THE LINCOLN-DOUGLAS JOINT DEBATE
About this time Lincoln again became active in the politics of his State, aiding in the formation of the Republican party there. On May 29, 1856, a state convention of “all opponents of anti-Nebraska legislation” was held at Bloomington. After “a platform ringing with strong anti-Nebraska sentiments” had been adopted, Lincoln, “in response to repeated calls, came forward and delivered a speech of such earnestness and power that no one who heard it will ever forget the effect it produced.” It was “never written out or printed,” which is to be regretted; but it lives in one of those vivid descriptions by Herndon which leave nothing to the imagination. For the moment this triumph was gratifying; but when Lincoln, leaving the hot enthusiasts of Bloomington, came home to his fellow townsmen at Springfield, he passed into a chill atmosphere of indifference and disapproval. An effort was made to gather a mass meeting in order to ratify the action of the state convention. But the “mass” consisted of three persons, viz., Abraham Lincoln, Herndon, and one John Pain. It was trying, but Lincoln was finely equal to the occasion; in a few words, passing from jest to earnest, he said that the meeting was larger than he knew it would be; for while he knew that he and his partner would attend, he was not sure of any one else; and yet another man had been found brave enough to come out. But, “while all seems dead, the age itself is not. It liveth as sure as our Maker liveth. Under all this seeming want of life and motion the world does move, nevertheless. Be hopeful, and now let us adjourn and appeal to the people!”
In the presidential campaign of 1856 the Republicans of Illinois put Lincoln on their electoral ticket, and he entered into the campaign promptly and very zealously. Traveling untiringly to and fro, he made about fifty speeches. By the quality of these, even more than by their number, he became the champion of the party, so that pressing demands for him came from the neighboring States. He was even heard of in the East. But there he encountered a lack of appreciation and in some quarters an hostility which he felt to be hurtful to his prospects as well as unjust towards a leading Republican of the Northwest. Horace Greeley, enthusiastic, well meaning, ever blundering, the editor of the New York “Tribune,” cast the powerful influence of that sheet against him; and as the senatorial contest of 1858 was approaching, in which Lincoln hoped to be a principal, this ill feeling was very unfortunate. “I fear,” he said, “that Greeley’s attitude will damage me with Sumner, Seward, Wilson, Phillips, and other friends in the East,”—and by the way, it is interesting to note this significant list of political “friends.” Thereupon Herndon, as guardian of Lincoln’s political prospects, went to pass the opening months of the important year upon a crusade among the great men of the East, designing to extinguish the false lights erroneously hung out by persons ignorant of the truth. Erelong he cheered Lincoln by encouraging accounts of success, and of kind words spoken by many Eastern magnates.