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Abraham Lincoln's Return to Politics: A New Birth of Freedom

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on 29 January 2016

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Transcript of Abraham Lincoln's Return to Politics: A New Birth of Freedom

Abraham Lincoln's Return to Politics: A New Birth of Freedom?
1860-Lincoln's Cooper Union Speech
1854- Lincoln's Speech at Peoria
Word Cloud,
Lincolns Peoria Speech
Transcript of Lincoln's Peoria Speech
John Warner Barber & Henry Howe,Our Whole Country or the Past and Present of the United States....Volume II (New York: Tuttle & McCauley, 1861), 1082
1858-Lincoln's House Divided Speech
Not Half-Settled (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division
Richard Norton Smith discusses the importance of the House Divided Speech
Courtesy of Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Historic American Buildings Survey Photographer Unknown, about 1898, View from South-West.
In his autobiographical sketch to Scripps, Lincoln mentioned the significance of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in re-igniting his political ambitions. The Act repealed thirty years of policy as established by the Missouri Compromise of 1820. Lincoln stated, “I was losing interest in politics, when the repeal of the Missouri Compromise aroused me again.”1
By October of 1854, five months after the ratification of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, Lincoln began his campaign for the Illinois state legislature. He used the campaign as a platform to rail against the Kansas-Nebraska Act, legislation which he found so detrimental to the future of the Union. This campaign ultimately became the cornerstone of his antislavery agenda. The Peoria Speech was one of the many of this 1854 campaign, the longer version of a speech he delivered in Springfield two weeks prior (of which there is no written record). Lincoln, however, did transcribe and publish the Peoria speech, leaving it as an essential record that reflects his emerging views about the nation and slavery.
Excerpt of a Letter, William H. Pierce's reminiscence of a meeting between Lincoln and Douglas in 1854
William H. Pierce. Reminiscence on the debate between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas in Peoria. October 16, 1854, Holograph Manuscript c. 1900. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress. Digital ID # aI0018.
1858, The Lincoln-Douglas Debates
Calvin Jackson. Abraham Lincoln. October 1, 1858. Ambrotype. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (033)
Digital ID# cph-3g13901
Mathew B. Brady. Stephen Arnold Douglas. Daguerreotype, between 1844 and 1860. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (034)
Digital ID# cph-3c10141
Lecture, "Lincoln at the Turning Point: From Peoria the Presidency"
Harold Holzer referred to Lincoln's Cooper Union Address in February of 1860 as "the speech that made Abraham Lincoln president."10 Whether or not Holzer went too far in his assessment is a point of historical contention, but few would deny that the Address was certainly impactful as it introduced or reiterate and his "central idea" to easterners. It also tested his merit as a national candidate.

One of the strengths of the speech is Lincoln's ability to debunk Douglas's theory that popular sovereignty was a built on the Founders' policies regarding slavery. Harnessing the skills that made him an exceptional lawyer, Lincoln presented in the Address a clear and logical case that Republicans must follow a slavery policy, "As those fathers marked it, so let it be again marked, as an evil not to be extended, but to be tolerated and protected only because of and so far as its actual presence among us makes that toleration and protection a necessity."

Lincoln then attacked the southern "Fire Eaters" as the radical radical position, whereas the Republican position was simply a continuation of the Founders' legacy. Lincoln, though, also condemned the motives and actions of John Brown for his raid on Harper's Ferry as it was "'wrong for two reasons. It was a violation of law and it was, as all attacks must be, futile as far as any effect it might have on the extinction of a great evil." The solution to the "great evil," offered by Lincoln, is the one he had been offering for many years-- avoid the reckless and radical agenda on both sides, forbid the expansion of slavery, and allow slavery to meet its natural demise.
Was this the speech that made the president?

Speech of Hon. Abraham Lincoln, in New York, in Vindication of the Policy of the Framers of the Constitution and the Principles of the Republican Party. Delivered in the Cooper Institute, Feb. 27th, 1860. Springfield, IL: Bailhache & Baker, 1860. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (047)
Digital ID # al0047_1, al0047_2-al0047_8
"Lincoln and the Cooper Union Address"
Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC02533
Author/Creator: Lincoln, Abraham (1809-1865)
Place Written: [Springfield?]
Type: Autograph manuscript
Date: [1857/12 ?]
Pagination: 1 p. ; 30.6 x 19.7 cm.
Transcription of the Cooper Union Speech
Excerpt of a letter dated Friday, November 30, 1860 from George W. Gans to Abraham Lincoln urging Lincoln to abide by the tenets of his “House Divided” Speech.
"We all desire the success of your administration, because, in that, will be the triumph of Republicanism--
"The opponents of Slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction"
You will permit me to say, that, declaration strictly adhered to, and kept before us, as a beacon light, will carry you through a glorious and triumphant administration; any thing short of that, will be a perfect failure"

