ELECTION SPEECH

 

A speech by the Hon. Rev. Owen Lovejoy

Princeton, Illinois

Geneseo Republic, November 19, 1862

In looking over the field, in view of all the facts, my wonder is not so much that my majority should be only six or seven hundred but that I should have any at all.

If they will allow me five or ten hundred it will answer. A friend from Peoria county wrote me that in twenty-seven years political experience, he had never witnessed such embittered hostility as that manifested towards me. If so, I hope it will be remembered that I can say with Cassius, "'Tis but the humour my Mother gave me" -- a sainted mother, whose heart was a sea of emotion surging to and fro from its depths. How often have I see her holding an Emancipator or an anti-slavery speech of Giddings or Adams in her left hand, her right hand clenched and gesticulating, and saying, "right, Mr. Adams, right"-- "True, Mr. Giddings, true -- every word true." "Ah, Mr. Leavitt, you can't say anything too bad of slavery."

I have sometimes thought that I must seem to be worse than I am--a thing altogether useless: or people would not dislike me so much, and be so spiteful and bitter as they appear to be. I know I do not feel so towards others. And I feel thankful that I have said nothing about my rival candidate or any of his adherents or advocates, which prevents me from looking them squarely in the eye when I meet them.

They remembered the heavy thumps he gave them in 1860, and however hypocritical in other respects, they were perfectly sincere and intense in their hatred of him. They hope to smite the shepherd and then scatter the sheep. So they undertook to act the comedy of "She Stoops to Conquer" and gave up their name and adopted candidates found among disaffected Republicans. How they leared and grinned when I passed them--"Ah, you old rat, we've caught you now. We'll kill you now, old fellow." Luckily the old fellow has a wonderful tenacity of life. He has been killed, this is the fourth time, and "he still lives."

I have mentioned the two classes that made up the opposition. One of the wickedest things that the rebels do is to raise the Union flag and under its protection march close to the loyal soldiers and then pour a murderous fire into their ranks. So the democrats and disaffected Republicans arrogated to themselves the name of Union which never meant the union of all loyal men but the union of all pro-slavery men, with the immediate purpose of defeating me, and the ultimate design of throttling the administration in its policy of emancipation, and the reconstruction of the Buchanan democracy, and its restoration to power in '64. Thus the Union party, so-called, of the Fifth Congressional District, was really the same as the democratic party of the state. The name was changed, but the design was the same.

...The contest through which we have just now passed, has been peculiar, and indeed, without a parallel in the bitterness of its animosity, the acrimony of its spirit, and the unscrupulousness of the means put in requisition to ensure my defeat. My opponents seemed to have formed the same purpose as did Juno, when, on failing to secure the aid of the celestial deities in the overthrow of the Trojans, she declared, "if I cannot pursuade the heavenly powers to come to my aid, I will move the depths of the pit." Acheron was ransacked, rallied and employed, and it is understood that the allies of my opponents went home in high glee, with their wits sharpened and their stock of knowledge in intrigue and falsification largely increased.

...But in the present state of the Republic, when the very life of the nation, almost flickers in the socket, it would not be seemly and patriotic for me to indulge in a similar spirit toward those who have been so bitter and merciless against me.

There have been times, I confess, when, standing alone, and receiving the murderous fire of regular and irregular guerilla bushwacking of life long enemies and former friends, that I felt resentment and thirsted for revenge. But I can say, with unaffected sincerity, these feelings have passed away with the hour. I am too old a man, if not too good a Christian and patriot, to harbour feelings of malice and revenge. Anger resteth in the bosom of fools. I have lived long enough to know that these sentiments and evil passions hurt their subjects more than their objects.

If, then, there are to be personal feuds and animosities, separation of very dear friends, alienation of families, and exasperation and hatred in neighborhoods and community, I am resolved in no measure to foster or be responsible for them. I may be at times vehement, in the utterance of my sentiments and opinions.

...Let us look now for a moment at the opposition that we had to encounter in the late canvas. First, there was the united Democracy, rallying fiercely and unitedly to the conflict, their ranks suffering but little from depletion from enlistments [in the civil war]. They were willing to adopt any tactics and hurrah for any candidate that gave promise of defeating Lovejoy.

...Joined to the solid and ferocious cohorts of the anti-slavery democracy, was a curiously made up crowd from the Republican ranks. First, came the leaders who wanted or would have offices and thought they were playing a card that would win, and their love of office was stronger than their attachment to principle. Indeed, many, at the disruption of the Whig Party, joined the Republican organization, not because they loved the principles of that party, but because they hated the democracy, and there was no other organization to which they could attach themselves. This class have always been restive under the anti-slavery element, that was really the vitalizing power of the party.

... My opponents felicitate themselves that my majority is not larger. All I have to say is, if they can stand it, I can...