Shelbyville in Shelby County, Illinois — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)
Lincoln - Thornton Debate
—Looking for Lincoln —
In the summer of 1856, Abraham Lincoln traveled across much of Illinois, giving speeches supporting the new Republican Party and its national and state candidates. On August 9, 1856, Lincoln arrived in Shelbyville to participate in a debate with Samuel Moulton and Anthony Thornton. Moulton was becoming a strong voice for Democrats who served in the Illinois House of Representatives. Thornton was a former Whig, like Lincoln, until the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854, when he became a Democrat. Shelby County had long been a stronghold for the Democratic Party, and Lincoln represented a small minority of Republicans, contending that, “however poorly I may defend my cause, I can hardly harm it, if I do it no good.” Lincoln’s swing through Democratic counties, including Shelby, was his first as a prominent member of the Republican Party. Illinois Republicans acknowledged Lincoln as the party leader. His efforts in debates against slavery gave him recognition beyond the state. At the 1856 national Republican Convention, Lincoln received a handful of votes as the vice presidential nominee.
Robert Root (1863 - 1937), believed that history had forgotten one of Lincoln’s first public forays as an anti-slavery Republican. A year before he died, Thornton sat for an interview with Root, who set to work on the painting of the debate. Root accurately captured images of participants and attendees by interviewing people who had attended the debate and were still alive―and by using old pictures of those who had died.
Nineteenth-Century newspapers were very partisan, casting their lots with a particular political party. Many communities had at least two newspapers, each following the views of different parties. Correspondents often wrote articles about political events in surrounding communities. In the examples illustrated here, the two descriptions of the same debate are dramatically different. The Democratic newspaper’s use of the racial epithet in this context preys on the racial fears of whites in antebellum Illinois. Stephen A. Douglas and other Democrats often referred to the opposition party as “black Republicans” and used race as a motivating factor for citizens to vote against Republican candidates. The comments in the State Register, then, performed a double duty- -mocking Lincoln and claiming that Republicans desired blacks and whites to be equal citizens under the law.
Marker series. This marker is included in the Looking for Lincoln marker series.
Location. 39° 24.411′ N, 88° 47.448′ W. Marker is in Shelbyville, Illinois, in Shelby County. Marker is on East Main Street west of South Washington Street, on the right when traveling west. Touch for map. Marker is on the Southwest lawn of the Shelby County Courthouse. Marker is in this post office area: Shelbyville IL 62565, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. " Let's Debate " by John McClarey (here, next to this marker); Freedom Square (within shouting distance of this marker); Soldiers and Sailors Monument (within shouting distance of this marker); Abraham Lincoln - Eighth Judicial District (within shouting distance of this marker); Lincoln-Thornton Debate / Lincoln Circuit (within shouting distance of this marker); First Commercial Pick-up Baler (within shouting distance of this marker); Anthony Thornton (within shouting distance of this marker); Traveling the Circuit (within shouting distance of this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Shelbyville.
Also see . . .
1. Travel with Lincoln ::. Climb into Lincoln’s buggy and take a trip with Lincoln (Submitted on May 17, 2010, by Al Wolf of Veedersburg, Indiana.)
2. Looking for Lincoln Video - on P. B. S. Follow Henry Louis Gates, Jr. "...from Illinois, to Gettysburg, to Washington, D. C., and face to face with people who live with Lincoln every day..." (Submitted on May 17, 2010, by Al Wolf of Veedersburg, Indiana.)
3. Looking for Lincoln::. Many resources for the Tracking of Lincoln through History and Illinois. Aimed at all ages. (Submitted on May 17, 2010, by Al Wolf of Veedersburg, Indiana.)
Categories. • Politics •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on May 17, 2010, by Al Wolf of Veedersburg, Indiana. This page has been viewed 921 times since then and 20 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. submitted on May 17, 2010, by Al Wolf of Veedersburg, Indiana. • Syd Whittle was the editor who published this page.