One of Jacksonville's Walldog murals. This one commemorates one of Lincoln's early political speeches, delivered in front of the court house during 1854.
Throughout the early
1850’s, Abraham Lincoln, new to the world of politics, remained a relatively
unknown figure. It was during 1854 that he delivered various speeches across
the Midwest, criticizing slavery and the recently passed Kansas-Nebraska Act,
and his rousing speeches earned him prevalence. His well-known Peoria speech is
largely cited as what put him on the map, a scathing criticism of the
Kansas-Nebraska act. However, in spite of his growing popularity, many doubted
him and his resolve for never officially declaring himself to any of the major
political parties. As stated by his legal partner, William H. Herdon, he was
seen to “float forever about in the great political sea without compass, rudder
his eventual joining of the Republican party was not actually conducted of his
own volition, though he did recognize his need to officially declare allegiance.
In 1856, his law partner, Herdon, had signed Lincoln’s name in addition to his
own during the summons to the Republican State convention, having obtained
Lincoln’s permission by telegraph only after his name was already on the paper.
After his speech at the Bloomington convention was met with booming applause,
he quickly became one of the most requested speakers in the region, hearkening
back to his early days. Traveling all over the Midwest, supporting the
Republican party’s nominations for governor and president, Lincoln continued to
gain favor among the abolitionists of the region. One such speech was delivered
here, in the Jacksonville front of the Jacksonville Courthouse, once again
criticizing the Kansas-Nebraska act. In an unknowingly prophetic statement, Jacksonville
resident Joseph O. King, deeply inspired by the speech, proudly declared, “…and
when he came out sharp and strong against slavery, I threw up my hat and
shouted, ‘Hurray for Abe Lincoln for president of the United States.’ ” . As a speaker,
Lincoln’s success during this time led to him becoming a figurehead of the
Republican party, earning his
nomination for Illinois State Senator in 1858, and indeed, as President in 1860.