The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress
Series 1. General Correspondence. 1833-1916.
George W. Gans to Abraham Lincoln, Friday, November 30, 1860
Transcript, Lincoln's House Divided Speech
1854- Reaction to the Kansas-Nebraska Act (as indicated in Lincoln's Autobiography for John L. Scripps)
Lincoln, prior to the Kansas-Nebraska Act, viewed slavery on a path to "ultimate extinction." According to Don E. Fehrenbacher this idea was "virtually native to his thinking. The Kansas-Nebraska Act, from his point of view, amounted to a revolution" 2. The Act would exacerbate, rather than retard slavery's growth. In Lincoln's autobiography, Scripps indicated, "In 1854, his profession had almost superseded the thought of politics in his mind, when...
Stern Collection, Library of Congress
Artist - John L. Magee Published by John L. Magee, 48 Passyunk Avenue, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Excerpt of a Letter from President Pierce Regarding the KS-NB Act
"I have just received your letter of the 6th inst.

As to the character of the principals involved in the Nebraska bill and the practical effects, which will undoubtedly flow from their adoption I agree with you entirely."

Word Cloud, Lincoln's House Divided Speech
Lincoln had always been against slavery, but that the institution did not become important to him until the 1850s, as evidenced by the Clay Eulogy and a comparison of the Mary and Joshua Speed Letters. David Donald states that,
1855- Lincoln's Letter to Joshua Speed
Word Cloud, Lincoln's Letter to Joshua Speed, 1855
Questions to Consider:
Compare Lincoln's 1841 letter to Mary Speed to his 1855 letter to Joshua Speed. How do the two differ regarding Lincoln's recollection of his steamboat experience?
Why has Lincoln's recollection changed?
What does this change indicate about the time?
What does this change indicate about Lincoln?
"As Lincoln's sensitivity to the cruelty of slavery changed, so did his memories. In 1841, returning from the Speed plantation, he had been amused by the cheerful docility of a gang of African-Americans who were being sold down the Mississippi. Now reflecting on the scene, he recalled it as a 'continual torment,' which crucified his feelings."4
The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress
Series 3. General Correspondence. 1837-1897.
Abraham Lincoln to Mary Speed, Monday, September 27, 1841 (Personal affairs)
Transcription of Lincoln's Letter
to Mary Speed, 1841
Transcription, Lincoln's Letter to Joshua Speed
"Abraham Lincoln a noted lawyer and leading republican politician of Ill. was also an unfeigned hater of slavery."
On June 16, 1858, after receiving the nomination for Senate, Lincoln delivered an address to Republican delegates at the Illinois Statehouse. The most famous line and the namesake of the House Divided speech would surely be familiar to Lincoln's audience as it was a part of the Gospels, as a reoccuring theme in abolitionist speeches, and in his own speeches campaigning for Republicans.

The address was highly critical of the incumbent, Stephen Douglas, Horace Greeley (who had been sympathetic to the post-Lecompton Constitution- Douglas), and most especially the Kansas-Nebraska Act. In this address, Lincoln iterates the theory that would become the cornerstone of his policy until the Civil War--that slavery should and will end, if its expansion were prohibited. He also warned of the threat of the northern Democrats, the slave power, and the Supreme Court, who were planning to expand slavery into the North. "We shall lie down pleasantly dreaming that the people of Missouri are on the verge of making their State free and we shall awake to the reality , instead, that the Supreme Court has made Illinois a slave State."

