Recollection by Henry Villard, Lincoln-Douglas Debates, June 16-November 2, 1858

    Source citation
    Henry Villard, Memoirs of Henry Villard Journalist and Financier, 1835-1890 (2 vols; New York: Houghton, Mifflin Co., 1904), 1: 94-95.
    Date Certainty
    Adapted by David Park, Dickinson College
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    The following transcript has been adapted from Memoirs of Henry Villard Journalist and Financier, 1835-1890 (1904).

    The party warfare was hotly continued in all parts of the State from early summer till election day in November. Besides the seven joint debates, both Douglas and Lincoln spoke scores of times separately, and numerous other speakers from Illinois and other States contributed incessantly to the agitation. The two leaders visited almost every county in the State. I heard four of the joint debates, and six other speeches by Lincoln and eight by his competitor. Of course, the later efforts became substantial repetitions of the preceding ones, and to listen to them grew more and more tiresome to me. As I had seen something of political campaigns before, this one did not exercise the full charm of novelty upon me. Still, even if I had been a far more callous observer, I could not have helped being struck with the efficient party organizations, the skilful tactics of the managers, the remarkable feats of popular oratory, and the earnestness and enthusiasm of the audiences I witnessed. It was a most instructive object-lesson in practical party polities, and filled me with admiration for the Anglo- American method of working out popular destiny.

    In other respects, my experiences were not altogether agreeable. It was a very hot summer, and I was obliged to travel almost continuously. Illinois had then only about a million and a half of inhabitants, poorly-constructed railroads, and bad country roads, over which latter I had to journey quite as much as over the former. The taverns in town and country, as a rule, were wretched; and, as I moved about with the candidates and their followers and encountered crowds everywhere, I fared miserably in many places. Especially in the southern part of the State, then known as "Egypt" and mostly inhabited by settlers from the Southern States, food and lodging were nearly always simply abominable. I still vividly remember the day of semi-starvation and the night with half a dozen roommates I passed at Jonesboro', where the third joint debate took place.

    I saw more of Illinois than I have since seen of any other State in the Union, and I acquired a thorough faith, based on the immeasurable fertility of her prairies, in the great growth that she has since attained. I also formed many valuable acquaintances, a number of whom have continued to this day. It was then that I first saw my lifelong friend Horace White, who accompanied Mr. Lincoln as the representative of the Chicago Tribune, and R. R. Hitt, the official stenographer of the Republican candidate. He was one of the most skilled shorthand writers in the country, and his success as such led in due time to his appointment as reporter of the United States Supreme Court. This position he resigned for a successful career as diplomat and Congressman.

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