MR. CHAIRMAN, AND FELLOW-CITIZENS OF MCLEAN COUNTY: To say that I am profoundly touched by the hearty welcome you have extended me, and by the kind and complimentary sentiments you have expressed toward me, is but a feeble expression of the feelings of my heart.
I appear before you this evening for the purpose of vindicating the course which I have felt it my duty to pursue in the Senate of the United States upon the great public questions which have agitated the country since I last addressed you. I am aware that my senatorial course has been arraigned, not only by political foes, but by a few men pretending to belong to the Democratic party, and yet acting in alliance with the enemies of that party, for the purpose of electing Republicans to Congress in this State, in place of the present Democratic delegation. I desire your attention whilst I address you, and then I will ask your verdict, whether I have not in all things acted in entire good faith, and honestly carried out the principles, the professions, and the avowals which I made before my constituents, previous to my going to the Senate.
During the last session of Congress, the great question of controversy has been the admission of Kansas into the Union under the Lecompton Constitution. I need not inform you that from the beginning to the end I took bold, determined, and unrelenting ground in opposition to that Lecompton Constitution. My reason for that course is contained in the fact that that instrument was not the act and the deed of the people of Kansas, and did not embody their will. I hold it to be a fundamental principle in all free governmentsa principle asserted in the