited Milwaukee in early October 1848 when his steamer stopped at the City on the way to Chicago. He and his family were returning from Massachusetts where he had given a series of political speeches on behalf of Whig presidential candidate Zachary Taylor. It is likely that Mr. Lincoln visited the state briefly during the Black Hawk in 1832 or perhaps later. But the 1859 visit was his first and only political trip to Wisconsin. On Wednesday, September 28, 1859. Mr. Lincoln left court work in Lincoln, Illinois for Milwaukee via Chicago, where he stayed overnight as usual at Tremont House. On Friday, he entrained for Milwaukee.
Alexander M. Thomson recalled that "the two most active and influential members of the organization were John W. Hoyt, the Secretary, and David Atwood, the Treasurer, Neither of these gentlemen was a practical farmer, nor had either ever been such. Hoyt had been a professor at one time in the State University in the incipiency of that institution, and later one became somewhat of a politician, winding up his political career by serving one term as Governor of the then Territory of Wyoming. General Atwood was senior editor of the The Madison Journal for many years...and it was Hoyt and Atwood who induced Mr. Lincoln to come and make a speech to the farmers. On that occasion, the fair was held at the Cold Spring race course, and as that was before the days of horse railroads, the old methods of travel had to be resorted to by the crowd in getting there, and people on foot, in omnibuses, in wagons and carriages, lined the road leading from the city to what was then considered an out-of the-way place for locating such an exhibition." 2
The speech was set for the afternoon of Saturday, September 30. Charles Caverno recalled: "Mr. Lincoln's presence did not seem to attract attention. Sometimes there might be a score of persons in the retinue and sometimes it was reduced to half that number or less. When the time came for the delivery of the address we went to the stand from which he was to speak. There were 200, possibly 300, persons assembled. There was no crowd - you could have gone back and forth among them with ease at any time. People came and went during the delivery of the address, as they took passing glimpses at other parts of the show. One may wonder now at this lack of interest in Mr. Lincoln, but it must be remembered that then, to Democrats - one-half the people of the State - Mr. Lincoln was a beaten discarded Illinois politician, and to the other half - Republicans - Mr. Seward was the only possible candidate for the Presidency. No ray from the glamour of what was to be fell back to Mr. Lincoln as he delivered the address on that day. Mr. Lincoln read his address, holding his manuscript in his hands. There was no noticeable rhetoric in the address and no effort of oratory in its delivery. It was plain speech of a plain man to plain men." 3
Alexander Thomson recalled: "Mr. Lincoln did not prove to be much of an attraction on that occasion...He was not then looked upon by many of the people of Wisconsin as even a probably candidate for the presidency. It is not to be wondered at that his address, which was delivered in the afternoon, and two or three miles from the then principal business and residence portions of the city, should not attract a large audience. The address itself was such a one as Mr. Lincoln might be expected to deliver under the circumstances. He must have felt conscious that his appearance here was something in the nature of a show, for he was not a practical farmer, and he knew that he could not talk to agriculturalists to their profit any more than one of them could expound the law to him. However, he made the best of it and talked from observation and theory rather than from practical knowledge and experience, and in that sense he talked exceedingly well, as he always did on any subject." 4
The president of the society, introduced Mr. Lincoln. Historian Kenneth J. Winkle wrote: "Before an audience of farmers, he outlined the essential ingredients that made midwestern society free. Lincoln contrasted two competing economic systems, one in which laborers were hired to work for others and one in which laborers were compelled work. Free labor granted northerners independence through subsistence agriculture and, through commercial agriculture, social mobility." 5 Mr. Lincoln's speech was dry, nonpolitical, and very different from virtually every speech Mr. Lincoln gave during this period -- almost all of which were political and focused on the need to contain slavery's spread. But the speech did reflect Mr. Lincoln's attention to data and detail and his orientation on economic issues. Mr. Lincoln began:
Agricultural Fairs are becoming an institution of the country; they are useful in more ways than one; they bring us together, and thereby make us better acquainted, and better friends than we otherwise would be. From the first appearance of man upon the earth, down to very recent times, the words 'stranger' and 'enemy' were quite or almost, synonymous. Long after civilized nations had defined robbery and murder as high crimes, and had affixed severe punishments to them, when practiced among and upon their own people respectively, it was deemed no offence, but ever meritorious, to rob, and murder, and enslave strangers, whether as nations or as individuals. Even yet, this has not totally disappeared. The man of the highest moral cultivation, in spite of all which abstract principle can do, likes him whom he does know, much better than him whom he does not know. To correct the evils, great and small, which spring from want of sympathy, and from positive enmity, among strangers, as nations, or as individuals, is one of the highest functions of civilization. To this end our Agricultural Fairs contribute in no small degree. They make more pleasant, and more strong, and more durable, the bond of social and political union among us. Again, if, as Pope declares, 'happiness is our being's end and aim,' our Fairs contribute much to that end and aim, as occasions of recreation - as holidays, Constituted as man is, he has positive need of occasional recreation; and whatever can give him this, associated with virtue and advantage, and free from vice and disadvantage, and free from vice disadvantage, is a positive good. Such recreation our Fairs afford. They are a present pleasure, to be followed by no pain, as a consequence; they are a present pleasure, making the future more pleasant.
But the chief use of agricultural fairs is to aid in improving the great call of agriculture, in all it's departments, and minute divisions - to make mutual exchange of agricultural discovery, information, and knowledge; so that, at the end, all may know every thing, which may have been known to but one, or to but a few, at the beginning - to bring together especially all which is supposed to not be generally known, because of recent discovery, or invention.
And not only to bring together, and to impart all of which has been accidentally discovered or invented upon ordinary motive; but, by exciting emulation, for premiums, and for the pride and honor of success - of triumph, in some sort - to stimulate that discovery and invention into extraordinary activity. In this case, these fairs are kindred to the patent clause in the Constitution of the United States; and to the department, and practical system, based upon that clause.
One feature, I believe, of every fair, is a regular address. The Agricultural Society of the young, prosperous, and soon to be, great State of Wisconsin, has done me the high honor of selecting me to make that address upon this occasion - an honor for which I make my profound, and grateful acknowledgement.
I presume I am not expected to employ the time assigned me, in the mere flattery of the farmers, as a class. My opinion of them is that, in proportion in numbers, they are neither better nor worse than other people. In the nature of things they are more numerous than any other class; and I believe there really are more attempts at flattering them than any other; the reason of which I cannot perceive, unless it be that they can cast more votes than any other. On reflection, I am not quite sure that there is not cause of suspicion against you, in selecting me, in some sort a politician, and in no sort a farmer, to address you.
But farms, being the most numerous class, it follows that their interest is the largest interest. It also follows that that interest is most worthy of all to be cherished and cultivated - that if there be inevitable conflict between that interest and any other, that other should yield.
Again, I suppose it is not expected of me to impart to you much specific information on Agriculture. You have no reason to believe, and do not believe, that I possess it - if that were what you seek in this address, any one of your own number, or class, would be more able to furnish it.
You, perhaps, do expect me to give some general interest to the occasion; and to make some general suggestions, on practical matters. I shall attempt nothing more. And in such suggestions by me, quite likely very little will be new to you, and a large part of the rest possibly already known to be erroneous.
My first suggestion is an inquiry as to the effect of great thoroughness in all the departments of Agriculture than now prevails in the North-West - perhaps I might say in America. To speak entirely within bounds, it is known that fifty bushels of wheat, or one hundred bushels of Indian corn can be produced from an acre. Less than a year ago I saw it stated that a man, by extraordinary care and labor, had produced of wheat, what was equal to two hundred bushels from an acre. But take fifty of wheat, and one hundred of corn, to be the possibility, and compare with it the actual crops of the country. Many years ago I saw it stated in a Patent Office Report that eighteen bushels was the average crop through the wheat growing region of the United States; and this year an intelligent farmer of Illinois, assured me that he did not believe the land harvested in that State this season, had yield more than an average of eight bushels to the acre. The brag crop I heard of in our vicinity was two thousand bushels from ninety acres. Many crops were thrashed, produced no more than three bushels to the acre; much was cut, and then abandoned as not worth threshing; and much was abandoned as not worth cutting. As to Indian corn, and, indeed, most other crops, the case has not been much better. For the last four years I do not believe the ground planted with corn in Illinois, has produced an average of twenty bushels to the acre. It is true, that heretofore we have had better crops, with no better cultivators; but I believe it is also true that the soil has never been pushed up to on-half of its capacity.
