5 - WINDS OF WAR
My work on the boat ended again on December the 1st. I then returned home to teach school again that winter. The following spring found me disinclined to return to steam-boating. We bought forty acres of land for four hundred dollars. This proved to be a poor investment. It was situated on a hillside and was what we called "sprouty land". That is, it would break out in springs in the springtime; there was considerable that was grubby also. But we soon succeeded in cutting over twenty acres of it with the grub hoe. This part of it was good land, and besides this we rented considerable land of my brother-in-law.
I did all the raking and plowing with a fine yoke of young oxen. We bought them as steers for fifty dollars and broke them ourselves. Occasionally we used one horse which we had to help the oxen in an extraordinary heavy bit of plowing. Our first crop yielded well. The corn produced about fifty bushels per acre, the price for it ranged from twenty to twenty-five cents per bushel. Beside our green crops, we raised several acres of sugar cane of sorghum. Some of it we sold it in the neighborhood for fifty cents per gallon. The remainder of it we sold in Galena and Warren at about the same price. Much of our pork we sold in Warren, dressed and ready for the Chicago market. At that time there were no sign of a packing house in Chicago.
At this time a great question was agitating the whole country. Abolition had stirred the nation from Maine to Florida and from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans. Stephen A. Douglass was running for reelection to the Senate, so when the great debate took place at Freeport, we nearly all boarded the special train which went from Galena. The passenger coaches were soon all filled and coal cars, attached to the train, were all filled with sturdy farmers filled with patriotic fervor and excitedly anticipating the great debate, which was to take place in Freeport twenty miles away - a town with about two or three thousand people at that time. At one o'clock, out on the fair ground where several thousand people waited anxiously to see and to hear the great champions debate, Lincoln and Douglass met for the debate which was to decide the fate of the nation.
When our delegation arrived, Lincoln was in the hotel. E.B. Washburne, our representative in Congress, awaited our arrival. He escorted us to Lincoln's room and announced the arrival of the "Joe Daviess delegation". Lincoln greeted us very cordially, warmly shaking hands with everyone who could get near him. His form towered above us all, and his kindly and serious face deeply impressed all who met him. His great powerful hand seemed to me to be much larger and stronger than the average man, and theirs of a child.
Douglass opened the debate. He commanded the close attention of the audience by his flowery oratory. He stated that, in a very plausible way, he has reasoned to eliminate the Mason and Dixon line. Among the statements he made, clearly defining and defending his course, he said "The southern part of Illinois should be slave territory, and that the south must have an outlet for their slaves, a more extensive market." His brilliant oratory won applause in every audience, but Lincoln's friends bitterly resented his attacks upon Lincoln personally. But humanity may well rejoice that there were hundreds, yes thousands, who heard the great everlasting truths which Lincoln annunciated, and were thrilled with the deep patriotic spirit they invoked, and the intensifying love for their brothers which that great soul'd man brought forth.
There were not many times in the history of a nation when men are so deeply stirred as were the farmers on that great occasion. When Lincoln declared the everlasting truth - "a house divided against itself cannot stand", he proved that he was the "statesman of the hour", one having a clear, practical view combined with a deep moral sense. Every sentence he uttered proved him to be a statesman superlatively gifted for the needs of the hour. This was the day that he laid the foundation for his becoming President. Illinois had been ruled by the Democrats for years. The state was hopelessly in debt, so the Democrats were perhaps greatly in the majority at that memorable gathering.
When men returned to their homes that day, they realized that Abraham Lincoln was the master reasoner of the day. With eloquence born of a vision of God's plan of human brotherhood, nor could people avoid the condition that war was a possibility, as a solution of the critical situation - however deplorable it was.
During the next two years there was little prosperity in the whole country. Prices for everything were extremely low. The value of our wild cat money was most uncertain. I shall always remember the time I hurried to the bank to deposit two hundred and fifty dollars and found the bank closed, but I finally prevailed upon the banker to accept the money and give me a Certificate of Deposit for it. At about one o'clock the following day, when The Detective, a pamphlet sent through the country by the Board of Exchange of Chicago, announcing the condition of the money market, our banker told me that the money I had left with him the day before was not worth ten cents on a hundred dollars, due to the insolvency of the banks and firms issuing the currency. At this time anyone could, who possessed property, apply to the Governor for a permit to issue money, and be allowed to do so in an amount based upon the value of gold, or of ones property. This system continued until 1863 when the greenback system superseded it. I will remember, at one time, we had eighteen - two hundred pound hogs, which we were offered one dollar each for, but my wife flatly refused to consider such an outrageous price.