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This Day in Georgia Civil War History

November 20, 1860

Trumbull Speech Hoping to Avoid Secession

Word of what was going on in the state capital of Milledgeville was spreading across the state. For example, on this day the Columbus Enquirer published the text of Governor Brown’s special message to the General Assembly on its front page. But in Illinois, where Abraham Lincoln still resided before his inauguration the following March, there was hope that secession and war could be avoided, though acknowledging that preparation was already under way for it. Lyman Trumbull, a U.S. Senator from Illinois, gave a speech in Springfield on this day, much of which was actually written by Lincoln himself, including this excerpt:

…I have labored in, and for, the Republican organization with entire confidence that whenever it shall be in power, each and all of the States will be left in as complete control of their own affairs respectively, and at as perfect liberty to choose, and employ, their own means of protecting property, and preserving peace and order within their respective limits, as they have ever been under any administration. Those who have voted for Mr. Lincoln, have expected, and still expect this; and they would not have voted for him had they expected otherwise. I regard it as extremely fortunate for the peace of the whole country, that this point, upon which the Republicans have been so long, and so persistently misrepresented, is now to be brought to a practical test, and placed beyond the possibility of doubt. Disunionists per se, are now in hot haste to get out of the Union, precisely because they perceive they can not, much longer, maintain apprehension among the Southern people that their homes, and firesides, and lives, are to be endangered by the action of the Federal Government. With such “Now, or never” is the maxim. I am rather glad of this military preparation in the South. It will enable the people the more easily to suppress any uprisings there, which their misrepresentations of purposes may have encouraged. …