What would be the effect upon the farming interest, to push the soil up to something near its full capacity? Unquestionably it will take more labor to produce fifty bushels from an acre, than it will to produce ten bushels from the same acre. But will it take more labor to produce fifty bushels from one acre, than from five? Unquestionably, thorough cultivation will require more labor to the are, but will it require more to the bushel? If it should require just as much to the bushel, there are some probable, and several certain, advantages in favor of the thorough practice. It is probable it would develop those unknown causes, or develope unknown cures for those causes, which of late years have cut down our crops below their former average. It is almost certain, I think, that in the deeper plowing, analysis of soils, experiments with manures, and varieties of seeds, observance of seasons, and the like, these cases [causes?] would be found. It is certain that thorough cultivation would spare half or more than half, the cost to land, simply because the same product would be got from half, or from less than half the quantity of land. This proposition is self-evident, and can be made no plainer by repetitions or illustrations. The cost of land is a great item, even in new countries; and constantly grows greater and greater, in comparison with other items, as the country grows older.
It also would spare a large proportion of the making and maintaining of enclosures - the same, whether these enclosures should be hedges, ditches or fences. This again, is a heavy item - heavy at first, and heavy in its continual demands for repairs. I remember once being greatly astonished by an apparently authentic exhibition of the proportion the cost of enclosures bears to all the other expenses of the farm; though I can not remember exactly what that proportion was. Any farmer, if he will, can ascertain it in his own case, for himself.
Again, a great amount of 'locomotion' is spared by thorough cultivation. Take fifty bushels of wheat, ready for the harvest, standing upon a single acre, and it can be harvested in any of the known ways with less than half the labor which would be required if it were spread over five acres. This would be true, if cut by the old hand sickle, true, to a great extent if by the scythe a cradle; and to a still greater extent, if by the machines now in use. These machines are chiefly valuable, as a means of substituting animal power for the power of men in this branch of farm work. In the highest degree of perfection yet reached in applying the horse power to harvesting, fully nine-tenths of the power is expended by the animal in carrying himself and dragging the machine over the field, leaving certainly not more than one-tenth to be applied directly to the only end of the whole operation - the gathering in the grain, and clipping of the straw. When grain is very thin on the ground, it is always more or less intermingled with weeds, chess and the like, and large part of the power is expected in cutting these. It is plain that when the crop is very thick upon the ground, the larger proportion of the power is directly applied to gathering in and cutting it; and the smaller, to that which is totally useless as an end. And what I have said of harvesting is true, in a greater or less degree of mowing, plowing, gathering in of crops generally, and, indeed, of almost all farm work.
The effect of thorough cultivation upon the farmers's own mind, and, in reaction through his mind, back upon his business, is perhaps quite equal to any other of its effects. Every man is proud of what he does well; and no man is proud of what he does not do well. With the former, his heart is in his work and he will do twice as much of it with less fatigue. The latter performs a little imperfectly, looks at it in disgust, turns from it, and imagines himself exceedingly tired. The little he has done, comes to nothing for want of finishing.
The man who produces a good full crop will scarcely ever let any part of it go to waste. He will keep up the enclosure about it, and allow neither man nor beat to trespass upon it. He will gather it in due season and store it in perfect security. Thus he labors with satisfaction, and saves himself the whole fruit of his labor. The other, starting with no purpose for a full crop, labors less, and with less satisfaction; allows his fences to fall, and cattle to trespass; gathers not in due season, or not at all. Thus the labor he has performed, is wasted away, little by little, till in the end, he derives scarcely anything from it.
The ambition for broad acres leads to poor farming, even with men of energy. I scarcely ever knew a mammoth farm to sustain itself; much less to return a profit upon the outlay. I have more than once known a man to spend a respectable fortune upon one; fail and leave it; and then some man of more modest aims, get a small fraction of the ground, and make a good living upon it. Mammoth farms are like tools or weapons, which are too heavy to be handled. Ere long they are thrown aside, at a great loss.
The successful application of steam power, to farm work is a desideratum - especially a Steam Plow. It is not enough, that a machine operated by steam, will really plow. To be successful, it must, all things considered, plow better than can be done with animal power. It must do all the work as well, and cheaper; or more rapidly, so as to get through more perfectly in season; or in some way afford an advantage over plowing with animals, else it is no success. I have never seen a machine intended for a Steam Plow. Much praise, and admiration, are bestowed upon some of them; and they may be, for aught I know, already successful; but I have not perceived the demonstration of it. I have thought a good deal, in an abstract way, about a Steam Plow. That one which shall be so contrived as to apply the larger proportion of its power to the cutting and turning the soil, and the smallest, to the moving itself over the field, will be the best one. A very small stationary engine would draw a large gang of plows through the ground from a short distance to itself; but when it is not stationary, but has to move along like a horse, dragging the plows after it, it must have additional power to carry itself; and the difficulty grows by what is intended to overcome it; for what adds power also adds size, and weight to the machine, thus increasing again, the demand for power. Suppose you should construct the machine so as to cut a succession of short furrows, say a rod in length, transversely to the course the machine is locomoting, something like the shuttle in weaving. In such case the whole machine would move North only the width of a furrow, while length, the furrow would be a rod from East to West. In such case, a very large proportion of the power, would be applied to the actual plowing. But in this, too, there would be a difficulty, which would be the getting of the plower into, and out of, the ground, at the ends of all these short furrows.
I believe, however, ingenious men will, if they have not already, overcome the difficulty I have suggested. But there is still another, about which I am less sanguine. It is the supply of fuel, and especially of water, to make steam. Such supply is clearly practicable, but can the expense of it be borne? Steamboats live upon the water, and find their fuel at stated placed. Steam mills, and other stationary steam machinery, have their stationary supplies of fuel and water. Railroad locomotives have their regular wood and water station. But the steam plow is less fortunate. It does not live upon the water, and when it gets away can not return, without leaving its work, at a great expense of its time and strength. It will occur that a wagon and horse team might be employed to supply it with fuel and water; but this, too, is expensive; and the question recurs, 'can the expense be borne?' When this is added to all other expenses, will not the plowing cost more than in the old way?
It is to be hoped that the steam plow will be finally successful, and if it shall be, 'thorough cultivation' - putting the soil to the top of its capacity - producing the largest crop possible from a given quantity of ground - will be most favorable to it. Doing a large amount of work upon a small quantity of ground, it will be, as nearly as possible, stationary while working, and as free as possible from locomotion; thus expending its strength as much as possible upon its work, and as little as possible in traveling. Our thanks, and something more substantial than thanks, are due to every man engaged in the effort to produce a successful steam plow. Even the unsuccessful will bring something to light, which, in the hands of others, will contribute to the final success. I have not pointed out difficulties, in order that being seen, they may be the more readily overcome.
The world is agreed that labor is the source from which human wants are mainly supplied. There is no dispute upon this point. From this point, however, men immediately diverge. Much disputation is maintained as to be the best way of applying and controlling the labor element. By some it is assumed that labor is available only in connection with capital - that nobody labors, unless somebody else, owning capital, somehow, by the use of that capital, induces him to do it. Having assumed this, they proceed to consider whether it is best that capital shall hire laborers, and thus induce them to work by their own consent; or buy them, and drive them to it without their consent. Having proceeded so far they naturally conclude that all laborers are necessarily either hired laborers, or slaves. They further assume that whoever is once a hired laborer, is fatally fixed in that condition for life; and thence again that his condition is as bad as, or worse than that of a slave. This is the 'mud-sill' theory.
But another class of reasoners hold the opinion that there is no such relation between capital and labor, as assumed; and that there is no such thing as a freeman being fatally fixed for life, in the condition of a hired laborer, that both these assumptions are false, and all inferences from them groundless. They hold that labor is prior to, and independent of, capital; that, in fact, capital is the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed - that labor can exist without capital, but that capital could never have existed without labor. Hence they hold that labor is the superior - greatly the superior - of capital.
They do not deny that there is, and probably always will be, a relation between labor and capital. The error, as they hold, is in assuming that the whole labor of the world exists within that relation. A few men own capital; and that few avoid labor themselves, and with their capital, hire, or buy, another few to labor for them. A large majority belong to neither class - neither work for others, nor have others working for them. Even in all our slave States, a large majority are neither hirers nor hired. Men with their families - wives, sons and daughters - work for themselves, on their farms, in their houses and in their shops, taking the whole product to themselves, and asking no favors of capital on the one hand, nor of hirelings or slaves on the other. It is not forgotten that a considerable number of persons mingle their own labor with capital; that is, labor with their own hands, and also buy slaves or hire freemen to labor for them; but this is only a mixed, and not a distinct class. No principle stated is disturbed by the existence of this mixed class. Again as has already been said, the opponents of the 'mud-sill' theory insist that there is not, of necessity, any such thing as the free hired laborer being fixed to that condition for life. There is demonstration for saying this. Many independent men, in this assembly, doubtless a few years ago were hired laborers. And their case is almost if not quite the general rule.
