The Fulton Democrat was founded in 1855 by James Davidson, assisted by his brother William T. Davidson. (W.T. was a typesetter helping to launch what became the Peoria Journal Star at the time his brother asked him to help)
Three years later, W.T. took the paper over.
Both Davidson's were both true Democrats - strident supporters of Stephen Douglas and detractors of Lincoln. In fact, they knew both men well. When you put it into context of how we may feel about politicians we know well today, it even makes some sense. In fact, James Davidson was the music teacher for Lincoln's children.
Just days before the first public debate between Lincoln and Douglas they appeared on successive days in Havana and then Lewistown. All but a few small inches of the entire front page of the Fulton Democrat was covered with descriptions of Douglas' appearance. The remaining four inches or so addressed Lincoln.
Below includes the original Lincoln report, as well as a revision 40 years later where W. T. Davidson confessed that he saw things differently with the perspective of history.
Wendy Martin, editor
August 17, 1858
Abe Lincoln in Lewistown
Since Abe Lincoln has taken to the contemptible business of lying about Douglas, charging him with conspiracy to overthrow free government and the constitution, he has rendered himself so perfectly odious to the masses, that but little attention is paid to his coming or going, or anything about him. Our full of reporters were on the ground early on Tuesday to make a full estimate of all the teams of people who came in procession to “attend The grand Lincoln poop” fizzle. The following is a true report, only one delegation to welcome Lincoln, Abe Lincoln, Maj. Walker, J.W. Proctor, another man, ?8 horsemen, 17 wagons and buggies, 110 men, women and children (dogs not counted).
July 3, 1863
The Close of Volume VIII
This number closes volume VIII of The Fulton Democrat and it is a proper time for us to acknowledge anew to the patriotic and generous democracy of Fulton Co. Our deep sense of gratitude for the liberal and unwavering support afforded us from the commencement. Said one of the wisest and best of our state officials at Springfield the other day, “The Fulton Democrat is the only paper in the state that has from the commencement of this war not failed at any time to advocate its prosecution” and we ask no higher compliment said of our paper, than that it opposed Lincoln’s Abolition War.
January 10, 1900
A Thumbnail Sketch of Old Days in Fulton County by W.T. Davidson
Aug. 16 and 17-Douglas and Lincoln Speak in Lewistown
Douglas Day-The most remarkable day in the annals of Lewistown, so far as attendance and interest on the part of the people are concerned, Monday, 16 August, 1858. Senator Douglas had spoken at Havana the preceding Friday. On Saturday a reception committee went to Havana to escort Douglas to Lewistown. He was the guest of W.C. Goudy at his residence from Saturday evening to Tuesday morning, when he went by carriage to Peoria, there being no railway. Hundreds of citizens called upon him. He was serenaded by a string band (W.R. and H.C. Hasson, Wm. Boyd and W.T. Davidson) and Mr. Goudy made a fine speech. Monday morning immense delegations came into Lewistown from every township in the county. It was estimated that half the men, women and children of Fulton county were in Lewistown that day. Mr. Binsmore of the St. Louis Republican, estimated the crowd at 15,000. In the 13-acre grove (now Davidson’s Second Addition) where Douglas spoke there were acres of people. Senator Douglas for the first time in his life broke down in his attempt to make himself heard by the multitude. He only spoke about an hour when Col L.W. Ross was called upon to address the people in place of the great leader.
Lincoln Day-Abraham Lincoln came to Lewistown, also from Havana on Tuesday morning, Aug. 17. A committee headed by Major N. Walker and John W. Proctor went part of the way to Havana to meet him. There was only one delegation of 78 horsemen and 17 wagons and buggies. Circuit court was in session and there were a great many people on the streets. Mr. Lincoln spoke at 2 p.m. standing between the central pillars of the old courthouse and possibly to 600 or 800 attentive listeners.
It was here that Lincoln delivered the glowing eulogy on the Declaration of Independence which by the suggestion of The London Times has become an English classic. It all fell on deaf, unresponsive, unappreciative souls.--Lewistown--Fulton county--did not comprehend that, unawares, they were entertaining the most angelic character America, if not the world, has ever produced. Of course The Fulton Democrat did not comprehend this long-legged, uncouth, diffident, self-deploring creature. The Democrat said mean things of Lincoln, we are ashamed to confess. Abraham Lincoln suffered more abuse at the hands of republicans who did not comprehend him than from all the democrats north and south. He had to die to get his crown. His fame will widen and deepen with the centuries in the souls of men who spit on commercial expansion and rotten imperialism at the expense of human freedom.
