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Lincoln at Cooper Union

Lincoln at Cooper Union

The Speech That Made Abraham Lincoln President

Lincoln at Cooper Union explores Lincoln's most influential and widely reported pre-presidential address -- an extraordinary appeal by the western politician to the eastern elite that propelled him toward the Republican nomination for president. Delivered in New York in February 1860, the Cooper Union speech dispelled doubts about Lincoln's suitability for the presidency and reassured conservatives of his moderation while reaffirming his opposition to slavery to Republican progressives.

Award-winning Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer places Lincoln and his speech in the context of the times -- an era of racism, politicized journalism, and public oratory as entertainment -- and shows how the candidate framed the speech as an opportunity to continue his famous "debates" with his archrival Democrat Stephen A. Douglas on the question of slavery.

Holzer describes the enormous risk Lincoln took by appearing in New York, where he exposed himself to the country's most critical audience and took on Republican Senator William Henry Seward of New York, the front runner, in his own backyard. Then he recounts a brilliant and innovative public relations campaign, as Lincoln took the speech "on the road" in his successful quest for the presidency.
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  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 368 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743299640 | 
  • November 2006
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What is Harold Holzer's Favorite Movie? Find Out Now!

Harold Holzer examines the months between Lincoln's election and inauguration, when he decided there would be no compromise on slavery or secession.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One: "Abe Lincoln Must Come"

The train bearing a weary but exultant Abraham Lincoln home from nearby De Witt County lumbered into Springfield, Illinois, early on Saturday evening, October 15, 1859. No one was on hand there to greet him. Lincoln disembarked, strode past the brick depot, and commenced the brief, four-block walk along the gas-lit streets that led to his house. The weather was "fine and bracing," with a touch of frost biting the air.

The practicing attorney had spent the last five days at Clinton, a village some forty miles to the northwest, busily "attending court," as he innocuously put it. But ever the... see more

Among the many tantalizing "what ifs" of the Civil War era -- what if Stonewall Jackson had survived past 1863; what if George G. Meade had pursued the shattered Confederate army after Gettysburg; what if Abraham Lincoln had eluded assassination -- is one question that must precede all the others. What if Lincoln the aspiring presidential candidate had failed his first, grueling, decisive test of political and oratorical skills in New York City?

In fact, it is entirely possible that had he not triumphed before the sophisticated and demanding audience he faced at New York's Cooper Union on February 27, 1860, Lincoln... see more

About the Author

Harold Holzer
Photo Credit: Don Pollard

Harold Holzer

Harold Holzer, a leading authority on Lincoln and the Civil War, is Chairman of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation and a Roger Hertog Fellow at the New York Historical Society. Widely honored for his work, Holzer earned a second-place Lincoln Prize for Lincoln at Cooper Union in 2005 and in 2008 was awarded the National Humanities Medal. Holzer is Senior Vice President of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and lives in Rye, New York.




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