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371. Joshua F. Speed (Statement for William H. Herndon).

[1865 — 66]

In 1836 Mr Lincoln was a whig candidate for the Legislature in Sangamon County. At that time he resided in the lower part of the County near Petersburg — I was a merchant in Springfield had never seen him — but had heard of his power upon the stump from the young men in that part of the County — They were proud of him, and spoke of him in high terms of encomium — A short time before the election, he made a speech in Springfield, in the old Court house where the State house now stands — The crowd was large. His friends & admirers had Come in from the Country —

I remember that his speech was a very able one, using with great power and originality all the arguments then used to sustain the principles of the Whig party, as against its great rival the Democratic party of that day — The speech produced a profound impression — The Crowd was with him —


The Candidates in opposition and the party opposed to him felt it — Depression on one side & exultation on the other was evident —

Mr George Forquer an old Citizen, a man of recognized prominence & ability as a lawyer was present — Forquer had been a whig — one of the Champions of the party — But had then recently joined the Democratic party and Almost simultaneous with his change — had been appointed Register of the land office — which office he then held —

Just about that time Mr F had Completed a neat frame house — the best house then in the village of Springfield and upon it had erected a lightning rod — the only one in the place and the first one Mr Lincoln had evr observed — He afterwards told me that seeing Forquers lightning rod had led him to the study of the properties of electricity & the utility of the rod as a Conductor —

At the Conclusion of Lincolns speech the Crowd was about dispersing when Forquer rose and asked to be heard —

He commenced by saying that this young man would have to be taken down and was sorry that the task devolved upon him — He then proceeded to answer Linclns speech in a style which while it was able and fair — in his whole manner asserted & claimed superiority —

Lincoln stood near him and watched him during the whole of his Speech —

When Forquer Concluded he took the stand again — I have heard him often since — in Court and before the people — but never saw him appear so well as upon that occasion — He replied to Mr F with great dignity and force — But I shall never forget the conclusion of that speech —

Turning to Mr F. he said that he had Commenced his speech by announcing that this young man would have to be taken down —

Turning then to the Crowd he said it is for you, not for me to say whether I am up or down.

The gentleman has alluded to my being a young man — I am older in years than I am in the tricks and trades of politicians — I desire to live — and I disire place and distinction as a politician — but I would rather die now than like the gentleman live to see the day that I would have to erect a lightning rod to protect a guilty Concience from an offended God.

Library of Congress: Herndon-Weik Collection. Manuscript Division. Library of Congress. Washington, D.C. 3974 — 75; Huntington Library: LN2408, 2:392 — 93



1. The text is in Speed's hand. Written above the line by WHH: 1834 — Speed now Says. For another version of this story by Speed, see §474.