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Much Noted and Long Remembered

November 19, 2015

From 1789 until 1913 U.S. Senators were not elected by popular vote. They were appointed by their respective state legislatures. So, when Abraham Lincoln ran for the U.S. Senate in 1858, he had to get the people of Illinois to vote for legislators who would in turn vote for him. Lincoln’s Republicans received a majority of the people’s votes, but the Democrats retained enough seats in the legislature to send their own candidate, Stephen Douglas, to the U.S. Senate.

The Senate campaign of 1858 had begun with Lincoln’s “House Divided” speech, followed by the seven Lincoln-Douglas Debates. On November 19, 1858 Lincoln wrote to an old friend that, even though he had not won the legislature’s favor and would not be going to Washington, he was still glad to have made the effort. “It gave me a hearing on the great and durable question of the age, which I could have had in no other way; and though I now sink out of view, and shall be forgotten, I believe I have made some marks which will tell for the cause of civil liberty long after I am gone.”

But Lincoln was not forgotten. Exactly five years to the day, on a great Civil War battlefield, he once again had the opportunity to display his modesty. On that occasion he said: “The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here,” but Lincoln’s words from November 19, 1863 have been much noted and long remembered and are carved into the south wall of the memorial that bears Lincoln’s name.

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