Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, Summer 2021
Volume 114, Number 2
Guest Editor: David Joens
As an Illinois historian, I sometimes find it frustrating that many people seem to reduce Illinois history to Abraham Lincoln. However, in putting together this issue of the Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, it struck me that no matter how you slice it, when writing about Illinois, Lincoln looms large. So, while there is no “Lincoln theme” for this issue of the Journal, Lincoln is omnipresent.
This can be seen in John Ayabe’s thought-provoking article “Sacred Citizenship: Peter Cartwright and the Formation of Civic Responsibility in the Illinois Backcounty.” Cartwright was a circuit riding Methodist minister and one of the most well-known men in central Illinois before the Civil War. Yet he is most known today, if he is known at all, as the man Lincoln defeated for Congress in 1846. Cartwright also served a term in the Illinois General Assembly from Lincoln’s Sangamon County district, having defeated Lincoln in a multi-candidate field. Ayabe, a professor and the History Department chair at Simpson University in California, argues that while Cartwright’s Methodist theology provided him with his theological beliefs, it also provided him with a strong sense of duty to civic participation. It was this belief that citizenship in a democracy includes obligations to the community that led Cartwright to participate in electoral politics, including his failed congressional campaign.
Lincoln plays a much more prominent part in Kevin Portteus’s article, “Lincoln and Douglas at Freeport: A New Look at an Old Question.” Freeport was the location of the second and most important of the seven debates between US Senate candidates Lincoln and Stephen Douglas in 1858. At Freeport, Lincoln asked Douglas four questions. While Douglas won the 1858 Senate race, historians have argued that his response to Lincoln’s questions ultimately resulted in his defeat for the presidency in 1860. Portteus, the Lawrence Fertig Professor of Politics at Hillsdale College in Michigan, evaluates different historical interpretations of Lincoln’s strategy at the debate and concludes that one of Lincoln’s goals was to isolate Douglas from southern support for his upcoming presidential run. As Portteus writes, Lincoln’s strategy meant that when Douglas ran for president in 1860, he could only count on the support of Northern Democrats, and they lacked the strength to carry him to victory.
Lincoln, of course, was the ultimate beneficiary of Douglas’s weakness in the 1860 presidential election, winning the election himself over Douglas and a divided Democratic Party. What followed was a Civil War that left approximately 35,000 Illinoisans dead. With the wounds still raw, family, elected officials, veterans, and others began the task of making sense of the war and commemorating the sacrifices made by both the soldiers and Lincoln. In his article “Remembering the Fallen: The Creation of Civil War Monuments in Illinois, 1865–1929,” Jeremy Knoll examines the changing motivations in the commemoration of the Civil War in Illinois from the end of the war to the beginning of the Great Depression. Knoll, an undergraduate history student from Northern Illinois University, writes that Illinois communities went through three periods of commemoration in this time frame. He argues that understanding these time periods provides a more complete understanding of how the Civil War was remembered in the North and how commemoration itself changed.
These three articles present the finest that the Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society has to offer. In these articles, one can see uniquely Illinois historical events. Yet the authors use these events to present themes and issues that had, and still have, a national significance. The meaning of citizenship, the long-lasting repercussions of the Freeport debate, and the way we commemorate the past are issues that are still important today in both Illinois and the nation. Lincoln once said, “We cannot escape history.” In Illinois, we cannot escape Lincoln. As these three articles demonstrate, this is not a bad thing.
Sacred Citizenship: Peter Cartwright and the Formation of Civic Responsibility in the Illinois Backcounty
John A. Ayabe
Remembering the Fallen: The Creation of Civil War Monuments in Illinois, 1865–1929
Lincoln and Douglas at Freeport: A New Look at an Old Question
The Mound Builder Myth: Fake History and the Hunt for a “Lost White Race
By Jason Colavito
Reviewed by Todd Carr
Germans in Illinois
By Miranda E. Wilkerson and Heather Richmond
Reviewed by Stu Fliege
Owen Lovejoy and the Coalition for Equality: Clergy, African Americans, and Women United for Abolition
By Jane Ann Moore and William F. Moore
Reviewed by Wayne Duerkes
Jane Addams’s Evolutionary Theorizing: Constructing Democracy and Social Ethics
By Marilyn Fischer
Reviewed by Wendy Adele-Marie
Roger C. Sullivan and the Triumph of the Chicago Democratic Machine, 1908–1920
By Richard Allen Morton
Reviewed by Richard C. Lindberg
Frontiers of Boyhood: Imagining America
By Martin Woodside
Reviewed by Eric Mogren
Roots of the Black Chicago Renaissance: New Negro Writers, Artists, and Intellectuals, 1893–1930
Edited by Richard A. Courage and Christopher Robert Reed
Reviewed by David Joens
Landscapes of Hope: Nature and the Great Migration in Chicago
By Brian McCammack
Reviewed by Melissa Ford
Citizen Brown: Race Democracy, and Inequality in the St. Louis Suburbs
By Colin Gordon
Reviewed by Gregory Wood
Leadership in Turbulent Times
By Doris Kearns Goodwin
Reviewed by Matthew Toland
The Illinois Memorial on the battlefield at Vicksburg, Mississippi, pictured here in the early twentieth century. Photograph from Detroit Publishing Company Photograph Collection, Library of Congress.