The prudent, penniless beginner in the world, labors for wages awhile, saves a surplus with which to buy tools or land, for himself; then labors on his own account another while, and at length hires another new beginner to help him. This, say its advocates, is free labor - the just and generous, and prosperous system, which opens the way for all - gives hope to all, and energy, and progress, and improvement of condition to all. If any continue through life in the condition of the hired laborer, it is not fault of the system, but because of either a dependent nature which prefers it, or improvidence, folly, or singular misfortune. I have said this much about the elements of labor generally, as introductory to the consideration of a new phase which that element is in process of assuming. The old general rule was that educated people did not perform manual labor. They managed to eat their bread, leaving the toil of producing it to the uneducated. This was not an insupportable evil to the working bees, so long as the class of drones remained very small. But now, especially in these free States, nearly all are educated - quite too nearly all, to leave the labor of the uneducated, in any wise adequate to the support of the whole. It follows from this that henceforth educated people must labor. Otherwise, education itself would become a positive and intolerable evil. No country can sustain, in idleness, more than a small per centage of its numbers. The great majority must labor at something productive. From these premises the problem springs, 'How can labor and education be the most satisfactorily combined?'
By the 'mud-sill' theory it is assumed that labor and education are incompatible; and any practical combination of them impossible. According to that theory, a blind horse upon a tread-mill, is a perfect illustration of what a laborer should be - all the better for being blind, that he could not tread out of place, or kick understandingly. According to that theory, the education of laborers, is not only useless, but pernicious, and dangerous. In fact, it is, in some sort, deemed a misfortune that laborers should have heads at all. Those same heads are regarded as explosive materials, only to be safely kept in damp places, as far as possible from that peculiar sort of fire which ignites them. A Yankee who could invent a strong handed man without a head would receive the everlasting gratitude of the 'mud-sill advocates.
But Free Labor says 'no!' Free Labor argues that, as the Author of man makes every individual with one head and one pair of hands, it was probably intended that heads and hands should co-operate as friends; and that that particular head, should direct and control that particular pair of hands. As each man has one mouth to be fed, and one pair of hands to furnish food, it was probably intended that that particular pair of hands should feed that particular mouth - that each head is the natural guardian, director, and protector of the hands and mouth inseparably connected with it; and that being so, every head should be cultivated, and improved, by whatever will add to its capacity for performing its charge. In one word Free Labor insists on universal education.
I have so far stated the opposite theories of 'Mud-Sill' and 'Free Labor' without declaring any preference of my own between them. On an occasion like this I ought not to declare any. I suppose, however, I shall not be mistaken, in assuming, as a fact, that the people of Wisconsin prefer free labor, with its natural companion, education.
This leads to the further reflection, that no other human occupation opens so wide a field for the profitable and agreeable combination of labor with cultivated thought, as agriculture. I know of nothing so pleasant to the mind, as the discover of anything which is at once new and valuable - nothing which so lightens and sweetens toil, as the hopeful pursuit of such discovery. And how vast, and how varied a field is agriculture, for such discovery. The mind, already trained to thought, in the country school, or higher school, cannot fail to find there an exhaustless source of profitable enjoyment. Every blade of grass is a study; and to produce two, where there was one, is both a profit and a pleasure. And not grass alone; but soils, seeds, and seasons - hedges, ditches, and fences, draining, droughts, and irrigation - plowing, hoeing, and harrowing - reaping, mowing, and threshing - saving crops, pests of crops, diseases of crops, and what will prevent or cure them - implement, utensils, and machines, their relative merits, and [how] to improve them - hogs, horses, and cattle - sheep, goals, and poultry - trees, shrubs, fruits, plants, and flowers - the thousand things of which these are specimens - each a world of study within itself.
In all this, book-learning is available. A capacity, and taste, for reading, gives access to whatever has already been discovered by others. It is the key, or one of the keys, to the already solved problems. And not only so. It gives a relish, and facility, for successfully pursuing the [yet] unsolved ones. The rudiments of science, are available, and highly valuable. Some knowledge of Botany assists in dealing with the vegetable world - with all growing crops. Chemistry assists in the analysis of soils, selection, and application of manures, and in numerous other ways. The mechanical branches of Natural Philosophy, are ready help in almost everything, but especially in reference to implements and machinery.
The thought recurs that education - cultivated thought - can best be combined with agricultural labor, or any labor, on the principle of thorough work - that careless, half performed, slovenly work, makes no place for such combination. And thorough work, again, renders sufficient, the smallest quantity of ground to each man. And this again, conforms to what must occur in a world less inclined to wars, and more devoted to the arts of peace, than heretofore. Population must increase rapidly - more rapidly than in former times - and ere long the most valuable of all arts, will be the art of deriving a comfortable subsistence from the smallest area of soil. No community whose every member possesses this art, can ever be the victim of oppression in any of its forms. Such community will be alike independent of crowned-kings, money-kings, and land-kings.
But, according to your programme, the awarding of premiums awaits the closing of this address. Considering the deep interest necessarily pertaining to that performance, it would be no wonder if I am already heard with some impatience. I will detain you but a moment longer. Some of you will be successful, and such will need but little philosophy to take them home in cheerful spirits; others will be disappointed, and will be in a less happy mood. To such, let it be said, 'Lay it not too much to heart.' Let them adopt the maxim, 'Better luck next time,' and then, by renewed exertion, make that better luck for themselves.
And by the successful, and the unsuccessful, let it be remembered, that while occasions like the present, bring their sober and durable benefits, the exultations and mortifications of them, are but temporary; that the victor shall soon be the vanquished, if he relax in his exertion; and that the vanquished this year, may be victor the next, in spite of all competition.
It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: 'And this, too, shall pass away.' How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! - how consoling in the depths of affliction! 'And this, too, shall pass away.' And yet let us hope it is not quite true. Let us hope, rather, that by the best cultivation of the physical world, beneath and around us; and the intellectual and moral world within us, we shall secure an individual, social, and political prosperity and happiness, whose course shall be onward and upward, and which, while the earth endures, shall not pass away. 6
Attorney Charles Caverno wrote: "Mr. Lincoln had fine command of his sentences and of his voice. He could give a clear, sharp emphasis to a word that would give it the force of a whole argument. When the address was finished we sauntered down to the gate, where Mr. Lincoln and friends took the carriage back to the city." 7 Hoyt recalled that Mr. Lincoln toured the fair grounds before departing for Milwaukee. According to Alexander K. McClure: "They came to a place where a professional'strong man' was tossing cannon balls in the air and catching them on his arms and juggling with them as though they were light as baseballs. Mr. Lincoln had never before seen such an exhibition, and he was greatly surprised and interested.
When the performance was over, Governor Hoyt, seeing Mr. Lincoln's interest, asked him to go up and be introduced to the athlete. He did so, and, as he stood looking down musingly on the man, who was very short, and evidently wondering that one so much smaller than he could be so much stronger, he suddenly broke out with one of his quaint speeches. "Why," he said, "why, I could lick salt off the top of your hat." 8
Caverno recalled: "After dinner he was taken for a drive about the city, and I did not see him again till 4 o'clock. It was the understanding, so far as the word could be passed about (I think no notice was given in the papers) that Mr. Lincoln should have a Republican reception at 4 o'clock in the Newhall House parlors. I was promptly on hand. Mr. Lincoln came on time from his room to the parlors, in dress suit of faultless black broadcloth. Its loose fit did not seem undergraceful on his large frame. His necktie was of the black silk'kerchief order, the ends of which pointed in no particular direction. That was the only evidence of carelessness about his dress. General King acted as marshal for the occasion. The general requested Captain Bowens of the Scott Guard and myself to act as ushers." 9
The reception was sparsely attended with less than 200 people stopping by to greet the speaker. Attorney Charles Caverno wrote: "At 5 o'clock the reception seemed to be over and then those who were left fell to and had a free-for-all political interview. We asked him questions about everything that was in the air at that time. The slavery and free soil contest was on and feeling was at its whitest heat. Mr. Buchanan's administration was drifting on towards its pointless, helpless conclusions; the secessionists were lashing themselves into fury, the nominations for the Presidency and the election were to come in the next year; and here was a political seer and we plied him with questions about everything, from principles to the significance of a town election in some remote State. There was nothing that he was not familiar with but his answers were often cautious."
