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144. E. N. Powell to William H. Herndon.

Peoria Feby 10/66

Dear Sir

On my return home from Pekin Court yesterday I found your kind letter of the 7th inst

I hope you will make diligent search for the note as I do not wish to get into trouble about it

In regard to the matter you enquire about as to the debate here between Mr Lincoln & Douglas I presume I know as much or more about it than any other person I do not at this moment remember the exact time it occurred but I know it was after the passage of the Kansas and Nebraska Bill and before the joint debate between them in 1858 which I suppose is the one you allude to The facts are as follows. Mr — Douglas was invited here by his friends to speak on a certain day Mr Lincoln was attending court at Pekin Myself and other friends induced Mr Lincoln to come here and make a reply He did so. As the meeting


was called for Mr Douglas alone we had no right to claim to have Mr Lincoln to participate in the discussion of the questions which then agitated the country but at all events it was so arranged, that Mr Douglas should open the debate and speak as long as he desired when Mr Lincoln should reply as long as he might wish when Mr Douglas was to have 40 Minutes to reply. Mr Douglas commenced and spoke for near three hours As it was late in the afternoon when Mr D commenced he did not get through until about tea time when it was by universal consent of the audience the meeting was adjourned till after supper when Mr Lincoln made his reply and Douglas closed the debate. I need only say that the friends of Mr L were well satisfied with the result It had been also previously arranged that Mr Douglas was to speak the next day at Lacon. Dr Boal & Silas Ramsey came here with a carriage and induced Mr Lincoln to go up with them to Lacon to speak there

At that time the Rail Road from here to connect with the Rock Island Rail Road was only running from the Bureau Junction to Chillicothe a distance of 20 Miles from Peoria and a Boat ran from here in connection. Court was in session at Lacon and I was going to attend the same. On getting on to the Boat early in the morning I found Mr Douglas a board As Mr Douglas and myself were ever personal friends although opposed in politics we had quite an interesting conversation about his visit to Russia but nothing in regard to politics

The cars ran to Chicago from Chillicothe The Boat had been running in connection before with the rail road to Henry above Lacon and that morning was going for the last time to Henry and of course to Lacon. Some short time before we arrived at Chillicothe Mr Douglas enquired of me if I knew whether Mr Lincoln was to be at Lacon I informed him that Dr Boal & Mr Ramsey had told me to inform their friends that they would be up about noon with Mr Lincoln

When the Boat arrived at Chillicothe I was surprised to see Mr Douglas get off the Boat and I then enquired of a special friend of Mr Douglas why he did not go to Lacon on the Boat And he replied that he was going direct to Chicago and would not speak in Lacon that day The Boat arrived at Lacon about the time the cars got to the Depot on the opposite side of the river about a mile or more distant and soon after Mr Douglas come over If what I was informed was true I suppose he had changed his mind Mr Lincoln was on hand Mr Douglas was in a poor condition to speak being hoarse and not otherwise very well and did not wish to speak

Mr Lincoln ever generous to friend or foe proposed to Mr Douglas that if he Douglas did not wish to speak that he Lincoln would not Mr Douglas thanked Mr L and said he would consult with his friends and advise him of what course he would take He did so — and in a few moments it was publicly announced on the steps of the Hotel that there would be no speaking in Lacon that day. This was all there was of that matter all the rest was left to conjecture I well remember what an impression it left upon my mind. Having heard them the day before at Peoria and thinking Douglas had the worse of the debate — and was not anxious


at that time to speak when Lincoln was to reply — and as Douglas the next day spoke at Hennepin twenty miles further up the river where Mr L did not go.

Upon subsequent reflection I think this was in Oct 1854 from the fact that the day of the debate at Peoria we had received returns of the Elections in Iowa — Ohio Penn. & Maine all giving Squatter Sovereignty the go by

If this is intended for publication I would rather have the opportunity of putting it in better form There other facts in regard to debates between Lincoln & Douglas within my knowledge which would be interesting to the public in a true life written of Mr L

Yours &c
E N Powell

Library of Congress: Herndon-Weik Collection. Manuscript Division. Library of Congress. Washington, D.C. 2476 — 79; Huntington Library: LN2408, 2:343 — 46



1. Robert Boal was a Peoria Republican.