[While studying the papers of Fitzhugh Parker, a delegate to the second Republican National Convention in 1860, I came across an extraordinary set of notes he kept on that convention. It appears that just before the close of the convention, Abraham Lincoln made a surprise appearance and gave what must be the earliest in-person acceptance speech in history. I thought I would share Parker's transcript with the H-POL community. -- Howard Reiter]
LINCOLN'S ACCEPTANCE SPEECH, 1860
My fellow Republicans, and fellow Americans:
First, I want to thank Mr. P. T. Barnum for putting on that wonderful show for the delegates these past four days. And wasn't Tom Thumb moving, with his plea for understanding of people with disabilities? And let's put our hands together for the wonderful singing of Miss Jenny Lind.
And wasn't my wife Mary terrific, the way she moved among the delegates telling the story of my life?
And how about that new dance craze, the polka? Wanna see me polka? Wanna see it again?
Now I have the opportunity to re-introduce myself to the American people. So let me tell you a few things about myself. As you know, I was born in a log cabin. But did you know that my mom died when I was little? And that later, my sister died? And my father died? And my first love, Ann Rutledge, died? And my son Eddie died?
Each time one of them died, I was there to hold their hand. And each time, I vowed never to accept any support from tobacco farmers. Which is easy for me to say, since I'm not on the ballot in any tobacco-growing state.
Later I was in the Black Hawk War. I may have never seen any action, but at least Abe Lincoln didn't dodge the draft!
Then I served in Congress. I was there only one term, but it was enough time to vote against one of those Democrat wars.
So here I am running for president. And people ask me, they say, what's this election all about, Abe? I'll tell you what it's about. It's about opportunity. It's about the Constitution. It's about the Union. It's about government of the people. It's about government by the people. It's about government with the people.
Above all, I want to build a bridge to the Gilded Age.
I want to put a telegraph in every classroom in America . . . to build the information towpath.
I want school uniforms; in fact, if I am elected, you'll be seeing a lot of people in uniforms.
I want a 15% across the board increase in the tariff.
Now, you're asking, what about slavery?
I want to end slavery as we know it.
Now, that doesn't mean abolishing slavery. I want to mend it, not end it.
I don't want to eliminate slavery, but simply slow the rate of its growth.
In other words, I want to stop the spread of slavery. Now, there are those who say, "Abe, won't this create undue hardship?"
I say: Tell that to Joe Montgomery, a slave I met while campaigning in Kentucky, who wants to move out west and set up a shoemaking shop, and enjoy the magic of capitalist entrepreneurship, unfettered by the dead hand of government regulation.
Or, tell that to Jim Mason, a freeman I met in Nebraska, whose grocery store has created jobs for three other people.
In other words, I want to make the entire west one giant enterprise zone.
What about the details? Well, I propose that after I am elected, see, we set up a bipartisan commission. Let's take the buggy apart, and look at the springs. It's just that simple.
Well, time is getting short; the folks on the east coast are getting ready to turn in. Before I finish, I want to leave you with one last thought: Remember, folks, it takes a village to build a house that, divided against itself, cannot stand. Thank you, good night, and God bless America.
Political Science Department,
University of Connecticut