Recollection by Ingalls Carleton, Freeport Debate, August 27, 1858

    Source citation
    Edwin Erle Sparks, ed., The Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858 (Springfield: Illinois State Historical Library, 1908), 206-207.
    Date Certainty
    Transcription adapted from The Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858 (1908), edited by Edwin Erle Sparks
    Adapted by Don Sailer, Dickinson College
    The following transcript has been adapted from The Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858 (1908).

    The people from this county who heard the debate went from Rockford on the Galena & Chicago Union railroad on a special train which ran from Chicago to Freeport. We got there in the afternoon a while before the hour for speaking. From the railroad depot the train crowd marched to the Brewster Hotel, or rather struggled to it, in pretty fast time, for we all wanted to see Lincoln and Douglas as soon as we could. The street in front of the hotel was full of people, shouting for both of the men, and we joined in the shouting.

    Presently Lincoln and Douglas came out on the balcony of the hotel. They stepped out arm in arm and the crowd cheered and cheered. Neither Lincoln or Douglas attempted to say anything. They just stood there for a minute and bowed again and again to the crowd and every time they bowed a bigger shout went up. I must say that Douglas made the most graceful bow. It seemed to be natural for him to bow. Lincoln bowed awkwardly and appeared to be more awkward in comparison with the gracefulness and ease of Douglas. Douglas accepted the plaudits of the people as one who felt that they belonged to him or at least that was the way it seemed.

    It was a remarkable contrast that these two men furnished as they stood there, not only in physique but in manner and in attire. Lincoln was tall and ungainly with a lean face, homely and sorrowful looking, while Douglas was short and fat, easy in manner and his full face appeared to be that of a man whose life had been one of success and sunshine. Douglas was dressed in what might have been called plantation style. He was richly dressed. He wore a ruffled shirt much in style in wealthy and aristocratic circles those days, a dark blue coat buttoned close with shiny buttons, light trousers and shiny shoes, with a wide brimmed soft hat like the prosperous politicians of the southern part of Illinois wear to this day. He made a picture fitted for the stage. Lincoln wore that old high stovepipe hat with a coarse looking coat with sleeves far too short, and baggy looking trousers that were so short that they showed his rough boots. The Douglas men laughed at him and said he would be a nice looking object to put into the senate and to tell the truth the Lincoln men couldn't brag much on their man for exhibition purposes.

    When it came to the debate, however, the Lincoln men had the laugh on the Douglas men. Of course each crowd thought his man did the best, but it was a fact that the whole crowd felt that Lincoln had Douglas on the hip and that the latter was doing his best under the circumstances. The debate took place not far from the Brewster House and I believe I could walk right to the spot now. The platform wasn't much of an affair. It was three or four feet high and there was just about room on it for the debaters and the reporters. Bob Hitt was one of them. He didn't look much like he does now. He looked like a boy then, which he was, and he was slimly built. The crowd was a big one, but I saw a larger crowd than that in the campaign of 1840. You see no one recognized the importance of that day besides Lincoln.

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