You Can't Fool the People
— Looking for Lincoln —
DeWitt County was part of the Eighth Judicial Circuit from its beginning, and so was Abraham Lincoln, who attended the first session of DeWitt Circuit Court in Clinton on October 24, 1839. Court sessions were held each spring and fall. For the locals, court week was like a carnival, and people came from miles around to pack the court and participate in the accompanying social activities. For twenty years, Lincoln was a part of the Clinton community, practicing law by day, afterwards sleeping in its homes and inns, finding fun and friendship among the common people when court work was done. Those years helped form the man who became one of our greatest Presidents.
:Lincoln always welcomed an opportunity to match his
great strength (mental or physical) against others. In the evenings, one of the favorite pastimes of the lawyers - and men who came to court week - was vying with each other in jumping long distances on the courthouse lawn. Lincoln, with his long legs, was invariably the winner, that is, until he lost to Henry Mann. Mann may have known Lincoln before coming to Clinton, as his company in the Black Hawk War was part of the regiment Lincoln commanded. According to Mann's obituary, he was "of mixed blood, part Indiana and part Negro."
Beginning with his first competition, "Uncle Henry"
was declared champion after leaving Lincoln far behind. Mann could lift heavier loads than anyone in the county even in his later years. Born in 1804 in Buffalo, New York, he was five years older than Lincoln, "a man of fair education,"
able to quote any passage from the Bible. Mann, "an exhorter, first in the Methodist and later in the Baptist Church,"
now rests in Woodlawn Cemetery.
Bottom SectionAlthough he had no law
partner on the circuit, Lincoln worked more cases with Clinton's resident lawyer, C. H. Moore, than any other lawyer, and he also argued more cases against Moore than any other. Lincoln worked both civil and criminal cases here, ranging from murder to numerous railroad cases. Occasionally Lincoln served as judge. Pictured is Clinton's second courthouse, built in 1850.
Lincoln learned the game of billiards from Clinton's Thompson S. Smith. The October 5, 1859, "Central Transcript"
stated: "Old Abe handled his first cue in Smith's billiard room - here in Clinton - and he is now quite a respectable player. We think that this event - as a tradition - ought to surely entitle our village to immortality in the pages of future history."
Lincoln became a self-confessed "billiards addict."
You Can't Fool The PeopleTop Section
In the summer of 1858, Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas began the campaign dance for the Senate seat from Illinois that was to lead to the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates. The Republicans' initial strategy called for Lincoln to follow Douglas around Illinois, with each candidate addressing the crowds individually. Lincoln, the lesser-known of the two, in a brilliant political maneuver, formally challenged Douglas to a series of debates in a letter sent from Chicago on July 24. Douglas had not yet received the letter when he came to Clinton to speak at a rally here on July 27, 1858.
Middle SectionPosters all over DeWitt County announced that Douglas would arrive on the morning train. A small group was present
when the 5:00 A.M. train pulled in without Douglas. A group of two or three hundred persons (two-thirds of them Republicans, a local paper noted), along with a band ready to play and with a flag to unfurl, met the 7:00 A. M. Train. However, Lincoln, not Douglas, emerged to great cheering.
Lincoln lingered on, working the growing crowd as they waited for Douglas's appearance, which did not come until 4:00 P.M. Douglas, without even acknowledging the crowd, went straight to a waiting carriage and drove to the fairgrounds a mile southwest of Clinton to give his speech. Lincoln watched quietly. At the end of Douglas's speech, the crowd shouted loudly for Lincoln, who declined to speak there, noting that is was Douglas's meeting. He invited any who wished to hear him rebut Douglas's comments to come to the courthouse yard at dusk.
Lincoln and Douglas met the next day and agreed to the series of debates.
Bottom Section"You can fool all the people
some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time."
To confirm or deny Lincoln's utterance of the epigram, the Chicago Record Herald,
dated January 12, 1905, published results of their inquiry from Lincoln's contemporaries.
Although none of them, by then aged, could certify its origin, a letter from Lewis Campbell, a prominent Clinton citizen who procured a box from his dry goods store for Lincoln to stand upon while delivering that 1858speech, was published in the February 17, 1905 issue of The Clinton Register.
It expressed Campbell's clear memories of Lincoln's speech including the now famous phrase. Campbell wrote, "Though nearly half a century has passed, these acts and sayings are indelibly fixed upon my memory."