In 1836,candidate For The Legislature Again

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In 1836 we find him a candidate for the Legislature again. I well remember this campaign and the election which followed, for my father, Archer G. Herndon, was also a candidate, aspiring to a seat in the State Senate. The Legislature at the session previous had in its apportionment bill increased the delegation from Sangamon county to seven Representatives and two Senators. Party conventions had not yet been invented, and there being no nominating machinery to interfere, the field was open for any and all to run. Lincoln again resorted, in opening his canvass, to the medium of the political handbill. Although it had not operated with the most satisfactory results in his first campaign, yet he felt willing to risk it again. Candidates of that day evinced far more willingness to announce their position than political aspirants do now. Without waiting for a convention to construct a platform, or some great political leader to “sound the key-note of the campaign,” they stepped to the forefront and blew the bugle themselves. This custom will account for the boldness of Lincoln’s utterances and the unequivocal tone of his declarations. 

A joint debate in which all the candidates participated, took place on the Saturday preceding the election. “The speaking began in the forenoon,” says one of the participants, “the candidates speaking alternately until everyone who could speak had had his turn, generally consuming the whole afternoon.” Dr. Early, a Democratic candidate, in his speech took issue with Ninian W. Edwards, stigmatizing some of the latter’s statements as untrue. This brought Edwards to his feet with a similar retort. His angry tone and menacing manner, as he mounted a table and with clenched fist hurled defiance at his challenger, foreboded a tumultuous scene. “The excitement that followed,” relates another one of the candidates, “was intense so much so that fighting men thought a duel must settle the difficulty. Mr. Lincoln by the programme followed Early. Taking up the subject in dispute, he handled it so fairly and with such ability, all were astonished and pleased.” The turbulent spirits were quieted and the difficulty was easily overcome. Lincoln’s friend Joshua F. Speed relates that during this campaign he made a speech in Springfield a few days before the election. “The crowd was large,” says Speed, “and great numbers of his friends and admirers had come in from the country. I remember that his speech was a very able one, using with great power and originality all the arguments used to sustain the principles of the Whig party as against its great rival, the Democratic party of that day. The speech produced a profound impression the crowd was with him. George Forquer, an old citizen, a man of recognized prominence and ability as a lawyer, was present. Forquer had been a Whig one of the champions of the party but had then recently joined the Democratic party, and almost simultaneous with the change had been appointed Register of the Land Office, which office he then held. Just about that time Mr. Forquer had completed a neat frame house the best house then in Springfield and over it had erected a lightning rod, the only one in the place and the first one Mr. Lincoln had ever seen. He afterwards told me that seeing Forquer ‘s lightning rod had led him to the study of the properties of electricity and the utility of the rod as a conductor. At the conclusion of Lincoln’s speech the crowd was about dispersing, when Forquer rose and asked to be heard. He commenced by saying that the young man would have to be taken down, and was sorry the task devolved on him. He then proceeded to answer Lincoln’s speech in a style which, while it was able and fair, in his whole manner asserted and claimed superiority.” Lincoln stood a few steps away with arms folded, carefully watching the speaker and taking in everything he said. He was laboring under a good deal of suppressed excitement. Forquer’s sting had roused the lion within him. At length Forquer concluded, and he mounted the stand to reply.
“I have heard him often since,” continued Speed, “in the courts and before the people, but never saw him appear and acquit himself so well as upon that occasion. His reply to Forquer was characterized by great dignity and force. I shall never forget the conclusion of that speech: ‘Mr. Forquer commenced his speech by announcing that the young man would have to be taken down. It is for you, fellow citizens, not for me to say whether I am up or down. The gentleman has seen fit to allude to my being a young man; but he forgets that I am older in years than I am in the tricks and trades of politicians. I desire to live, and I desire place and distinction; but I would rather die now than, like the gentleman, live to see the day that I would change my politics for an office worth three thousand dollars a year, and then feel compelled to erect a lightning rod to protect a guilty conscience from an offended God.'” The effect of this rejoinder was wonderful, and gave Forquer and his lightning rod a notoriety the extent of which no one envied him.
In the election which followed, Sangamon county in a political sense was entirely turned over. Hitherto the Democrats had always carried it, but now the Whigs gained control by an average majority of four hundred. This time Lincoln led his ticket.


By William H. Herndon,Jesse W. Weik  “Herndon’s Lincoln: A True Story of a Great Life”

2 thoughts on “In 1836,candidate For The Legislature Again

    Experiences « Abraham Lincoln said:
    May 4, 2018 at 14:22

    […] In 1836,candidate For The Legislature Again […]

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    April 23, 2020 at 15:58

    […] In 1836, Candidate For The Legislature Again […]

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