Recollection by Jeriah Bonham, Alton Debate, October 15, 1858

    Source citation
    Jeriah Bonham, Fifty Years' Recollections with Observations and Reflections on Historical Events (Peoria, IL: J.W. Franks & Sons, 1883), 175-176.
    Author (from)
    Bonham, Jeriah
    Date Certainty
    Transcription adapted from Fifty Years' Recollections with Observations and Reflections on Historical Events (1883), by Jeriah Bonham
    Adapted by Ben Lyman, Dickinson College
    The following transcript has been adapted from Fifty Years' Recollections with Observations and Reflections on Historical Events (1883).

    The next speech delivered when the author was present was at Alton, Oct. 15, 1858, the last speech the two made together,— closing the joint addresses.

    Mr. Douglas opened by speaking one hour, in which he displayed considerable irritability. The campaign was wearing on him, as no doubt by this time he began to see that the political scepter he had so long held over the people of the state was about to depart from him. As it was the last joint discussion of the campaign, he took occasion to review the arguments of Mr. Lincoln at each place, Ottawa, Freeport, Jonesboro, Charleston, Galesburg and Quincy, in the order they occurred, trying to show that Mr. Lincoln's arguments were not the same at Freeport as they were at Jonesboro, in the south part of the state. His whole hour was taken up in this recapitulation.

    Mr. Lincoln sat taking in the speech with seeming immobility, and when Mr. Douglas concluded, he rose, his time being one hour and a half. He, as in the opening of all of his speeches, spoke slow but distinct, did not rise to his full height, leaning forward in a stooping posture at first, his person displaying all the angularities of limb and face; for the first five or ten minutes he was both awkward and diffident, as in almost monotonous tones he commenced to untangle the meshes of Douglas' sophistry. Proceeding, he gained confidence gradually, his voice rang out in clearness, rose in strength, his tall form towered to its full height, his face assumed almost angelic brightness, and such an outburst of inspiring eloquence and argument without a break in its force or power for the whole time allotted him to speak. He could be heard to the outskirts of the vast throng. As he proceeded the people became enthusiastic, but his voice could be heard above their cheers. Frequently throughout the speech he would turn towards Douglas and very emphatically say, "You know these things to be so, Mr. Douglas," if they were affirmative propositions, or," You know these things are not so, Mr. Douglas," if they were negative propositions. At one time in his address he bent his tall form over Douglas, pouring in his eloquent remonstrance so sharply that Douglas rose to explain, but Lincoln would none of it. He said," sit down Mr. Douglas; I did not interrupt you and will not be interrupted. You can reply to me, if you can, in your closing speech," and his solid, argumentative and logical statement of facts rang out, his audience becoming more enthusiastic as he proceeded. He warned the people against being diverted from the great question at issue by sophistical contrivances, as were trying to be impressed on them by the "gur-reat pur-rinciple" fantastically called "popular sovereignty."

    We remember his line or argument throughout that great ninety-minute speech, the closing one he made in the seven joint discussions. Could give an outline of it, but it is not necessary as the speeches of both these great statesmen have been published and are accessible to the student of history in the libraries of the state.

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