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Award-winning Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer places Lincoln and his speech in the context of the times -- an era of racism, politicized journalism, and public oratory as entertainment -- and shows how the candidate framed the speech as an opportunity to continue his famous "debates" with his archrival Democrat Stephen A. Douglas on the question of slavery.
The Cooper Union speech, which was carefully researched by Lincoln and refers often to the Founders and authors of the Constitution, is an antislavery lecture, capped by a ringing warning to would-be secessionists in the South. It reaches its climax with the assurance that "right makes might." Long held, inaccurately, to be an appeal to the conservatives, Holzer presents Lincoln's speech as a masterly combination of scholarship, a brief for equality and democracy, and a rallying cry to the country and the Republican party.
Holzer describes the enormous risk Lincoln took by appearing in New York, where he exposed himself to the country's most critical audience and took on Republican senator William Henry Seward of New York, the front-runner, in his own backyard. Then he recounts the brilliant and innovative public relations campaign, as Lincoln took the speech "on the road" in his successful quest for the presidency.
Library of Congress subject headings for this publication: Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865, Cooper Institute speech, Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865 Oratory, Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865 Views on slavery, United States Politics and government 1857-1861, Speeches, addresses, etc, , American New York (State) New York, Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865 Political career before 1861