Abraham Lincoln achieved national prominence as a result of the series of debates with Senator Stephen Douglas in the fall of 1858. Lincoln was unsuccessful in defeating the Senator so why did he travel to four states and the Kansas Territory on speaking engagements in 1859? Again, it was to counter Douglas as he stumped for Democratic candidates. Lincoln arrived in Ellwood, Kansas Territory, on December 1st, just five days before the territorial elections. While in Ellwood, Lincoln gave a speech and purchased “12 pounds sugar and five pounds [of] coffee” according to Lincoln Day by Day (p. 266). The next day he gave speeches in Troy and in Atchison; he also purchased a peck of apples. On December 3rd, and again on the 5th, he presented speeches in Leavenworth and then left Leavenworth after the territorial elections for his return to Illinois. The December 1st date is notable as it was just one day before the execution of John Brown in the State of Virginia. According to biographer Ronald C. White, Jr., Lincoln “offered his first public comment on the former Kansan” in the Ellwood speech. Lincoln denounced the John Brown Raid as illegal and “ ‘futile’ in terms of its effect ‘on the extinction of a great evil’ ” (White, 304).
We are left with a bit of a mystery though…why did Lincoln purchase so many apples and so much sugar and coffee? He also purchased “hats, shoes, [and] comforters” on his Kansas trip…
Miers, Earl Schenck, ed. Lincoln Day by Day: A Chronology, 1809-1865. Dayton, OH: Morningside, 1991.
White, Ronald C., Jr. A. Lincoln: A Biography. New York: Random House, 2009.