February 27, 2007
Lincoln at Cooper Union
On this day in 1860 (a year later in the political cycle than he would have today), Abraham Lincoln launched his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. Shrewdly, he chose the home ground of the front-runner, Senator William Seward (R-NY).
Contention for the Republican presidential nomination already underway, Lincoln traveled to New York City in February 1860 to deliver a major address at the Cooper Union, at the invitation of the Young Republicans. Calmly, logically, and convincingly, he demolished the Democratic Party's pro-slavery position by outlining the history of the crisis from the very origins of the country. Even more than his debates with Stephen Douglas, this widely-reprinted speech left northeastern Republicans mightily impressed with the midwestern lawyer. As he had done in 1858 and 1859, Lincoln then went on a speaking tour. He returned to Illinois a serious contender for the nomination.
His finale, just a relevant for today's Republicans, electrified the crowd:
"Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the Government nor of dungeons to ourselves. 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."
In its coverage of the speech, a prominent newspaper wrote of the future Republican President: "He's the greatest man since St. Paul!"
Based on Back to Basics for the Republican Party, a history of the GOP from the civil rights perspective.