was delivered on this date in 1860. Abraham Lincoln Online.org provides the background.
An eyewitness that evening said, “When Lincoln rose to speak, I was greatly disappointed. He was tall, tall, – oh, how tall! and so angular and awkward that I had, for an instant, a feeling of pity for so ungainly a man.” However, once Lincoln warmed up, “his face lighted up as with an inward fire; the whole man was transfigured. I forgot his clothes, his personal appearance, and his individual peculiarities. Presently, forgetting myself, I was on my feet like the rest, yelling like a wild Indian, cheering this wonderful man.”
Herndon, who knew the speech but was not present, said it was “devoid of all rhetorical imagry.” Rather, “it was constructed with a view to accuracy of statement, simplicity of language, and unity of thought. In some respects like a lawyer’s brief, it was logical, temperate in tone, powerful – irresistibly driving conviction home to men’s reasons and their souls.”
The speech electrified Lincoln’s hearers and gained him important political support in Seward’s home territory. Said a New York writer, “No man ever before made such an impression on his first appeal to a New York audience.” After being printed by New York newspapers, the speech was widely circulated as campaign literature.
Easily one of Lincoln’s best efforts, it revealed his singular mastery of ideas and issues in a way that justified loyal support. Here we can see him pursuing facts, forming them into meaningful patterns, pressing relentlessly toward his conclusion.
With a deft touch, Lincoln exposed the roots of sectional strife and the inconsistent positions of Senator Stephen Douglas and Chief Justice Roger Taney. He urged fellow Republicans not to capitulate to Southern demands to recognize slavery as being right, but to “stand by our duty, fearlessly and effectively.”
Lincoln’s Cooper Union Address was the first sign that he was a serious and viable candidate for the Republican presidential nomination.
Matthew Brady took Lincoln’s photo before the speech.