There were many reports regarding Abraham Lincoln over the years, from his candidacy for the Senate through his Presidency and assassination. Harv ey Ross wrote to his friend W. T. Davidson on numerous occasions with recollections from pioneer times, and his personal memories of Lincoln. These will be collected for a separate special edition.
Judge Wm. Kellogg Introduces Lincoln;
One His Of Closest Friends
When on August 17th, 1858, Abraham Lincoln, candidate for the United States Senate, mounted the speakers platform which had been erected in front of the massive native Spoon River stone columns on the Fulton County court house, he shared the platform with Judge Wm. Kellogg of Canton, Illinois. It was Judge Kellogg’s privilege on that hot summer day to introduce the principal speaker, Abraham Lincoln, and this was no more than right since Kellogg was one of Lincoln’s closest personal friends and political advisors ever since the Republican party in the state of Illinois.
Judge William Kellogg came to Canton in the early 1840’s and there he followed the profession of a lawyer. Later he was elected Circuit Judge and served our judicial district in that capacity. Still later he was to become a member of the legislative branch of our government, first representing Fulton County in the Illinois House of Representatives at Springfield and still later he was to represent our county in the congressional halls of Washington, D.C., serving as United States Congressman from the City of Canton for three consecutive terms. Later he was to leave Fulton County and journey to the Nebraska Territory where he had been appointed Chief Justice of the judicial system in that territory, which was undergoing the throes of heated emotions concerning the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Fulton was not again to be honored with Judge Kellogg’s presence because after leaving the Nebraska Territory he journeyed to Peoria, Illinois and served that county as State’s Attorney.
History tells us that Judge Kellogg was a powerful orator and after Lincoln’s speech of August 17th, 1858, he took the platform and addressed the crowd for approximately two hours and held them in rapt attention.
Judge Kellogg also carved his name in the annals of American history as a result of two other interesting experiences. He received nation-wide fame in some quarters and condemnation in others when he publicly caned Mr. Medill, editor of the Chicago Tribune, at the National Hotel in Washington, D. C. when emotions flared hot over the congressional attitude on the problem of slavery. Still later Judge Kellogg received personal consideration from Abraham Lincoln, by direct correspondence with he commander of the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, he ordered and directed that Judge Kellogg’s son be reinstated as a cadet in that institution.
Lincoln referred to Kellogg’s son as a fine young man and “one who is as close to me as my own sons” and asked as a personal favor that he be re-instated to the academy after having been expelled. This is probably the only time in the history of the United States Military that any cadet has ever been reinstated.
Unfortunately, the history of Judge William Kellogg is scant, but he certainly played a dominant role in the Republican Party of Illinois, in the Congressional halls of the United States of America, and in the personal and political life of Abraham Lincoln.
(The above was written by Cantonite Albert Scott, upon the 100th Anniversary of Lincoln’s visit to Lewistown, Ill.)
Lincoln 1858 Speech Was Recreated!!
The speech given by Wm. D. Horsley at the Lincoln In Lewistown Centennial Celebration, today was re-created by necessity, as Mr. Lincoln very seldom spoke from a prepared text. He used notes, and spoke extemporaneously from them. Part of the speech given today, however, is verbatim from the report of the Chicago Tribune of August 21, 1858. This section is the closing of Mr. Lincoln’s talk beginning with the words, “The Declaration of Independence was formed by...” Another section partly re-created and partly from the Tribune report is the one concerning Lincoln’s remarks regarding Henry Clay and Douglas’s false assertion of being Clay’s successor and political ally.
Authentic Lincoln speeches given between August 21, 1858 and notes for speeches were used in re-creating this speech. The collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, considered to be the definitive work on the subject of Lincoln’s writings and speeches, were used in the main. Quotations from Clay came from the Life and Letter of Hon. Henry Clay, edited by Daniel Mallory, published by authority of Congress in 1853.
Only one of the Debates between Lincoln and Douglas was used to incorporate material into the Lewistown Speech and that was the debate at Ottawa on August 21st, 1858. Material from the Beardstown speech of August 12th, 1858 and the Speeches at Springfield on June 16th and July 17th, 1858 and the speech at Chicago on July 10th, 1858, furnished other excerpts for our re-creation. The Basler work on Lincoln provided some notes for speeches which provided material used in the Lewistown Speech also.
The Centennial Committee is very grateful to the Illinois Historical Library at Springfield and State Historian Clyde C. Walton and Bradley University at Peoria for their invaluable aid in collecting and making available Lincoln material for the committee. (1958).
