“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Leavenworth in Leavenworth County, Kansas — The American Midwest (Upper Plains)

Lincoln at the Planters

December 5, 1859


—Historic Wayside Tour #11 —

Lincoln at the Planters Marker image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr., December 22, 2010
1. Lincoln at the Planters Marker
On this site once stood the most famous and magnificent hotel between St. Louis and San Francisco - the Planters. The Planters, a fine four story brick building with 100 guestrooms, opened for business in December 1856. The Planter's most distinguished guest, Abraham Lincoln visited Leavenworth from the 3rd to the 7th of December 1859. He was not yet president and he didn't have the beard we usually picture him with. But he was an important man, here to do some important things.

Lincoln had just bested Stephen Douglas in their famous debates. He was a national figure, considered by some as a possible vice president. He had been invited to speak at the Republican Party National Convention and wanted to try out his ideas for that speech on the people. His appearance in the territory might also help the Republicans in the election, so when Mark Delahay, a friend and distant relative invited him, Lincoln agreed to come to Leavenworth.

He made brief stops elsewhere in Northeast Kansas that were well received, but rather sparsely attended. Leavenworth, however, had prepared a grand reception. Lincoln was met by a huge parade of horsemen, carriages, a band and the party faithful. "Old Kickapoo," a cannon used in the Bleeding Kansas fight, was fired in honor of Lincoln's presence.

On the night of December 3rd, Lincoln
Lincoln at the Planters Marker image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr., December 22, 2010
2. Lincoln at the Planters Marker
spoke at Leavenworth's famous Stockton Hall. Although the weather was bitterly cold the hall was filled to overflowing. Lincoln reviewed the history of federal policy toward slavery in the United States. He said the Republican Party sought to maintain that historic policy: not interfering with slavery in the south, but prohibiting its extension into new territories. He urged his listeners not to use violence as John Brown had just done, but to triumph through the ballot box. The speech was well received and because there so many more that wanted to hear it, Lincoln was persuaded to extend his stay and speak again on December 5th from the steps of the Planters Hotel. An estimated crowd of 1500 people were standing in Main Street when Lincoln gave his speech again. An eastern newspaper man observed, "It was the largest mass meeting that ever assembled on Kansas soil, and the greatest address ever heard here."

Lincoln made a strong impression on the Kansans who met him. One described him as made up of "hands, head, feet and length." Another said he had "legs you could fold up. The knees stood up like the hind joints of a Kansas Grasshopper....The buttons were off his shirt." While the Republican leaning Leavenworth Times was predictably positive on his speech, the Democrat editor of the Leavenworth Herald started off with a hostile tone, "he bears the appearance of a man
Image on Lincoln at the Planters Marker image. Click for full size.
By Unknown, undated
3. Image on Lincoln at the Planters Marker
well in his prime, but without dignity or grace....His style of delivery, though concise, and striking plainly on the hearer, bears the impress of labored efforts...while his ideas are put forth in language totally at variance with all rules of grammar." But after spending a day with Lincoln he wrote a more personal assessment, "Judge Lincoln was the soul of the company. Whilst we abhor the political heresies to which he adheres, none can deny that he is a high-toned, honorable and dignified gentleman. He has an inexhaustible store of the humorous in his composition, although his appearance would indicate that he was the gravest of the grave."

Many legends have sprung up around Lincoln's visit to Leavenworth. He is said to have requested to sample Leavenworth's beer during his visit. Later, local brewers advertised their brand as the one that gave Lincoln the strength to write his famous speech. A local brothel was supposed to have been closed just to make a better impression on the visiting dignitary. A Leavenworth preacher, previously timid on the subject of slavery, was said to have been so transformed after hosting Lincoln in the parsonage that proslavers ran him out of town. Lincoln stayed in the Planters Hotel and visited with friends for 5 days. If all those who claim "Lincoln slept here" are to be believed his visit would have to have extended over several months.

Play Buttion on Lincoln at the Planters Marker image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr., December 22, 2010
4. Play Buttion on Lincoln at the Planters Marker
months later Lincoln made his famous Coopers' Union Address at the Republican Convention in New York City - the speech that won him the nomination for President. When the text was printed in the newspapers, those who had heard him speak in Leavenworth were surprised to find it was basically the same speech he had given here. Thus Lincoln's visit to Leavenworth was an important part of a campaign which lead to the White House and his singular place in American history.

[Lincoln's December 5, 1859, Speech Highlights on Marker]

"We do, in common with our fathers, who framed the Government under which we live, declare our belief that slavery is wrong."

"Fellow Republicans do not capitulate to Southern demands to recognize slavery as being right, but to stand by our duty, fearlessly and effectively."

"Neither let us be slandered from duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the Government nor of dungeons to ourselves. Let us have Faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it."

Erected by City of Leavenworth. (Marker Number 11.)
Location. 39° 19.183′ N, 94° 54.578′ W. Marker is in Leavenworth, Kansas, in Leavenworth County. Marker is at the intersection of Esplanade Street and Shawnee Street, on the right when traveling north on Esplanade Street. Click for map. Marker is in this post office area: Leavenworth KS 66048, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The Great Railroad Era (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Law Offices of Sherman, Ewing, and McCook (about 300 feet away); General William Tecumseh Sherman (about 300 feet away); A Lasting Friendship (about 400 feet away); Leavenworth's Union Depot (about 400 feet away); Riverfront Community Center (about 400 feet away); The First Bank in Kansas (about 500 feet away); Bleeding Kansas (about 500 feet away). Click for a list of all markers in Leavenworth.
Regarding Lincoln at the Planters. The marker is one of a series of audio historic wayside markers - push a button on the marker and the narration (transcribed above) is given.
Also see . . .  Lincoln in Kansas. (Submitted on May 4, 2011, by William Fischer, Jr. of Fort Scott, Kansas.)
Categories. Man-Made FeaturesPoliticsSettlements & Settlers
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by William Fischer, Jr. of Fort Scott, Kansas. This page has been viewed 890 times since then and 81 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on , by William Fischer, Jr. of Fort Scott, Kansas. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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