Abraham Lincoln, a Press Portrait: His Life and Times from the Original Newspaper Documents of the Union, the Confederacy, and Europe

By Herbert Mitgang | Go to book overview

Chapter 3
The Great Debater

OCTOBER 1854-NOVEMBER 1858

The birth of the Republican party and the renascence of Abraham Lincoln in the tumult of American politics coincided. The party came into existence in Illinois on May 29, 1856. On that day Lincoln delivered his famous "lost speech" to the convention at Bloomington. The meeting began as a convention of all opponents of the extension of slavery: Anti-Nebraska Democrats, Free-Soilers, Abolitionists, Know-Nothings and Whigs. It adopted a platform with strong antiNebraska planks; then and there the Republican party in Illinois was born.

Lincoln, in response to calls, got up to speak. It was close to an abolitionist speech; probably the strongest public utterance against slavery by Lincoln. "This thing of slavery is more powerful than its supporters," Lincoln said, in the reconstructed reports. "It debauches even our greatest men. Monstrous crimes are committed in its name. In a despotism one might not wonder to see slavery advance steadily and remorselessly into new dominions; but is it not wonderful, is it not even alarming, to see its steady advance in a land dedicated to the proposition that 'all men are created equal'?"

William Herndon, of Lincoln and Herndon, said it was the greatest speech of Lincoln's life. Heretofore, Herndon said later, Lincoln had simply argued the slavery question on grounds of policy— never reaching the question of the radical and eternal right. Now he was newly baptized. "It Mr. Lincoln was six feet, four inches high usually, at Bloomington that day he was seven feet, and inspired at that. From that day to the day of his death he stood firm in the right."

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Abraham Lincoln, a Press Portrait: His Life and Times from the Original Newspaper Documents of the Union, the Confederacy, and Europe
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • The North's Civil War Series ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction to the 2000 Editior ix
  • Sources and Publications xix
  • Introduction xxiii
  • Chapter 1 - The Young Lincoln 3
  • Chapter 2 - Congressman Lincoln 49
  • Chapter 3 - The Great Debater 77
  • Chapter 4 - A National Man 129
  • Chapter 5 - Lincoln for President 163
  • Chapter 6 - President at War 235
  • Chapter 7 - The Emancipator 305
  • Chapter 8 - Commander-In-Chief 351
  • Chapter 9 - The Second Term 415
  • Chapter 10 - As They Saw Him 477
  • Index 525
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