In this conference it was determined to have a political meeting in the evening and to have a speech from Mr. Lincoln from the balcony of the Newhall House. At 7 o'clock a band was brought out to play in the street in front of the house. At that hour Mr. Lincoln came down to the parlors to await directions. Toward 8 o'clock some of us went out on the balcony to look down into the street to see the assembly that was to be addressed. Mr. Lincoln started up from his chair before the fireplace and went out with us. There was no one in sight except the band in the street and folks traveling up and down on the sidewalk intent upon their own affairs. Mr. Lincoln peered over the railing of the balcony and, discovering the situation, with a light laugh said:'Well, we can't call that a crowd, can we?' We then started to go back into the rotunda. I was a little ahead and turned to look at Mr. Lincoln as he was following, and behold! A change! His countenance was fallen! That afterward well known, indescribable, pathetic look of suffering sadness had taken the place of that equally indescribable smile. It was an awesome sight. He looked to me as though his soul was dreaming on something a thousand miles from that place. We were drifting along, a score or so of common-sized men, under his huge stature and he was looking into vacancy over our heads evidently paying no more attention to us than if we were ants on the ground. I had seen his face in sober, settled calm, many times during the day, but this was something away beyond calm, something in the region of mental pain. What occasioned it I know not. Was it the disappointment of his strong ambition of the blank, vacant street? Had life all along had disappointments till they furrowed his mobile face with their lines and set it to that pathetic expression?
In a moment we were in the rotunda and the winning smile was back in its place. There was disappointment among us over that failure to secure a speech, but a little consultation developed the plan to have Mr. Lincoln speak right there in the space between the office and parlors. There were enough present to make an audience of respectable proportions for the space. So a chair was brought for him to speak from. He did not like that foundation. There was a radiator just north of the office which had a wide marble cover. Mr. Lincoln's attention was directed to that and he said'Yes.' The chair was placed beside it and then several men gave hands to steady him as he stepped from the chair to the top of the radiator. It was a narrow platform, but it answered very well. From that marble-topped radiator Mr. Lincoln spoke to us for nearly or quite an hour on the political issues of the day. I am not going to report that speech. I can only say that we had here in Milwaukee substantially the Cooper Institute speech delivered some months later in New York. 10
Alexander Thomson recalled Mr. Lincoln standing on "an empty dry goods box" rather than a radiator and speaking for less than a hour on the issue of slavery. "I see him, now, as he stood there under the gaslight upon his improved rostrum, his tall gaunt form trembling with suppressed emotion as he depicted the dangers to the country which he felt to be imminent, and the look of inexpressible sadness that at times overspread his swarthy, homely features, no one will ever forget." 11 Caverno wrote that after Mr. Lincoln concluded, the speaker "was assisted down from the radiator, there was a general all-round handshake with him and we went our way, and he to his room in the hotel." 12 Mr. Lincoln stayed at Newhall House that night in Milwaukee. The next day, October 1 was devoted to speeches in Beloit in the afternoon and in Janesville at night. He was on more familiar ground in these speeches - talking about the past, present, and future of slavery in America.
Responding to an invitation from fellow attorney Matthew A. Northrop on behalf of the Beloit City Republican Club, Mr. Lincoln took a train to Beloit that morning. Local Republicans greeted him at the railroad station and took him to Bushnell House for lunch with city leaders. Mr. Lincoln's speech was delivered to an enthusiastic crowd at Hanchett's Hall. The Beloit Journal reported: "At two o'clock Hanchett's hall was packed to hear the address. The high wind and flying dust prevented Mr. Lincoln's speaking in the open air, according to previous announcement. Mr. Bannister, President of the Republican Club, introduced'our distinguished visitor,' and then'Old Abe,' as his fellow citizens of Illinois delight to call him, commenced the clearest and most conclusive vindication of Republican principles, as well as the most unanswerable demonstration of the fallacy and utter absurdity of the Douglas doctrines, which we ever listened to." 13
The newspaper reported that Mr. Lincoln "opened with a statement of the different positions taken by the different political parties of the country. He named 4 existing Dem. parties, or rather, sub-divisions of the great Democratic party. These were united on one point, viz: their opposition to the Republican organization [and] to Republican principles. At the South, the hostility to organization proceeded, in a great measure, from ignorance and misapprehension and falsehood, to produce the impression that the Republicans desire to meddle with their existing institutions." The Beloit Journal reported:
Mr. Lincoln then went on to state the real position of the Republican party. Its underlying principle is hatred to the institution of Slavery; hatred to it in all its aspects, moral, social, and political. This is the foundation of the Republican Party - its active, life-giving principle. The expression, by words and deeds, of this hatred to Slavery, is the policy of the party; and this expression, is, and should be, made in every legitimate, Constitutional way. With Slavery in the States they had nothing to do; but when it attempts to overleap its present limits, and fasten itself upon free territory, they would resist and force it back. This, he said, was what the Republican party was now trying to do. On this point he clashed with the popular sovereignty doctrine, and accordingly, he proceeded to pay his respects to the author of that stupendous humbug. This he did in a way that must have convinced every candid man in the audience of the emptiness of his arguments, and of the baneful results of the adoption of Douglas' policy by the National government. First, as to the working of the popular sovereignty principle. In no single case had it, when left free to work out its own legitimate results, brought into the Union a Free State. Every Free State which has been carved out of territory belonging to the United States, and has been received into the Union since the compact was formed between the original thirteen, had been, at some time during its territorial existence, subject to a prohibition of slavery. In the states formed out of the Northwestern territory, it was prohibited by the Ordinance of '87; in the Free states formed out of the Louisiana purchase by the Missouri compromise, and in California, by the Missouri compromise, and by Mexican laws. In every territory where slavery had, in accordance with popular sovereignty, obtained a foothold, it had maintained its position after the state organization. Kansas would probably be the first instance of a free state's being formed under the auspices of popular sovereignty. In this case, freedom was secured at the expense of a civil war.
The cause of this uniform result is this: Suppose that one-fifth of the inhabitants of a territory are slaves, and it is proposed to form a State Constitution. The question of course arises of Slavery or no Slavery? Before a prohibition is decided upon, several other questions are to be settled relative to the disposition of the slaves already in the territory. One man thinks that it is unjust to deprive a man of his lawful property at all, and all differ as to the means by which the difficulty shall be removed. The result of their disagreement will be, that the institution is permitted to remain undisturbed.
Slavery may thus be introduced into and retained upon territory where a large majority of the population are decidedly opposed to it. The practical difficulty in the way of removing the curse overbalances their aversion to it in principle, and in its practical effects upon the prosperity of the country. Mr. Lincoln proceeded to speak of the demoralizing tendency of a general prevalence of Douglas' doctrines in the country. Mr. Douglas takes it for granted that slavery is not a moral wrong. To him it is a matter of indifference whether it is 'voted up or voted down.' Of course, then, if he makes any pretence to morality, he considers that no moral question is involved. It is right and necessary at the south, he says, and he sneers at the idea of an 'irrepressible conflict' between negro bondage and human freedom. 'They are an inferior race.' 'Between the white man and the negro, he goes for the white man; but between the negro and the crocodile, he goes for the negro.' These are Douglas' sentiments. The man who expresses such sentiments as these can see no moral wrong in slavery. But if it is morally right below the line of 36 30, it must be above. Questions of abstract right and wrong cannot be questions of locality. But slavery is unprofitable at the north, Mr. Douglas says; but this is no reason for its prohibition. Cotton cannot be profitably grown at the north; but who ever thought of State enactments forbidding the raising of Cotton for such a reason?
The natural result of a general belief in such doctrines would be the ultimate establishment of slavery in every State of the Union.
The orator then went on to prove the identity of the Republican principles with those of the Fathers of the Republic. This he did most satisfactorily, citing in proof the passage of the Ordinance of '87, and the refusal three several [separate?] times of the Federal Legislature to grant the petition of a majority of the inhabitants of the territory of Indiana for liberty to hold slaves in that territory. Innumerable other cases might be cited to prove the same point. If twelve good sound democrats could be found in the county of Rock [where he was speaking in Wisconsin], he would put them on oath as a jury. He would bring his evidence in form of depositions in a court, and wring from them the verdict that the Republicans hold to the same principles which Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Madison and their compeers held.
