A House Divided

By | Jun 16, 2011

One of Abraham Lincoln’s best known speech came not when he was President, but two years before the 1860 election on June 16, 1858. During his campaign for US Senator for Illinois he delivered what is known as the House Divided Speech.

A house divided against itself cannot stand.” I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided.

It will become all one thing or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new — North as well as South.

Lincoln was running for the new Republican party with his chief rival being Stephen Douglas. During the summer and fall of 1858 the two held a series of debates in seven towns in the state of Illinois: Ottawa on August 21, Freeport on August 27, Jonesboro on September 15, Charleston on September 18, Galesburg on October 7, Quincy on October 13, and Alton on October 15.

Douglas was elected to the Senate for the first time 12 years earlier in 1846 taking office on March 4, 1847. Lincoln too went to Washington after the 1846 election as a member of the House of Representatives serving for a single two year term before losing his reelection bid.

In a close election Lincoln was defeated by Douglas who maintained his senate seat.

Even though he lost the debates by losing the Senatorial election it brought Lincoln out into the national view and helped to push him towards the Presidency that he would win against Stephen Douglas.

It wasn’t his only win against Douglas and perhaps not his greatest. Prior to Mary Todd’s meeting and marriage to Abraham Lincoln she was briefly courted by Stephen Douglas


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