Questions to Consider:
Regarding the statement, "A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free," Donald E. Fehrenbacher asked the question, "Why did Lincoln choose this moment for the most provocative utterance of his career?" How would you respond to this question?
Was the threat of slavery's growth into the free states valid?
It possible to divide this speech into three parts. How can this be done?
R.P. Stevens's letter to Abraham Lincoln
Transcription of Lincoln's letter to George Roberts
Abraham Lincoln to George Robertson, August 15, 1855. Holograph letter inserted into George Robertson’s Scrap Book on Law and Politics. Lexington, Kentucky: A.W. Elder, 1855. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (20.00.02)
Digital ID # al0020p2
the repeal of the Missouri compromise aroused him as he had never been before."3
Transcription of the Autobiography Written for John L. Scripps
Reynolds, William C. , Political map of the United States, 1856.Library of Congress Geography and Map Division DIGITAL ID g3701e ct000604 http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.gmd/g3701e.ct000604
" August 26, 1854
After the transaction of the regular business of the convention---adoption of resolutions, &c.,---the Hon. A. Lincoln of your city, who was present, was loudly called for to address the meeting. He responded to the call ably and eloquently, doing complete justice to his reputation as a clear, forcible and convincing public speaker. His subject was the one which is uppermost in the minds of the people---the Nebraska-Kansas bill; and the ingenious, logical, and at the same time fair and candid manner, in which he exhibited the great wrong and injustice of the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, and the extension of slavery into free territory, deserves and has received the warmest commendation of every friend of freedom who listened to him. His was masterly effort---said to be equal to any upon the same subject in Congress,---was replete with unanswerable arguments, which must and will effectually tell at the coming election."

1854-Report of Lincoln's Speech at The Scott County Whig Convention in Winchester, Illinois
Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Volume 2. Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865.
Library of Congress, President Franklin Pierce to William C. Clark, April 9, 1854. Holograph letter. On loan from a private collector (014.00.00) Digital ID # al0014_01
Mississippi Historical Society, http://mshistorynow.mdah.state.ms.us/articles/58/
1856, Lincoln's Republican Banquet Speech
Although James Buchanan won the presidency, the Republicans' showing in the Election of 1856 was not all that bad. Republican William H. Bissell won the governor's seat in Illinois. Furthermore, the only reason Buchanan won the presidency was that the anti-Buchanan vote was split between the Republican, Frémont and the Know-Nothing, Fillmore. Taken together, the anti-Buchanan vote was a majority of 400,000, enough to have defeated Buchanan.5

Lincoln, who had been "catapulted" into the national political debate over slavery because of his opposition to the Kansas-Nebraska Act, was quickly becoming a spokesman for Republican ideals. To ensure that anti-Nebraska men be elected to high office, he was also becoming something of a party manager and coalition builder. This is tendency is clearly reflected by the Republican Banquet Speech. With the Clay eulogy and the Peoria speech, we can begin to put Lincoln's sense of nationalism and position on slavery into focus, but the the Banquet speech sharpens the portrait of the anti-slavery national leader that we will see after the Supreme Court's Dred Scott Decision, which was only three months away.

Lincoln is known to have said, "I have never had a feeling, politically that did not spring from the Declaration of Independence."6 His Republican Banquet speech certainly shows that even as he was trying to whip the Republican party into shape, he was doing so with the "central idea" of equality foremost in his mind.
Lincoln in 1860, Courtesy The Library of Congress, Images of Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) from the Prints and Photographs Reading Room, Library of Congress
Questions to Consider:
What was Lincoln's primary criticism of Popular Sovereignty?
Lincoln referred to a "central idea." What was it and how did he propose to carry it through?
How is the Declaration of Independence apparent in the Banquet Speech?
Word Cloud, Republican Banquet Speech
Transcription of the Republican Banquet Speech
The Speech That Made Lincoln President
Cooper Union Speech Is Credited with Winning Over Skeptics
Questions to consider:
Lincoln closes the Cooper Union Address with the following, "LET US HAVE FAITH THAT RIGHT MAKES MIGHT, AND IN THAT FAITH, LET US, TO THE END, DARE TO DO OUR DUTY AS WE UNDERSTAND IT." What did he mean? Was it effective?
Why did Lincoln invoke the Founders? What was its effect?
In what ways was the Address quite conservative? How was it a departure from his House Divided Address?
Find out what Lincoln's contempories thought:
Find out what historians say:

Transcription of Debates
Don Fehrenbacher summarized the difference between Lincoln and Douglas:
"Lincoln's case against Douglas may be summarized as follows: The divisive influence of slavery was one great threat to the American union, and the policy inaugurated in the Kansas-Nebraska Act had only intensified the sectional conflict. On the moral issue posed by slavery there could be no middle ground; the neutralism preached by Douglas was calculated to dull the Northern conscience and thus clear the way for legalization of the institution everywhere in the nation. Only the Republican program, which accorded with the views of the founding fathers, offered a feasible alternative to this grim eventuality. Slavery must be recognized as an evil and, within the bounds of the Constitution, treated as an evil. Specifically, it must be confined to its existing limits and marked for ultimate extinction."9
Word Cloud, Lincoln Douglas Debates
First Debate
Second Debate
Third Debate
Fourth Debate
Fifth Debate
Seventh Debate
Sixth Debate
Culminating Question:
What do the events outlined here indicate about Lincoln's growth? Does his re-entry into politics in the 1850s represent a "new birth of freedom"?
Lincoln and Douglas debated five times formally during the senatorial campaign of 1858. While Lincoln did not win the senate seat, the debates prepared him, in many ways, for the presidential election of 1860.