Mr. Lincoln closed with an eloquent passage from Mr. Clay, pointing out, with prophetic voice, the ruin which the adoption by the people of such principles as Douglas advocates would bring upon the country, and denouncing in terrible language, the authors of such a change of public policy. 14
Mr. Lincoln's subsequent speech in Janesville was apparently done in response to Republican listeners from Janesville who had come to Beloit. Several Republicans prevailed upon him to accompany them back to Janesville for an evening speech. Mr. Lincoln traveled by carriage to Janesville, where his host was a rich abolitionist, William H. Tallman. That night in Janesville, the former Illinois Congressman spoke at Young America Hall to residents who had been recruited on very short notice. Mr. Lincoln followed a similar theme as at Beloit. He "enquired why slavery existed on one side of the Ohio River and not on the other? Why did we find that institution in Kentucky, and not in Ohio? There was very little difference in the soil or the climate, and the people on one side of the line loved liberty as well as on the other. The northern portion of Kentucky was opposite free territory, while the southern portions of Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, had for neighbors states in which slavery existed. Indiana while a territory had petitioned congress three times to allow them to introduce slavery. Mr. Lincoln said there could be no other reason than that it was prohibited by congress. If it had been left to the people, as proposed by Mr. Douglas, a few slaves would have found a place there - if ten thousand had been admitted into Ohio while she was a territory, many questions would have been presented that would have been embarrassing, which would not have perplexed the people if slavery had been prohibited by congress - the question would have come up, what shall we do with these ten thousand slaves? Shall we make them free and destroy property which people supposed they possess? If they abolished slavery what would they do with the negroes? &c. These questions would be troublesome and difficult to decide. The power of this amount of property in the hands of wealthy and educated men, who would most likely own the slaves, would in the end prevail and slavery would be established; whereas if congress had prohibited it until the state constitution was about to be formed, slavery and freedom would start upon an equal platform, and without the embarrassing questions named - freedom in this case would prevail and slavery would be prohibited. Slavery comes gradually into territory where it is not prohibited without notice, and without alarming the people, until having obtained a foothold, it cannot be driven out." As the Janesville Morning Gazette reported a portion of the speech:
Thus we see that in all the new states where slavery was not prohibited, it was established. In Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas and Missouri, the principle of popular sovereignty prevailed - congress permitted the people to establish the institution of slavery if they pleased. In all these instances, where they had their choice, slavery had been introduced; but, on the contrary, in all the new states, where slavery had been prohibited, and where popular sovereignty had no choice until state constitutions were formed, the states have prohibited slavery in their constitutions; such was the case in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, California, and Minnesota. In California it had been prohibited by the old Mexican law, which was not abrogated before California became a state. Minnesota was a territory five years after the Missouri compromise was repealed, but commenced its settlement with a congressional restriction against slavery.
It is therefore, evident, if the principle of popular sovereignty becomes the settled policy of the country, that slavery will have a great advantage over freedom, and the history of the country proves this to be true.
Mr. Lincoln said that he had failed to find a man who five years ago had expressed it his belief that the declaration of independence did not embrace the colored man. But the public mind had become debauched by the popular sovereignty dogma of Judge Douglas. The first step down the hill is the denial of the negro's rights as a human being. The rest comes easy. Classing the colored race with brutes frees from all embarrassment the idea that slavery is right if it only has the endorsement the idea that slavery is right if it only has the endorsement of the popular will. Douglas has said that in a conflict between the white man and the negro, he is for the white man, but in a conflict between the white and the negro, he is for the white man; but in a conflict between the negro and the crocodile, he is for the negro. Or the matter might be put in this shape. As the white man is to the negro, so is the negro to the crocodile! (Applause and laughter.) But the idea that there was a conflict between the two races, or that the freedom of the white man was insecure unless the negro was reduced to a state of abject slavery, was false and that as long as his tongue could utter a word he would combat that infamous idea. There was room for all races and as there was no conflict so there was no necessity of getting up an excitement in relation to it. 15
On Sunday, according to one story Mr. Lincoln missed the early train because his boots had been taken for polishing and not returned. Instead of departing, Mr. Lincoln accompanied his overnight hosts, Mr. and Mrs. William Tallman, to the First Congregational Church. Although Tallmans live in a recently-constructed, italianate, 26-room mansion, they had other guests that night including their young nephew, Lucien Hanks. The Tallmans told Hanks he would have to sleep on the couch, but Mr. Lincoln said: "He's not a very big fellow and won't take up much room. Let him sleep with me. I think we'll get along famously; don't you?" Mr. Lincoln, however, proved to be a restless sleeper, according to Hanks. Years later, the Madison Democrat reported that Mr. Lincoln "was restless, jerking about violent, the subconscious effect probably of his vigorous speech but an hour or so before. He would hitch up his arms one instant, then shift a long leg the next, - and there simply was no sleep whatever for the martyred boy, who finally slipped out, tiptoed downstairs and soon was safely in the arms of Morpheus."
The next morning, another young man was dispatched upstairs to wake Mr. Lincoln in time for his train. Mr. Lincoln stood in the room in his blue socks. He mildly complained: "I don't want to cast any aspersions, but when I went to bed last night I certainly had boots. I am not resentful and will be willing to let the matter drop if I could only can get those boots. Must have'em. Can't possibly leave this way. What'ud the people think down home?" Upon getting his boots, Mr. Lincoln went down to breakfast. 16
The Janesville Morning Gazette subsequently editorialized: "The democrats in Beloit, like those in Janesville, are not pleased with Mr. Lincoln's speech. Like produces like, everywhere. Mr. Lincoln sent too many pointed shafts, and planted them too deeply, to be at all agreeable to his democratic hearers. Here they were generally unwilling to hear him, and left before the conclusion of his speech, swearing it did not amount to anything. But their actions belie their words. They spend too much time in declaring the speech a lame one, if it really were a lame one. That fact is, Mr. Lincoln gave them a stronger dose than they could bear. With a master's hand he exposed the deformities of squatter sovereignty, and pinned to the wall the father of that cheat and delusion. The lance which he drove into Douglas was barbed, and after it had entered into his victim it was turned and twisted in the body of the impaled sufferer. The'little giant' finds a hard customer in the long backwoodsman, because he deals out justice to him, and in doing so never descends to the blackguard or falsifier." 17
There was no immediate payoff for Mr. Lincoln's efforts. His visit did not change the political orientation of Wisconsin in the upcoming presidential election of 1860. Wisconsin and nearby Michigan were two of the most stalwart states for New York Senator William H. Seward. German-American leader Carl Schurz of Wisconsin seconded the nomination of Seward at the Republican National Convention in Chicago in May 1860. Schurz also seconded the motion to make Mr. Lincoln's nomination unanimous after the third ballot: "I am now speaking in the spirit of Mr. Seward, when I say that his ambition will be satisfied with the success of the cause which was the dream of his youth, and to which he has devoted all the days of his manhood, - even if the name of William H. Seward should remain in history an instance of the highest merit uncrowned with the highest honor." 18 Wisconsin had cast all of its ten votes for Senator Seward on the first, second and third ballots. In the 1860 presidential election that fall, however, Mr. Lincoln was victorious. He received more that 56% of the state's votes - to almost 43% for Illinois Senator Stephen A. Douglas.
Despite Schurz's support for Seward, the German-American orator came to know Mr. Lincoln well before and after his nomination. Schurz accompanied the convention delegation to Springfield that informed Mr. Lincoln of his nomination. Schurz returned to Springfield in late July, writing his wife on July 25: "Well, then, yesterday I was with Lincoln. He is still the same genial old fellow as of yore, just as simple and unaffected. The reception committee had engaged a room for me at the hotel and Lincoln was one of the first to knock at my door. He wears a linen sackcoat and hat of doubtful age, but everything about him is clean and neat. We talked about two hours in my room. I happened to be lying on the bed when he came, because I wanted to rest a bit, and he insisted that I should remain there. He talked about the presidential election with as much calm and easy unconcern as if the matter under discussion were a potato crop. He told me all about the letters and calls with which he was being overwhelmed, and said that he wasn't answering the letters at all that asked for jobs and that sort of thing.'Men like you,' he continued,'who have real merit and do the work are always too proud to ask for anything; and those who do nothing are the most clamourous for office, and very often get it, because it is the only way to get rid of them. But if I am elected, they will find a tough customer to deal with, and you may depend upon it that I shall know to distinguish men from the drones."'All right, Old Abe, said I to myself.
