Friday, May 29, 2009

The great Lincoln mystery - a speech lost

I thought I knew a lot about Abraham Lincoln - that was until I moved to McLean County, Illinois, often lauded as Lincoln's home away from home. His ties to the Bloomington area are far stronger than the casual Lincoln enthusiast could ever imagine. Though I can't share them all in this article, I can tell you that today is the anniversary of Lincoln's most infamous - and most curious - Bloomington connection, his "Lost Speech."

Lincoln delivered a speech at Major's Hall in Bloomington on May 29, 1856 at a gathering in which the Illinois Republican party was formed. Legend has it the speech was so mesmerizing those there to report upon it set their writing instruments aside and forgot to record what may have been one of history's most powerful speeches. That may be true. The great orator surely spoke of slavery that day, and many contend Lincoln likely echoed many of the same sentiments a week or so later in a speech at Peoria, Illinois.

Or could it be, as one of my Lincoln friends speculates, that it was intentionally "lost," so as to avoid leaking the "trade secrets" of the new party?

Learn more
To read more about the Lost Speech, see:

The power of the written word
If you come to Bloomington today, you won't be able to stand in Major's Hall, where Lincoln delivered the speech. That building is long gone, and in its place is a parking garage. You'll find a plaque to mark the spot, though - a simple, but powerful, reminder of the importance of the written word in keeping moments in history from slipping into oblivion.

Coincidentally, Lincoln himself spoke of the power of the written word in "Discoveries and Inventions," a speech he presented just two years later a couple of blocks from Major's Hall. The site of that speech still stands, and Rhoda and Lowell Sneller have made the text of the speech available to all through their Abraham Lincoln Online website. In that speech, Lincoln said, "Writing -- the art of communicating thoughts to the mind, through the eye -- is the great invention of the world."

© Copyright 2009 Ann Tracy Mueller. All rights reserved.

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