Perhaps for political expediency, Douglas made much of these debate about race--he actually wished to appeal to all Democrats by presenting himself as the candidate opposed to "negro equality." This gave Lincoln the opportunity to present himself as Douglas's opposite. Although he did not advocate for racial equality in these debates, he did include African-Americans in the "meaning of the Declaration of Independence." 7

Although Lincoln was, in many ways, Douglas's opposite, the Debates also prove that Lincoln was attempting to gain the support of the people of Illinois, even the most racist among them. William Lee Miller indicates that Lincoln "made defensive concessions to racial prejudice on all points except the crucial minimum (the Negro's humanity and the basic right to live his own life)."8 He also continued to support the illogical proposal of colonization. These are important points to consider as one analyzes the Lincoln-Douglas Debates.
Analyze the extent to which Lincoln's re-entry into politics in the 1850s represented a "new birth of freedom"
Analyze the extent to which Lincoln's political life in the 1850s evolved with regard to slavery
Analyze the extent to which Lincoln's political life reflected his nationalism
Analyze the extent to which Lincoln's anti-slavery beliefs were tied to his definition of nationalism

Intended Audience- Grade 10
Questions to Consider:
What are Lincoln's views of race, as presented in these debates?
Do you find these views correspond with your ideas about Lincoln?
Why do you suppose Lincoln asserted these views?
Footnotes of Secondary Sources:
1. David Herbert Donald, Lincoln, 165.
2. Don E. Fehrenbacher, Prelude to Greatness, 85.
3. Abraham Lincoln, Autobiography for John L. Scripps.
4. David Herbert Donald, Lincoln, 165.
5. Ibid, 199.
6. Lewis E. Lehrman, Lincoln by Littles, 44.
7. William Lee Miller, Lincoln's Virtues, 343.
8. Ibid, 353.
9. Don E. Fehrenbacher, Prelude to Greatness, 107.
10. Harold Holzer, Lincoln at Cooper Union: The Speech that Made Abraham Lincoln President.

Questions to Consider:
Why was Lincoln so disturbed by the Kansas-Nebraska Act?
How did the law threaten his view of nationalism?
How did the law affect his views of slavery?
Is it accurate to suggest that the Kansas-Nebraska Act made Lincoln's political career?
Questions to Consider:
What was the significance of the NW-Ordinance and Missouri Compromise in the Peoria Speech?
Does this speech reflect the words of an abolitionist? Why or why not?
What, does Lincoln propose, is the effect of the Kansas-Nebraska Act on other nations of the world?
Did Lincoln empathize with Southerners? If yes, how?
Despite Lincoln’s public endorsement of Zachary Talyor in 1848, and his defection from the crumbling Whig party in 1856, for the rest of his life, Lincoln remained deeply committed to the nationalist ideals he found in Henry Clay. In 1852, Lincoln eulogized his political idol in Springfield. While the eulogy gained him little political capital it provides significant insight into Lincoln’s views of Clay and of himself. It also provides us with an opportunity to glimpse Lincoln’s sense of nationalism and the role that slavery played in its evolution. In this eulogy, Lincoln made a premeditated decision to discuss Clay’s views on slavery. Lincoln’s eulogy of Clay was actually, according to biographer David Donald, the only one that, “explicitly dealt with Clay’s views on slavery," revealing a change in Lincoln's attitudes about slavery. It could be argued that prior to 1852, he did not much consider slavery, but exposure to abolitionists such as Joshua Giddings and Horace Mann in Washington DC had led Lincoln to seriously consider the atrocities of the instituition. 1
Transcript of Lincoln's Eulogy for Henry Clay
Courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Henry Clay, DAG no. 135
Word Cloud, Lincoln's Eulogy for Henry Clay
Questions to Consider:
What does his emphasis on slavery in the Clay Eulogy indicate about Lincoln's changing views on slavery?
How does the Eulogy reflect Lincoln's definition of nationalism?
Does this eulogy predict Lincoln's political future in any way?
1852- Lincoln's Eulogy for Henry Clay
Full transcript