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(1860) Abraham Lincoln, “Cooper Union Address”

On February 27, 1860, Abraham Lincoln, a presidential candidate who had yet to win the Republican nomination, accepted an invitation to speak to the Young Men"s Republican Union at Cooper Union Hall before a capacity crowd of 1,500.  Lincoln used the occasion to outline his views on slavery in the territories, noting that his research had shown that 21 of the 39 signers of the Constitution believed slavery should not be allowed in the territories, attempting to undercut the opposition charge that  the Republican position on that question was out of the political mainstream.  He then urged fellow Republicans not to capitulate to Southern demands to recognize slavery as acceptable, but to continually oppose the institution or as he said, to "stand by our duty, fearlessly and effectively." His speech appears below:

Mr. President and fellow citizens of New York: -

The facts with which I shall deal this evening are mainly old and familiar; nor is there anything new in the general use I shall make of them. If there shall be any novelty, it will be in the mode of presenting the facts, and the inferences and observations following that presentation.

In his speech last autumn, at Columbus, Ohio, as reported in "The New-York Times," Senator Douglas said:

"Our fathers, when they framed the Government under which we live, understood this question just as well, and even better, than we do now."

I fully indorse this, and I adopt it as a text for this discourse. I so adopt it because it furnishes a precise and an agreed starting point for a discussion between Republicans and that wing of the Democracy headed by Senator Douglas. It simply leaves the inquiry: "What was the understanding those fathers had of the question mentioned?"

What is the frame of government under which we live?

The answer must be: "The Constitution of the United States." That Constitution consists of the original, framed in 1787, (and under which the present government first went into operation,) and twelve subsequently framed amendments, the first ten of

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