16 June, 2011

June 16, 1858

On this day in 1858, then private citizen Abraham Lincoln gave one of his more famous addresses, the House Divided Speech, in his campaign for IL state Senate against Stephen Douglas. This speech became a rallying point for Republicans in the north, who used it to declare that either the United States must accept slavery everywhere, or nowhere (their choice, and Lincoln’s, and mine, for what it’s worth).

The argument turned out not to be a successful one, at least immediately. Douglas believed the opposite, and it was his view that was accepted later that year when Douglas was elected to the Senate.

The best known passage:

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. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new — North as well as South.

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