"In the evening I was at Lincoln's for supper. His lady had decked herself out very prettily and already knows very well how to wave a fan. She chats quite nicely and will be able to adapt herself to the White House without difficulty. Lincoln's boys are regular fellows. One of them insisted upon going barefoot. After supper, to which a group of leading men had been invited, we lit our cigars and chatted. At eight the Wide-Awakes came to accompany me to the meeting at the Capitol. It was the biggest torchlight procession that Springfield had ever seen. Lincoln insisted upon going along, although he had not appeared in public since his nomination. He just had to hear that tremendous speaker. So the Wide-Awakes took Old Abe and me between them and together we wandered arm in arm to the Statehouse. The crowd was most enthusiastic. I gave one of the best speeches in German that I ever delivered. T hen I spoke in English and exerted myself a little more than usual too. Lincoln sat right in front of me the whole evening, watched my every movement, and applauded with enormous enthusiasm. When I had finished, he came and shook hands (ouch!) And said:'You are an awful fellow. I understand your power now.' He gave me a copy of his debates with Douglas, and he and his wife urged to bring my lady along on the occasion of my next visit and to be sure to stop with them....." 19
With the inauguration of President Lincoln, Schurz was proved not too proud to ask for a political appointment. Indeed, he was anxious for a diplomatic position. Schurz wrote to his wife from Springfield in February 1861: "I had a conversation with Lincoln before my lecture and he said he would visit me at my room tomorrow, when we would discuss everything. He is a whole man, firm as a stone wall and clear as crystal. He told me that Seward made all his speeches without consulting him. He himself will not hear of concessions and compromises, and says so openly to everyone who asks." 20
Historian Harry J. Carman and Reinhard H. Luthin wrote: "The problem of caring for Schurz, Wisconsin's influential German Republican leader, was most perplexing to Lincoln.'Next to the difficulty about Fort Sumter,' one observer in Washington wrote,'the question as to what is to be done with Carl Schurz seems to bother the administration more than anything else.' Schurz...was, in 1861, an indefatigable office seeker, fully appreciative of his own efforts in swinging tens of thousands of German-born naturalized citizens to the Republican standard in recent campaign. To Republican members of the Wisconsin delegation in Congress, Schurz had expressed his wishes for a major diplomatic post. As a matter of fact he had journeyed to Washington in anticipation of an appointment, and from the national capital in mid-March had come word that he was'still working like a beaver for the Sardinian mission.' The close of March neared, and still the administration had offered him nothing. Lincoln, appreciative of Schurz's outstanding role in the campaign, was, at the outset, quite willing to give Schurz the ministership to Sardinia. But Seward opposed this, pointing to the unwisdom of sending a foreigner - particularly a former revolutionist in Germany - to a European court in such critical times. Great portions of the Republican and Democratic press, particularly in the East, took the same view.' Lincoln heeded Seward's advice and selected Marsh, of Vermont, as we have sen, for the post at Turin." They wrote: "Still Lincoln knew that Schurz on almost every count had to be cared for. Western Republican leaders realized, too, that the party's existence depended in no small measure on the continued loyalty of German-born voters. Besides, Democratic newspapermen were making political capital out of the situation by reproaching the Republicans for their alleged Know-Nothing heritage...." 21 By moving Kentuckian Cassius Clay's appointment from Spain to Russia, the Lincoln Administration came up with the necessary opening for Schurz in Madrid.
"Schurz was a young man of restless temperament and overmastering ambition, who did not intend to remain in obscurity,' wrote biographer Claude Moore Fuess. "To his friend, Congressman John F. Potter, he said,'I shall, of course, not ask or petition for anything,' adding,'I will not embarrass Mr. Lincoln by any demands, nor by declining any offer, unacceptable to myself, which he perhaps might feel inclined to make.' But he also let Potter know that he did not propose to take'an inferior place.' He particularly desired a foreign mission, and, after frankly discussing the various possibilities, eliminating those which for one reason or another seemed undesirable, he settled on Italy (Sardinia), and confessed,'I should, therefore, be very much gratified if the administration, supposing they intend to offer me anything, would offer me the mission to Turin,' The matter was talked about freely in Washington circles, and it was rumored in many quarters that the position was to be his. Schurz, however, refused to make a request himself.'To ask for an office is, in my opinion,' he declared,'to pay too high a price for it....I must confess that my independence in political life is worth more to me than all the favors which a government can shower upon me.'" 22
Schurz's restlessness grew with time and by 1862, the bespectacled diplomat had resigned his diplomatic post in favor of a military career as a brigadier general in the Union army. His correspondence with President Lincoln was sometimes undiplomatic but his admiration for Mr. Lincoln grew with time. In the 1864 presidential campaign, he took a leave from his military duties to campaign for Mr. Lincoln's reelection. Schurz wrote a friend on March 13: "Under the present circumstances I do not want to appear to feel bound by any favor from anybody. If I can take an active part in the political contest consistently, with my position in the army, I shall be glad...expecting nothing for myself but to resume my old position...after the election. If a political activity be deemed inconsistent with my military position, I shall then have to make my choice...I wish to assure you here emphatically, that in neither case I would make any demands on the administration...
President Lincoln was wary of the combination of Schurz's military and political roles. He wrote Schurz on March 23, 1864: "I do not wish to be more specific about the difficulty of your coming to Washington. I think you can easily conjecture it. I perceive no objection to your making a political speech when you are where one is to be made; but quite surely speaking in the North, and fighting in the South, at the s, am, e time, are not possible. Nor could I be justified to detail any officer to the political campaign during it's continuance, and then return him to the Army." 23
By October 1864, Schurz could write a friend: "Your opinion of the President is too deprecatory. He is indeed a man without higher education and his manners harmonize little with the European conception of the dignity of a ruler. He is an overgrown nature-child and does not understand artifices of speech and attitude. But he is a man of profound feeling, just and firm principles, and incorruptible integrity. One can always rely upon his motives, and the characteristic gift of this people, a sound common sense, is developed in him to a marvelous degree. If you should sometime find opportunity to read his official papers and his political letters you would find this demonstrated in a manner which would surprise you. I know the man from personal observation as well as anyone and better than most. I am quite familiar with the motives of his policies. I have seen him fight his way heroically through many a terrible battle and work his way with true-hearted strength through many a desperate situation. I have often criticized him severely and subsequently have not infrequently found that he was right. I also understand his weaknesses; they are the weaknesses of a good man. That he has made great mistakes in the endless complications of his office cannot be denied but can easily be explained. Other men in the same situation would perhaps not have made the same mistakes, but they would have made others. Lincoln's personality, however, has in this crisis a quite peculiar significance. Free from the aspirations of genius, he will never become dangerous to a free commonwealth. He is the people personified; that is the secret of his popularity. His government is the most representative that has ever existed in world history. I will make a prophecy which may perhaps sound strange at this moment. In fifty years, perhaps much sooner, Lincoln's name will stand written upon the honor roll of the American Republic next to that of Washington, and there it will remain for all time. The children of those who now disparage him will bless him." 24
Another prominent Wisconsin Republican also tried his skills in an overseas diplomatic assignment under the LIncoln administration; he also did not last long. The state's governor at the outset of the Civil War was Alexander W. Randall. He was a former Whig turned Democrat who was a strong abolitionist. He was originally elected Governor on a ticket with Carl Schurz for lieutenant governor - although Schurz was defeated and their relationship as a result. Randall barely survived a renomination contest in 1859. In February 1861 Randall sent James M. Burgess to Springfield to help guard Mr. Lincoln on the trip to Washington. At the conclusion of Randall's second term as governor, President Lincoln named him to a diplomatic post as Minister to Italy. He was ill-suited for the post, according to his consul, who described the former governor as "a mere party hack; he knew nothing of diplomacy or good manners, or any language but Western American." 25 Randall subsequently served as assistant postmaster general.
