Abraham Lincoln

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Abraham Lincoln : biography

February 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865

After the state Republican party convention nominated him for the U.S. Senate in 1858, Lincoln delivered his House Divided Speech, drawing on : "A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved—I do not expect the house to fall—but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other."White, p. 251. The speech created an evocative image of the danger of disunion caused by the slavery debate, and rallied Republicans across the North.Harris, p. 98. The stage was then set for the campaign for statewide election of the Illinois legislature which would, in turn, select Lincoln or Douglas as its U.S. senator.Donald (1996), p. 209.

Lincoln–Douglas debates and Cooper Union speech

The Senate campaign featured the seven Lincoln–Douglas debates of 1858, the most famous political debates in American history.McPherson (1993), p. 182. The principals stood in stark contrast both physically and politically. Lincoln warned that "The Slave Power" was threatening the values of republicanism, and accused Douglas of distorting the values of the Founding Fathers that all men are created equal, while Douglas emphasized his Freeport Doctrine, that local settlers were free to choose whether to allow slavery or not, and accused Lincoln of having joined the abolitionists.Donald (1996), pp. 214–224. The debates had an atmosphere of a prize fight and drew crowds in the thousands. Lincoln stated Douglas’ popular sovereignty theory was a threat to the nation’s morality and that Douglas represented a conspiracy to extend slavery to free states. Douglas said that Lincoln was defying the authority of the U.S. Supreme Court and the Dred Scott decision.Donald (1996), p. 223.

Though the Republican legislative candidates won more popular votes, the Democrats won more seats, and the legislature re-elected Douglas to the Senate. Despite the bitterness of the defeat for Lincoln, his articulation of the issues gave him a national political reputation.Carwardine (2003), pp. 89–90. In May 1859, Lincoln purchased the Illinois Staats-Anzeiger, a German-language newspaper which was consistently supportive; most of the state’s 130,000 German Americans voted Democratic but there was Republican support that a German-language paper could mobilize.Donald (1996), pp. 242, 412.

On February 27, 1860, New York party leaders invited Lincoln to give a speech at Cooper Union to a group of powerful Republicans. Lincoln argued that the Founding Fathers had little use for popular sovereignty and had repeatedly sought to restrict slavery. Lincoln insisted the moral foundation of the Republicans required opposition to slavery, and rejected any "groping for some middle ground between the right and the wrong".Jaffa, p. 473. Despite his inelegant appearance—many in the audience thought him awkward and even uglyHolzer, pp. 108–111.—Lincoln demonstrated an intellectual leadership that brought him into the front ranks of the party and into contention for the Republican presidential nomination. Journalist Noah Brooks reported, "No man ever before made such an impression on his first appeal to a New York audience."Carwardine (2003), p. 97.Holzer, p. 157. Historian Donald described the speech as a "superb political move for an unannounced candidate, to appear in one rival’s (William H. Seward) own state at an event sponsored by the second rival’s (Salmon P. Chase) loyalists, while not mentioning either by name during its delivery."Donald (1996), p. 240. In response to an inquiry about his presidential intentions, Lincoln said, "The taste is in my mouth a little."Donald (1996), p. 241.

1860 Presidential nomination and campaign

On May 9–10, 1860, the Illinois Republican State Convention was held in Decatur.Donald (1996), p. 244. Lincoln’s followers organized a campaign team led by David Davis, Norman Judd, Leonard Swett, and Jesse DuBois, and Lincoln received his first endorsement to run for the presidency.Oates, pp. 175–176. Exploiting the embellished legend of his frontier days with his father, Lincoln’s supporters adopted the label of "The Rail Candidate".Donald (1996), p. 245. On May 18, at the Republican National Convention in Chicago, Lincoln’s friends promised and manipulated and won the nomination on the third ballot, beating candidates such as William H. Seward and Salmon P. Chase. A former Democrat, Hannibal Hamlin of Maine, was nominated for Vice President to balance the ticket. Lincoln’s success depended on his reputation as a moderate on the slavery issue, and his strong support for Whiggish programs of internal improvements and the protective tariff.Luthin, pp. 609–629. On the third ballot Pennsylvania put him over the top. Pennsylvania iron interests were reassured by his support for protective tariffs.Hofstadter, pp. 50–55. Lincoln’s managers had been adroitly focused on this delegation as well as the others, while following Lincoln’s strong dictate to "Make no contracts that bind me".Donald (1996), pp. 247–250.