I was but a boy when I first looked upon the gaunt figure of the man who was to become the people’s leader, and listened to his calm but forcible arguments in behalf of the principles of the Republican party. It is not likely that at the time I took in, with any adequate appreciation, the weight of the speaker’s reasoning. I have read the address more than once since and it is, of course, impossible to separate my first impressions from my later direct knowledge. I do remember that I was at once impressed with the feeling that here was a political leader whose methods differed from those of any politician to whom I had listened. His contentions were based not upon invective or abuse of “the other fellow,” but purely on considerations of justice, on that everlasting principle that what is just, and only what is just, represents the largest and highest interests of the nation as a whole. I doubt whether there occurred in the whole speech a single example of the stories which had been associated with Lincoln’s name. The speaker was evidently himself impressed with the greatness of the opportunity and with the dignity and importance of his responsibility. The speech in fact gave the keynote to the coming campaign.
It is hardly necessary to add that it also decided the selection of the national leader not only for the political campaign, but through the coming struggle. If it had not been for the impression made upon New York and the East generally by Lincoln’s speech and by the man himself, the vote of New York could not have been secured in the May convention for the nomination of the man from Illinois.
Robert Lincoln (writing to me in July, 1908) says:
“After my father’s address in New York in February, 1860, he made a trip to New England in order to visit me at Exeter, N.H., where I was then a student in the Phillips Academy. It had not been his plan to do any speaking in New England, but, as a result of the address in New York, he received several requests from New England friends for speeches, and I find that before returning to the West, he spoke at the following places: Providence, R.I., Manchester, N.H., Exeter, N.H., Dover, N.H., Concord, N.H., Hartford, Conn., Meriden, Conn., New Haven, Conn., Woonsocket, R.I., Norwalk, Conn., and Bridgeport, Conn. I am quite sure that coming and going he passed through Boston merely as an unknown traveller.”
Mr. Lincoln writes to his wife from Exeter, N.H., March 4, 1860, as follows: