The Speech That Made The Man

Lincoln’s oration at New York’s Cooper Union showed that the prairie lawyer could play in the big leagues

On the frigid and stormy evening of February 27, 1860, so the newspapers reported, Abraham Lincoln climbed onto the stage of the cavernous Great Hall of New York’s newest college, Cooper Union, faced a room overflowing with people, and delivered the most important speech of his life. Read more »

Still A Great Hall After All

A student of the speech that changed Lincoln’s career visits the place where he gave it

The first time I ever visited the great hall of New York City’s Cooper Union, I was not yet a teenager, but I was already mad to learn everything I could about the most famous man who ever appeared there. Abraham Lincoln’s 1860 Cooper Union address—his first and only campaign speech in New York—dramatically introduced the Western leader to the East. For Lincoln, it proved a personal and political triumph.

 
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The Riot That Remade A City

How a mass killing 150 years ago made today’s New York a better place

The children are back at Columbine High School now— if they can still truly be called children after the terrible violence perpetrated upon them. We can only hope that the murder of twelve of their classmates was a random moment of madness. We can only hope, that is, for in the time since the killings in Littleton, Colorado, we have proved ourselves unable to address whether or not they reflect any greater, underlying problems in American society and, if so, what we should do about them. Read more »

The Honest Man

In a day of rampant money-making, gentle Peter Cooper was not only a reformer but successful, widely loved, and rich.

Around 1875, at the feverish height of the Gilded Age, when conventional citizens were in greedy pursuit of the dollar, when the executive branch was vying with the legislative and the judicial as to which would prove the most venal, when monstrous fortunes lay ripe for the hook or the crook, an elderly gentleman of benign aspect commenced to make some distressing remarks, right out loud and in public. “The dealers in money,” said he, “have always, since the days of Moses, been the dangerous class.”