Dedicated to self-made men and women who earn the respect of others
A Note to Readers
In 1858 Abraham Lincoln gives up his law practice to oppose Stephen Douglas over the extension of slavery. The Republican Party, formed just four years earlier, nominates Lincoln as their candidate for U.S. Senate. Lincoln has little money or prestige while Douglas is a powerful, wealthy Washington insider. The candidates hold seven joint debates, which are scattered across Illinois and make it possible for large crowds to attend. The candidates debate in the open air without moderators. Constituents hiss and cheer and throw things. At times the audience drowns out the politicians. Candidate Lincoln goes inside those crowds. Readers hear Lincoln and Douglas wrangle. Their 1858 campaign becomes a primer for every politician who follows, but it is also one of a kind. Though voters have many other concerns, Lincoln and Douglas limit the discussion to two topics—personal insults and what to do about slavery.
Before they take the stage for the first debate, murders in Kansas Territory show the violent path the country is on. Lincoln opens his campaign by declaring a “house divided against itself cannot stand.” Douglas pounces on the House Divided speech, saying Lincoln will destroy the South or lead the country into war. Though travel is difficult, thousands come in person to hear the candidates speak. No one is disappointed in the spectacle or the debates. Lincoln and Douglas are experienced lawyers, who argue the case of what to do about slavery before the public. Two powerful speakers restrain each other and coach public sentiment. They stir politics and human rights together. Their campaign is contagious; they create a viable mixture. The campaign fascinates the whole nation because Illinois struggles with the same sectional divisions as the rest of country—north, border and southern. The debates unfold in cliff-hanging installments and ignite passions on all sides. Opposing definitions of democracy infect the nation. Within two years the Union is ailing. Within three years it is struggling to survive.
A variety of main characters in my new novel, Candidate Lincoln, represent different political views. Their stories dramatize passions that tore America apart and lead to catastrophic loss of life during the American Civil War. I hope you enjoy this excerpt. If you do, please look for the paperback on Amazon or on your preferred site for the ebook. Thanks, Georgiann Baldino
“If I am not safe at Alton, I shall not be safe anywhere.”Elijah P. Lovejoy Alton, Illinois
Every year on the anniversary of Elijah’s death Scotch Johnston returned to the grave. No one in Alton knew where Elijah’s body was buried except Scotch. Locals wanted to forget Elijah Lovejoy lived in Alton and certainly wanted to forget that a mob gunned him down in the street.
When Scotch was sure no one watched, he knelt in prayer. God must have, in His wisdom, chosen Elijah’s name. Old Elijah of the Bible stood up to King Ahab and his Phoenician wife. Alton’s Elijah stood up to slave mongers. Elijah had first settled across the Mississippi in Missouri, where slavery prevailed. He opened a newspaper, hired slaves to help print the news and treated them fairly. When masters hired slaves out to Elijah, it was a blessing, for he made life easier. Elijah wrote about all manner of disaster in his newspaper, the cholera epidemic and the fire that destroyed the best steamboats. The city of St. Louis had pain enough to go ’round. Yet no matter how many troubles white people had, Elijah stopped long enough to also see the black man’s misery, was the only white man Scotch ever saw who cared about all God’s children.
After a while, Elijah wrote about slave pens. Inhuman goings on white folks didn’t want to read, nor hear. Black children pulled away from their mothers’ breasts. Slaves kept ignorant, so’s to keep them down. Teeth knocked out. Starved into obedience. Abolitionists praised Elijah, said what he wrote led the country out of darkness, while slaveholders blasted him and said he endangered peace for one and all.
Then trouble came knocking. People in St. Louis took a black prisoner out of the jail and burned him at the stake before he could stand trial. Elijah wrote about that too—them forming a mob and committing foul murder. In return,