Secretary of State Louis P. Harvey was elevated to the governorship in the 1861 elections. Tragically, he also didn't last long in this leadership role. He was touring Union army hospital installations after the Battle of Shiloh when he slipped moving between two boats and accidentally drowned in April19, 1862. Harvey had been in office just 73 days and was succeeded by Prussian-born Edward Salomon, the lieutenant governor. Governor Salomon served out the term but was not renominated by the Republican Party despite a solid record in office. "Salomon insisted upon administrative efficiency" from the War Department, noted historian William B. Hesseltine. And he got it. 26
One of Wisconsin's most prominent leaders during the Civil War was Governor Harvey's widow, Cordelia Perrine Harvey. She took up her late husband's mission to improve the health care of Union wounded and asked her husband successor to appoint her as the state's sanitary agent. Taking her case to the governor. Judge Howe wrote: "Mrs. Harvey is visiting us. You can imagine something how she suffers from the loss of her husband. Her friends desire that she should find employment with which to occupy her mind. But what employment can a woman find? She is urged to try a school for young ladies, but she fears the derangement of the times will forbid success, and so do I. She has thought of a hospital, but you know General Hammond is taking them under his own care exclusively, and her strength will not warrant her in contracting for day labor. This morning I suggested to her the idea of being appointed allotment commissioner in place of Mr. Holton. It pleases her. It is a kind of missionary labor, to which she is fully equal, and in which she will be, I am confident, very successful. I know no one more energetic than she is in whatever interests her. You know how deeply she has interested herself In the welfare of the army. She could plead the cause of a soldier's family to the soldier himself, I think, with great effect." 27
Mrs. Harvey was named as a sanitary agent by Governor Salmon in September. When she herself fell ill and had to recuperate in Wisconsin, she decided that conditions back in their home states would be more helpful. She took her cause to President Lincoln. Mrs. Harvey wrote: "The idea of northern military hospital seemed practicable and so natural that we never once thought the authorities would oppose the movement. For nearly a year this question was agitated and urged with all the force that logic, position, and influence could bring to bear; but all in vain." Despairing of any other route to success, Mrs. Harvey "went to Washington. I entered the White House, not with fear and trembling, but strong and self-possessed, fully conscious of the righteousness of my mission. I was received without delay. I had never seen Lincoln before. He was alone, in a medium sized office-like room, no elegance about him, no elegance in him. He was plainly clad in a suit of black that illy fitted him."
President Lincoln did not immediately agree to Mrs. Harvey's proposal. Indeed he was generally hostile to the idea and sent her off to see Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, who was also not helpful. Finally, Mr. Lincoln took up the matter himself with Stanton. When President Lincoln met with her again, he said: "I believe this idea of northern hospitals is a great humbug, and I am tired of hearing about it." She replied: "I regret to add a feather's weight to your already overwhelming care and responsibility. I would rather have stayed home." After a long conversation, Mr. Lincoln told her to come again the next morning. When she returned the next day, she waited for hours until she was called into his office. "Mrs. Harvey, I only wish to tell you that an order equivalent to granting a hospital in your state has been issued nearly twenty-four hours." She rejoiced. 28 As a result of Mrs. Harvey's persistence and lobbying, President Lincoln ordered the establishment of hospitals at Madison, Milwaukee and Prairie du Chien. Her work earned her the title of the "Wisconsin Angel."
The White House also had conflicted relations with Wisconsin Congressman John Fox Potter. "Bowie Knife" Potter was infamous for a near duel with Virginia Congressman Robert M. Pryor in April 1860. Indiana Congressman George W. Julian wrote in his memoirs that "Potter was a true and brave man, whose acceptance of a challenge from Roger A. Pryor, and choice of butcher knives as the weapons of warfare, had made him very popular at the North." 29 Potter served chairman as Committee on Public Lands and more controversially as chairman of the Select Committee on the Loyalty of Clerks and Other Persons Employed by the Government, which conducted a congressional investigation in the loyalty of federal employees in the summer of 1861. White House aide John Hay was critical of Potter's investigations: "They can prove anything they like. They could prove Mr. Republican, that you were seen, night before last, stealing a sheep from a Union farmer at Falls Church, and presenting it to Beauregard in a set speech of eight minutes and a quarter. They delight in names and dates. If the head of department does not immediately remove the suspected, and appoint the patriotic informer, the New York Tribune says he is known to be an idiot, and thought to be a traitor. Potter has done much harm and very little good with his Investigating Committee." 30 The investigation even touched the White House gardener, John Watt. Mrs. Lincoln wrote Potter: "I am very much surprised to hear that a letter has been received in the Commissioner's office - charging Major Watts as a Secessionist. I know him to be a Union man..." 31
Wisconsin Senator James Doolittle was less conflict. He observed in May 1861 that Mr. Lincoln "seems inclined to think that this war is to result in the entire abolition of slavery." 32 A reporter for the Cincinnati Commercial called Doolittle "[t]he most pleasant speaker to listen to" in the Senate. 33 Maine Congressman James G. Blaine nevertheless wrote that Doolittle was a "far more radical Republican" than his Senate colleague Timothy O. Howe. Historian Allan Nevins wrote that "His powerful frame, Hobart College education, and trenchant personality had quickly brought him to the front in the Northwest." 34 Like President Lincoln, Senator James R. Doolittle was a supporter of colonization. Indiana Congressman George W. Julian wrote in his memoirs that "Doolittle was a man of vigor, and made a good record as a republican, but he naturally belonged to the other [Democratic] side of the Senate, and finally found his way to it through the quarrel with Johnson." 35 In January 1861, Doolittle lobbied President-elect Lincoln:
"While some object to Mr Seward, the great majority will acquiesce and look with favor upon his being Secretary of State[.] But the rumor that Mr Cameron was to go into the Cabinet also, from Mr Weed's relations to Gov Seward and his financial relations with Mr Cameron gave great and painful apprehensions lest a certain class of jobbers & speculators might come too near the Treasury, lest Albany & Harrisburg corruptions would be transferred to Washington We have overcome our political adversaries by showing up their corruptions. We must not be suspected. The name of Mr Chase in connexion with the Treasury gives much better satisfaction." 36
Like Mr. Lincoln, Senator Doolittle quickly grew distressed by the press for patronage, writing: "I am sick and nauseated with this miserable, selfish clamoring for appointment to office. I sometimes wish I had never recommended a man." 37 But he got his way, according to a note which President Lincoln sent in July 1862 to Secretary of the Treasury Chase: "Mr. Senator Doolittle informs me that the Wisconsin delegation have unanimously recommended persons for assessors and collectors throughout their State, and that the paper showing this is filed with you. If so, I am in favor of adopting their'slate' at once, and so disposing of one State." 38
Lincoln aide John Hay prophesied in 1862 that Doolittle would "be one of the greatest politicians in all our history before he dies..." 39 In May 1864, Doolittle and former Governor Randall lobbied for appointment of Randall's "brother for the Tax Comn. In Fla.," wrote John Hay in his diary. "I arranged it to R. Go to Louisiana and [A.D.]Smith to Fla. I feared trouble in Fla if Randall went down..." Hay continued: "Doolittle is a fine instance of the result of industry, steadiness of mind & common sense applied to politics. He attends rigorously to his business: is a leading man in his party and yet finds a great deal of time for literary culture and improvement. During the last year he has become quite proficient in French." 40
Timothy Howe joined the Senate at the same time that Mr. Lincoln took office. He was less flashy than but equally diligent as Doolittle. Historian Allan G. Bogue wrote: "Howe, an accomplished speaker who was capable of achieving a wry detachment forever denied to his colleague, impressed the correspondent of the Springfield Republican as'very sober' and'somewhat old grannyish,' as the slow, sedate gentleman from Wisconsin.'" 41
In the 1862 elections, Republicans lost ground in Wisconsin. Congressman Potter was defeated. Senator Doolittle pressed President Lincoln to appoint him as assistant secretary of the Interior, but Mr. Lincoln replied: "I find I can not postpone the appointment of Asst. Sec. Of Interior to the end of the session I therefore shall have to try to recognize Mr. Potter in some other way." 42 Later in 1863 was named by President Lincoln as consul general in Montreal.
Wisconsin played an important role in helping President Lincoln in the summer of 1864 define his conditions for concluding the Civil War - and his unwillingness to abandon black soldiers who fought for the Union. Historian Michael Vorenberg wrote that President "Lincoln considered two schemes to correct the mistaken impression that emancipation alone prevented peace. First, he drafted a letter to Charles D. Robinson, a Wisconsin War Democrat who had denounced the Niagara letter, that explained:'Saying re-union and abandonment of slavery would be considered, if offered, is not saying that nothing else or less would be considered, if offered.' Lincoln finished the letter with a dare:'If Jefferson Davis wishes...to know what I would do if he were to offer peace and re-union, saying nothing about slavery, let him try me.' This was a risky strategy for the Confederate president could corner Lincoln by offering exactly such terms. But, as Lincoln understood, Davis could not ask for anything less than Confederate independence without sinking Southern spirits and jeopardizing the war effort. Lincoln did not mean to forsake emancipation; he merely meant to expose his counterpart's position on disunion." 43 In his draft letter to Robinson, editor of the Green Bay Advocate, Mr. Lincoln had written:
Your letter of the 7th was placed in my hand yesterday by Gov. Randall.
