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100 N. 5th St.
Leavenworth, KS 66048
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Lincoln at the Planters (#11)


From 4th Street (7 Hwy), turn east on Delaware Street. Go 3 blocks, turn north on Esplanade Street, go one block. The wayside is on the east side of Esplanade.

About This Location

Historic Wayside Tour #11
Lincoln at the Planters - December 5, 1859
On this site once stood the most famous and magnificent hotel between St. Louis and San Francisco - the Planters'. The Planters, a fine four story brick building with 100 guestrooms, opened for business in December 1856.

The Planter's most distinguished guest, Abraham Lincoln visited Leavenworth from the 3rd to the 7th of December 1859. He was not yet president and he didn't have the beard we usually picture him with. But he was an important man, here to do some important things.

Lincoln had just bested Stephen Douglas in their famous debates. He was a national figure, considered by some as a possible vice president.

He had been invited to speak at the Republican Party National Convention and wanted to try out his ideas for that speech on the people. His appearance in the territory might also help the Republicans in the election, so when Mark Delahay, a friend and distant relative invited him, Lincoln agreed to come to Leavenworth.

He made brief stops elsewhere in Northeast Kansas that were well received, but rather sparsely attended. Leavenworth, however, had prepared a grand reception. Lincoln was met by a huge parade of horsemen, carriages, a band and the party faithful. "Old Kickapoo" a cannon used in the Bleeding Kansas fight, was fired in honor of Lincoln's presence.

On the night of December 3rd Lincoln spoke at Leavenworth's famous Stockton Hall. Although the weather was bitterly cold the hall was

filled to overflowing. Lincoln reviewed the history of federal policy toward slavery in the United States. He said the Republican Party sought to maintain that historic policy: not interfering with slavery in the south, but prohibiting its extension into new territories. He urged his listeners not to use violence as John Brown had just done, but to triumph through the ballot box. The speech was well received and because there so many more that wanted to hear it, Lincoln was persuaded to extend his stay and speak again on December 5th from the steps of the Planters Hotel. An estimated crowd of 1500 people were standing in Main Street when Lincoln gave his speech again. An eastern newspaper man observed "It was the largest mass meeting that ever assembled on Kansas soil, and the greatest address ever heard here."

Lincoln made a strong impression on the Kansans who met him. One described him as made up of "hands, head, feet and length". Another said he had; "... legs you could fold up. The knees stood up like the hind

joints of a Kansas Grasshopper ... The buttons were off his shirt." While the Republican leaning Leavenworth Times was predictably positive on his speech, the Democrat editor of the Leavenworth Herald started off with a hostile tone, "... he bears the appearance of a man well in his prime, but without dignity or grace ... His style of delivery, though concise, and striking plainly on the hearer, bears the impress of labored efforts ... while his ideas are put forth in language totally at variance with all rules of grammar." But after spending a day with Lincoln he wrote a more personal assessment: "Judge Lincoln was the soul of the company. Whilst we abhor the political heresies to which he adheres, none can deny that he is a high-toned, honorable and dignified gentleman. He has an inexhaustible store of the humorous in his composition, although his appearance would indicate that he was the gravest of the grave."

Many legends have sprung up around Lincoln's visit to Leavenworth. He is said to have requested to sample Leavenworth's beer during his visit. Later, local brewers advertised their brand as the one that gave Lincoln the strength to write his famous speech. A local brothel was supposed to have been closed just to make a better impression on the visiting dignitary. A Leavenworth preacher, previously timid on the subject of slavery, was said to have been so transformed after hosting Lincoln in the parsonage that proslavers ran him out of town. Lincoln stayed in the Planters Hotel and visited with friends for 5 days. If all those who claim "Lincoln slept here" are to be believed his visit would have to have extended over several months.

Two months later Lincoln made his famous Coopers' Union Address at the Republican Convention in New York City - the speech that won him the nomination for President. When the text was printed in the newspapers, those who had heard him speak in Leavenworth were surprised to find it was basically the same speech he had given here. Thus Lincoln's visit to Leavenworth was an important part of a campaign which lead to the White House and his singular place in American history.


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