Rise of the Rail Splitter


Abraham Lincoln. The address of the Hon. Abraham Lincoln, in vindication of the policy of the framers of the constitution and the principles of the Republican Party, delivered at Cooper Institute, February 27th, 1860. New York: George F. Nesbit & Company, 1860.

In the wake of his strong Senate race against Stephen Douglas, Lincoln’s name began to be mentioned as a potential Republican presidential candidate.  He spent several months in 1859 on a speaking tour of the Midwest, and in October of that year Lincoln was invited to speak at Henry Ward Beecher’s Plymouth Church in Brooklyn (the location was later changed to the Cooper Union).  Lincoln accepted and used the opportunity to introduce himself to eastern Republicans in a state that was home to Senator William H. Seward (1801-1872), considered the front-runner for the 1860 Republican presidential nomination.  Appearing before an audience of 1,500, Lincoln argued that the founding fathers had set the country on an anti-slavery course, contrary to the claims of Stephen Douglas and others in the Democratic Party, who, he maintained, conspired with Southern slaveholders to expand slavery into the territories.  Lincoln asked his fellow Republicans to hold firm to their anti-slavery principles: “Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.”  Enormously popular with Republicans, the speech was widely circulated in published form, including this one. The work shown here, the final authorized version of the address, appeared in September 1860, just weeks before the presidential election.

Lin 2013.5   The William Whiting Nolen Collection of Lincolniana.