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Lincoln, Douglas, Circuses, and Satire
03-31-2022, 12:36 PM
Post: #1
Lincoln, Douglas, Circuses, and Satire
https://findinglincolnillinois.com/linco...atire.html
This pictorial research report tells a story about the interrelationship of local, state, and national 19-century American history and heritage involving two of our most important politicians. In 1858 Democrat Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois ran for reelection to the US Senate, and his Republican opponent was Abraham Lincoln. When Lincoln and his Illinois Republican friends suggested joint debates for the campaign, Douglas was annoyed at the idea of giving his little-known opponent publicity by accepting the challenge to share the debate stage. "And James Sheahan's Chicago Times echoed Douglas's annoyance by running an editorial asking Judd [Illinois Republican Committee chairman] why he didn't look up the managers of the 'two very good circuses and menageries traveling through the state' and persuade them, rather than Douglas, 'to include a speech from Lincoln in their performances'" (Allen C. Guelzo, Lincoln and Douglas: The Debates That Defined America [New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008], 91). Yet Douglas was fearful of the bad publicity he would suffer if he did not accept the challenge of joint debates. Douglas reluctantly agreed to debate in the seven congressional districts where his opponent and he had not yet then spoken.

The Chicago Times's editorial suggestion that Lincoln could get audiences by performing with circuses was a sarcasm that ironically came to life in a manner of speaking and became a small but telling facet of the 1858 Illinois US Senate campaign. During the 1858 Illinois Senate race, circuses played a direct or indirect role in the candidates' appearances on July 16 at Bloomington, on July 17 at Lincoln, on September 4 at Lincoln, on September 8 for Douglas at Carlinville and for Lincoln at Hillsboro, and on October 15 for both candidates at Alton, site of the final joint debate. Preeminent Lincoln historians give high praise to Lincoln's Alton speech. Michael Burlingame calls it "certainly Lincoln's finest rhetorical hour" (Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life, 2 vols. [Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008], 1:540). Most likely Lincoln's Alton speech was the core of the speech he delivered miles away the next day at his first namesake town at a large Republican rally. There was no circus in town that day, and he delivered his speech from the steps of the main entrance to the Logan County Courthouse, where he practiced law on the Eighth Judicial Circuit. In May 1860 the Illinois Republican Party met in Decatur to nominate Lincoln for president, and he briefly addressed the convention under a circus tent rented for the occasion.

This report tells the peculiar story of the candidates' use of circuses as campaign strategy. In this story we learn about their audiences, the relationship between circus celebrities and the candidates, the relationship between the candidates and sculptor Leonard Volk, and newspaper treatments of their campaign and Douglas's rhetoric in particular. As it turned out, Lincoln lost this election (the second time he failed to gain a US Senate seat), but his rhetorical performances earned favorable publicity, enabling him to rise from state to national politics, eventually leading to the presidency.
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03-31-2022, 12:44 PM
Post: #2
RE: Lincoln, Douglas, Circuses, and Satire
Very interesting. Thanks for posting that. I learn something new every day on this forum. Literally every time I log on.

"The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there"
---- Leslie Poles Hartley
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03-31-2022, 10:25 PM
Post: #3
RE: Lincoln, Douglas, Circuses, and Satire
(03-31-2022 12:44 PM)Dave B Wrote:  Very interesting. Thanks for posting that. I learn something new every day on this forum. Literally every time I log on.

Dave I echo your sentiment.

They have killed Papa dead
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04-17-2022, 11:57 AM
Post: #4
RE: Lincoln, Douglas, Circuses, and Satire
I appreciate the views and expressions of interest.
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