The Lincoln Lewistown Speech
August Seventeenth, 1858
Delivered by Abraham Lincoln Between The Pillars Of
The Third Fulton County Court House, Lewistown, Illinois
“Back To The Declaration Of Independence”
The Declaration of Independence was formed by the representatives of the American liberty from thirteen states of the confederacy-twelve of which were slaveholding communities. We need not discuss the way or the reason of their becoming slave-holding communities. It is sufficient for our purpose that all of them greatly deplored the evil and that they placed a provision in the Constitution which they supposed would gradually remove the disease by cutting off its source. This was the abolition of the slave trade. So general was the conviction - the public determination - to abolish the African slave trade, that the provision which I have referred to as being placed in the Constitution, declared that it should not be abolished prior to the year 1808. A constitutional provision was necessary to prevent the people, through Congress, from putting a stop to the traffic immediately at the close of the war. Now, if slavery had been a good thing, would the Fathers of the Republic have taken a step calculated to diminish its beneficent influences among themselves, and snatch the boon wholly from their posterity? These communities, by their representatives in Old Independence Hall, said to the whole world of men: “We hold these truths to be self-evident : that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” This was their majestic interpretation of the economy of the universe. This was their lofty, and wise, and noble understanding of the justice of the Creator to his creatures. (Applause) Yes, gentlemen, to all His creatures, to the whole great family of man. In their enlightened belief, nothing stamped with the divine image and likeness was sent into the world to be trodden on, and degraded, and imbruted by its fellows. They grasped not only the whole race of man then living, but they reached forward and seized upon the farthest posterity. They erected a beacon to guide their children and their children’s children, and the countless myriads who should inhabit the earth in other ages. Wise statesmen as they were they knew the tendency of prosperity to breed tyrants, and so they they established these great self-evident truths, that when in the distant future some man, some faction, some interest, should set up a doctrine that none but white men, were entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, their posterity might look up again to the Declaration Of Independence and take courage to renew the battle which their fathers began - so that truth, and justice, and mercy, and all the humane and Christian virtues might not be extinguished from the land; so that no man would hereafter dare to limit and circumscribe the great principles on which the temple of liberty was being built. (Loud Cheers)
Now my countrymen, if you have been taught doctrines conflicting with the great landmarks of the Declaration Of Independence; if you have listened to suggestions that would take away from its grandeur, and mutilate the fair symmetry of its proportions; if you have been inclined to believe that all men are not created equal in those inalienable rights enumerated by our chart of liberty, let me entreat you to come back. Return to the fountain whose waters spring close by the blood of the Revolution. Think nothing of me-take no thought for the political fate of any man whomsoever-but come back to the truths that are in the Declaration of Independence. You may do anything with me you choose, if you will but heed these sacred principles. You may not only defeat me in the Senate, but you may take me and put me to death. While pretending no indifference to earthly honors, I do claim to be actuated in this contest by something higher than an anxiety for office. I charge you to drop every paltry and insignificant thought for any man’s success. It is nothing; I am nothing; Judge Douglas is nothing. But do not destroy that immortal emblem of humanity-The Declaration of, American Independence. Thank You.
Lincoln In Lewistown - August 17th 1858
The Day following Douglas’ speech in Proctor’s Grove in Lewistown, where 5,000 persons are reported to have heard the Little Giant, Lincoln came up from Havana on August 17th, 1858, to address the citizenry.
Lincoln was escorted from Havana by a committee consisting of Major Walker, John Proctor and others. Outside Lewistown he was met by a delegation of some seventy horsemen, wagons, buggies, and other vehicles. It is said that the brass band from Canton took part in escorting Lincoln into town.
At 2:00 o’clock Lincoln was introduced to the audience from the portico of the old courthouse where a platform had been raised between the pillars of the courthouse. Judge Kellogg of Canton introduced Lincoln. Un-reported except for excerpts, Lincoln’s speech was given over a period of two and one half hours. His earnestness, simplicity, and eloquence kept his audience, smaller than the one which heard Douglas, in a state of rapt attention. Major Walker, who had not heard Lincoln speak for some twenty-five years, listened with awe and wonder at the power and moving quality of his simple address.
It was here at Lewistown that Lincoln gave the stirring eulogy on the Declaration of Independence, which The London Times reported later, as being of the nations classics.
Following the speech, Lincoln ate dinner at the home of Major Newton Walker, and then went to Canton where he spent the night at the home of Judge William Kellogg. He left the next day to begin debates with Douglas, and neither Lewistown or Fulton county was to see him again.