September 2, 1858: Abraham Lincoln speaks in Clinton, IL

September 2, 1858: Abraham Lincoln speaks in Clinton, IL


A Lincoln statue in downtown Clinton by sculptor Albert L. van den Bergen commemorates
Lincoln’s frequent visits.

September 2, 1858: Abraham Lincoln speaks in Clinton, IL

Vespasian Warner (1842-1925) recalls a speech Lincoln gave in Clinton, IL on September 2, 1858 during the middle of the Lincoln-Douglas debates:

“I remember this incident myself. I was reading law in Mr. Weldon’s office and Judge Douglas was billed to address a political meeting, Democratic, here in Clinton. Mr. Weldon wrote down to Springfield telling Mr. Lincoln of it and telling him he had better come up and hear what Judge Douglas said.

The people came into town in their wagons and they erected a platform right west of town where the roads fork, for the speaker, and there was a big crowd there. Judge Douglas was there and a lot of people were on the platform and he got up and was addressing the crowd, and he had not been talking long when Mr. Lincoln arrived in a buggy from Springfield. He got up on the platform behind Judge Douglas and Douglas didn’t know he was there.

Douglas, knowing that almost a majority of the people were from the South, accused Mr. Lincoln of being in favor of Negro equality and he went on in that way. When he finished, they cheered him and then the people out in the crowd began to yell for Lincoln, LINCOLN!

He arose and Douglas turned and looked at him and the two men looked at each other. Mr. Lincoln faced the crowd and said that that was Judge Douglas’ meeting and he, Lincoln, had no right to speak there but if they wanted to hear him if they would appear in the courthouse square that night at early candle light he would talk to them and the meeting then adjourned.

And that night they put up a platform of dry goods boxes on the north side of the courthouse, got some torches, and Mr. Lincoln got up and in talking to them Mr. Lincoln said that Judge Douglas had accused him of being in favor of Negro equality.

He said he wasn’t in favor of Negro equality to the extent Judge Douglas would have them believe, but that he did believe that the colored man had as much right to eat the bread earned by the sweat of his own face as Judge Douglas himself, or any other living man, and that was the thing that really caused the general debate between Douglas and Lincoln in the state of Illinois.”

“You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”

This famous Lincoln quote is commonly attributed Lincoln’s September 2nd speech in Clinton.