In Their Springfield Prime

In Their Springfield Prime (HMWR3)

Location: Springfield, IL 62701 Sangamon County
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Country: United States of America
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N 39° 48.03', W 89° 38.893'

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1854 marked Lincoln's public return to politics following a five-year hiatus. That year Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois pushed the "Kansas-Nebraska Act" through the U.S. Congress, overturning the 1820 Missouri Compromise line. Fearing the spread of slavery to western territories, Abraham Lincoln was aroused "as he had never been before."

Contemporaries considered the speech he delivered here in the Old State Capitol on October 4, 1854 to be "one of the ablest & most effective of his life," and identified this as "the occasion of his becoming a great antislavery leader." Lincoln spoke for three hours, proclaiming: "(M)y ancient faith teaches me that 'all men are created equal' and that there can be no moral right in connection with one man's making a slave of another."

Republican newspapers boasted that Douglas had never before endured "such a remorseless tearing of his flimsy arguments." Lincoln repeated the speech in Peoria two weeks later, and it has come down in history as the "Peoria Speech." Historians consider it to be one of Lincoln's most significant addresses.

Mary Todd Lincoln was heard to scold her husband "Why don't you dress up and look like somebody." Mary was a well-bred daughter of Kentucky aristocrats. Abraham was the rough son of illiterate Kentucky dirt farmers. So it is not surprising that Mary tried to educate Lincoln in matters of proper dress and social behavior. The first big purchase of their marriage was "superior black cloth" for a man's suit! She provided what her biographer described as "a marriage-long course in middle-class etiquette."

In Mary's time, women were expected to be the family's guardian of morality and Christian conduct. Gentrifying her husband conformed to Mary's expected marital role. Unlike conventional political wives of her day, however, Mary was openly ambitious for her husband's success and assertive in giving him political advise. The recipient of much criticism, Mary paid a price for being ahead of her time.

Left: This picture of Lincoln at age 56 is his second earliest known photograph. It was taken in October 1854 in Chicago just three weeks after he gave his stirring antislavery speech in Springfield's Old State Capitol.
Right: Mary was age 36 in 1854. There is no known photo of her from that year. Mary did not like to have her picture taken. She thought photos mad her hands too large and her features too fat. Here she appears in 1860 at age 42.

HM NumberHMWR3
Series This marker is part of the Illinois: Looking for Lincoln series
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Friday, September 5th, 2014 at 12:09am PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)16S E 273277 N 4408970
Decimal Degrees39.80050000, -89.64821667
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 39° 48.03', W 89° 38.893'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds39° 48' 1.80" N, 89° 38' 53.58" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)217
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 2-98 E Adams St, Springfield IL 62701, US
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