Because Ideas Matter...
The faculty and staff of Butler University's College of Liberal
Arts and Sciences presents
by Wilbur T. Rawleigh, (1930) reprinted by Freeport
Lincoln-Douglas Society, 1988.
Reviewed by George Geib
W. T. Rawleigh lost his son in the Great
War, and wanted to find a way to express the ideals for which the
youth died. The result was the creation and dedication of a statue
of another great idealist, Abraham Lincoln, to be placed at the
site of his 1858 Freeport, Illinois debate with Sen. Stephen
This book is a detailed record of the preparation and
presentation of the dedication ceremony, originally published by
the sponsor in 1930. The range of material is remarkable.
The centerpiece is an address by Senator George Norris, showing
how Lincoln would have sided with the Progressive movement. The
largest portion of the text is a series of reprints of letters sent
by elderly surviving members of the 1858 audience, incorporating
their recollections of everything from Lincoln's clothing to the
quality of the food at the morning barbecue.
It would be easy to be dismissive of such a book. Norris is
today a forgotten figure outside the Tennessee Valley, many of the
participants were children who remembered little apart from the
excitement of being away from home. But with the recent surge of
interest in American memory, in the ways that our society
recognizes and draws upon the shifting images of the past, the book
is a gem.
Its very scope, incorporating everything from the titles of
books on display at the local library to the remarks of forgotten
local officials, is a wonderful look into the mindset of the 1920s.
And the willingness to allow those aged participants, unedited, to
retell stories they had undoubtedly been telling for seventy-one
years, is what studies of public memory are all about.
The local historical society did us a great service by issuing
- George Geib is professor of history at Butler University .