To me it seems plain that saying re-union and abandonment of slavery would be considered, if offered, is not saying that nothing else or less would be considered, if offered. But I will not stand upon the mere construction of language. It is true, as you remind me, that in the Greeley letter of 1862, I said: "If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some, and leaving others alone I would also do that." I continued in the same letter as follows: "What I do about slavery and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause; and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause." All this I said in the utmost sincerety; and I am as true to the whole of it now, as when I first said it. When I afterwards proclaimed emancipation, and employed colored soldiers, I only followed the declaration just quoted from the Greeley letter that "I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause" The way these measures were to help the cause, was not to be by magic, or miracles, but by inducing the colored people to come bodily over from the rebel side to ours. On this point, nearly a year ago, in a letter to Mr. Conkling, made public at once, I wrote as follows: "But negroes, like other people, act upon motives. Why should they do anything for us if we will do nothing for them? If they stake their lives for us they must be prompted by the strongest motive - even the promise of freedom. And the promise, being made, must be kept." I am sure you will not, on due reflection, say that the promise being made, must be broken at the first opportunity. I am sure you would not desire me to say, or to leave an inference, that I am ready, whenever convenient, to join in re-enslaving those who shall have served us in consideration of our promise. As matter of morals, could such treachery by an possibility, escape the curses of Heaven, or of any good man? As matter of policy, to announce such a purpose, would ruin the Union cause itself. All recruiting of colored men would instantly cease, and all colored men now in our service, would instantly desert us. And rightfully too. Why should they give their lives for us, with full notice of our purpose to betray them. Drive back to the support of the rebellion the physical force which the colored people now give, and promise us, and neither the present, nor any coming administration, can save the Union. Take from us, and give to the enemy, the hundred and thirty, forty, or fifty thousand colored persons now serving us as soldiers, seamen, and laborers, and we can not longer maintain the contest. The party who could elect a President on a War & Slavery Restoration platform, would, of necessity, lose the colored force; and that force being lost, would be as powerless to save the Union as to do any other impossible thing. It is not a question of sentiment or taste, but one of physical force, which may be measured, and estimated as horsepower, and steam power, are measured and estimated. And by measurement, it is more than we can lose, and live. Nor can we, by discarding it, get a white force in place of it. There is a witness in every white mans bosom that he would rather go to the war having the negro to help him, than to help the enemy against him. It is not the giving of one class for another. It is simply giving a large force to the enemy, for nothing in return.
In addition to what I have said, allow me to remind you that no one, having control of the rebel armies, or, in fact, having any influence whatever in the rebellion, has offered, or intimated a willingness to, a restoration of the Union, in any event, or on any condition whatever. Let it be constantly borne in mind that no such offer has been made or intimated. Shall we be weak enough to allow the enemy to distract us with an abstract question which he himself refuses to present as a practical one? In the Conkling letter before mentioned, I said: "Whenever you shall have conquered all resistance to the Union, if I shall urge you to continue fighting, it will be an apt time then to declare that you will not fight to free negroes." I repeat this now. If Jefferson Davis wishes, for himself, or for the benefit of his friends at the North, to know what I would or for the benefit of his friends at the North, to know what I would do if he were to offer peace and re-union, saying nothing about slavery, let him try me." 44
Instead, Mr. Lincoln met with former Governor Randall and Judge Joseph T. Mills. Mills was encouraged to put into a memorandum the contents of the interview in which Mr. Lincoln expounded on the importance of black soldiers to the Union war effort. Mills published the memo in the Gray County Herald in Wisconsin. It received wider circulation when it was reprinted in early September in the New York Tribune.
The President was free & animated in conversation. I was astonished at his elasticity of spirits. Says Gov Randall, why can't you Mr. P. seek some place of retirement for a few weeks. You would be reinvigorated. Aye said the President, 3 weeks would do me no good - my thoughts my solicitude for this great country follow me where ever I go. I don't think it is personal vanity, or ambition - but I cannot but feel that the weal or woe of this great nation will be decided in the approaching canvas. My own experience has proven to me, that there is no program intended by the Democratic Party but that will result in the dismemberment of the Union. But Genl McClellan is in favor of crushing out the rebellion, & he will probably be the Chicago candidate. The slightest acquaintance with arithmetic will prove to any man that the rebel armies cannot be destroyed with democratic strategy. It would sacrifice all the white men of the north to do it. There are now between 1 & 200 thousand black men now in the service of the Union. These men will be disbanded, returned to slavery & we will have to fight two nations instead of one. I have tried it. You cannot concilliate [sic] the South, when the mastery & control of millions of blacks makes them sure of ultimate success. You cannot concilliate the South, when you place yourself in such a position, that they see they can achieve their independence. The war democrat depends upon conciliation. He must confine himself to that policy entirely. If he fights at all in such a war as this he must economise life & use all the means which God & nature puts in his power. Abandon all the posts now possessed by black men surrender all these advantages to the enemy, & we would be compelled to abandon the war in 3 weeks. We have to hold territory. Where are the war democrats to do it. The field was open to them to have enlisted & put down this rebellion by force of arms, by concilliation, long before the present policy was inaugurated. There have been men who have proposed to me to return to slavery the black warriors of Port Hudson & Olustee to their masters to conciliate the South. I should be damned in time & in eternity for so doing. The world shall know that I will keep my faith to friends & enemies, come what will. My enemies say I am now carrying on this war for the sole purpose of abolition. It is & will be carried on so long as I am President for the sole purpose of restoring the Union. But no human power can subdue this rebellion without using the Emancipation lever as I have done. Freedom has given us the control of 200 000 able bodied men, born & raised on southern soil. It will give us more yet. Just so much it has sub[t]racted from the strength of our enemies, & instead of alienating the south from us, there are evidences of a fraternal feeling growing up between our own & rebel soldiers. My enemies condemn my emancipation policy. Let them prove by the history of this war, that we can restore the Union without it. The President appeared to be not the pleasant joker I had expected to see, but a man of deep convictions & an unutterable yearning for the success of the Union cause. His voice was pleasant - his manner earnest & cordial. As I heard a vindication of his policy from his own lips, I could not but feel that his mind grew in stature like his body, & that I stood in the presence of the great guiding intellect of the age, & that those huge Atlantian shoulders were fit to bear the weight of mightiest monarchies. His transparent honesty, his republican simplicity, his gushing sympathy for those who offered their lives for their country, his utter forgetfulness of self in his concern for his country, could not but inspire me with confidence, that he was Heavens instrument to conduct his people thro this red sea of blood to a Canaan of peace & freedom. [Indian Affairs] Comr. [William] Dole then came in. We were about to retire, but he insisted on our remaining longer. Dismissing the present state of the country, he entertained us with reminiscences of the past - of the discussions between himself & [Frederick] Douglass. He said he was accused of of [sic] joining. In his later speeches, the seriousness of the theme prevented him from using anecdotes. Mr. Harris a democratic orator of Ill, once appealed to his audience in this way. If these republicans get into power, the darkies will be allowed to come to the polls & vote. Here comes forward a white man, & you ask him who will you vote for. I will vote for S A Douglass. Next comes up a sleek pampered negro. Well Sambo, who do you vote for. I vote for Massa Lincoln. Now asked the orator, what do you think of that. Some old farmer cried out, I think the darkey showd a damd sight of more sense than the white man. It is such social tete a tetes among his friends that enables Mr Lincoln to endure mental toils & application that would crush any other man. The President now in full flow of spirits, scattered his repartee in all directions. He took his seat on the sofa by my side. Said I Mr. President I was in your reception room to day. It was dark. I suppose that clouds & darkness necessarily surround the secrets of state. There in a corner I saw a man quietly reading who possessed a remarkable physiognomy. I was riveted to the spot. I stood & started at him He raised his flashing eyes & caught me in the act. I was compelled to speak. Said I, Are you the President. No replied the stranger, I am Frederick Douglass. Now Mr. P. are you in favor miscegenation. That's a democratic mode of producing good Union men, & I don't propose to infringe on the patent. We parted from his Excellency, with firmer purpose to sustain the government, at whose head there stands a man who combines in his person all that is valuable in progress in conservatism - all that is hopeful in progress. 45
In the presidential election in Wisconsin that fall, President Lincoln easily defeated Democrat George B. McClellan with 56% of the votes. His policy prevailed.