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Abraham Lincoln: Cooper Union Speech

Date: January 7th
Time: 7:00 PM EST
This seminar is now closed.

After his U.S. Senate defeat to Democrat Stephen A. Douglas in January 1859, Lincoln began considering a presidential run. Invited to speak in New York City by the clergyman Henry Ward Beecher (1813–87), Lincoln began drafting one of the longest and most important speeches of his political career. On February 27, 1860, the dark-horse candidate faced an audience of 1,500 spectators, including such luminaries as the editor of the antislavery New York Tribune, Horace Greeley (1811–72). The next day, 170,000 copies of the speech were in circulation through the newspapers, and less than ten weeks later, Lincoln secured the Republican nomination for president. What So Proudly We Hail

Excerpt:

“Now, and here, let me guard a little against being misunderstood. I do not mean to say we are bound to follow implicitly in whatever our fathers did. To do so, would be to discard all the lights of current experience—to reject all progress—all improvement. What I do say is, that if we would supplant the opinions and policy of our fathers in any case, we should do so upon evidence so conclusive, and argument so clear, that even their great authority, fairly considered and weighed, cannot stand; and most surely not in a case whereof we ourselves declare they understood the question better than we.”

Full text of speech.