America's Oddest Election

Lincoln came out a victor in the 1860 presidential election despite winning only 2 percent of the Southern vote

Just six months before the presidential election of November 1860 and only days after winning his party’s nomination, Abraham Lincoln received some stunning advice from one of his chief supporters, William Cullen Bryant. The influential editor of the pro-Republican New York Evening Post beseeched him to “make no speeches, write no letters as a candidate, enter into no pledges, make no promises.” Only three months earlier, Bryant had urged a large audience at New York City’s Cooper Union to pay heed to Lincoln’s every word.Read more »

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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How We Got Lincoln

Every presidential election is exciting when it happens. Then the passing of time usually makes the outcome seem less than crucial. But after more than a century and a quarter, the election of 1860 retains its terrible urgency.

In the crowded months between the beginning of the 1860 presidential campaign and the attack on Fort Sumter, it is easy now to see the emergence of Abraham Lincoln as something preordained, as though the issues had manufactured a figure commensurate with their importance. Or at the least, one might imagine a dramatic, hard-fought campaign with Northern and Southern states rallying around their respective candidates. But that’s not quite how it happened. Read more »

Douglas, Deadlock, & Disunion

In 1860, Southern delegates bolted the Democratic convention at Charleston. An eyewitness describes the first giant step toward secession

 

Late in April, 1860, a strife-ridden Democratic party met at Charleston, South Carolina, to choose a presidential candidate. This was to prove one of the most fateful meetings of its kind in American history. At a time of mounting sectional antagonism, the Democratic party was the one remaining political organization that represented both North and South; its disruption would mean nothing less than a complete, if not irrevocable, division of the Union.

 

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