Ohioans’ views of the man changed greatly from his 1st Capitol visit to last Wednesday,  February 11, 2009 3:31 AM
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
On his first visit to the Ohio Statehouse, Abraham Lincoln was definitely not a big hit.
The little-known Republican presidential candidate from Illinois, then cleanshaven and without his trademark stovepipe hat, spoke for two hours to a crowd of about 50 people. The spot where Lincoln stood on Sept. 16, 1859, has been memorialized with a bronze plaque affixed to a stone column in the Statehouse Atrium, the building that encloses what once was the east entrance to the Statehouse.
His topics that day: slavery and preservation of the union.
On Thursday, 200 years after his birth, Lincoln’s eventful life and his three visits to the Statehouse — one of them posthumous — will be observed at a 10 a.m. Statehouse ceremony at which Gov. Ted Strickland and other officials will rededicate the Lincoln and Vicksburg Monument in the Rotunda.
The monument, by Cincinnati sculptor Thomas Dow Jones, began in 1860 as a bust of the then newly elected president. After Lincoln’s assassination, Jones incorporated the bust into a monument to soldiers on both sides who died in the Battle of Vicksburg. It was dedicated in 1870.
The event will include the unveiling of a Lincoln photo exhibit, a Statehouse Museum Shop sale and birthday cake for the 16th president. In addition, Lincoln historian Gary Kersey will offer 45-minute presentations at noon and 3 p.m. in the Atrium.
The celebration will be shared by fourth-graders from Saint Mary Elementary School, 700 S. 3rd St., in German Village, who will dress in period costumes and recite the Gettysburg Address. The students will travel to and from the Statehouse in a horse-drawn carriage.
Historical records show that on his first appearance in Ohio in 1859, Lincoln’s position on slavery had not evolved as it would later when he issued the Emancipation Proclamation. He said slavery was unconstitutional, but argued that he was misquoted in an Ohio newspaper about the comments against slavery he made during his debates with Sen. Stephen Douglas of Illinois.
“I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races — that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, or intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position, the negro should be denied everything.”
As president, Lincoln returned to the Statehouse on Feb. 14, 1861, to address a joint session of the Ohio General Assembly and meet with Gov. William Dennison. Lincoln’s reception was larger and more enthusiastic this time, with crowds around the Statehouse “packed together like pickles in a jar,” according to one newspaper account.
Lincoln’s body lay in state in the Statehouse Rotunda on April 29, 1865. The 50,000 people who paid their final respects to the slain leader set a single-event record.
Read the full text of Lincoln’s 1859 speech at the Statehouse at www.mrlincolnandfreedom.org/inside.asp?ID=81&subjectID=2.
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