Little Bits of History

Lincoln’s House Divided Speech

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 16, 2014
Lincoln’s House Divided speech

Lincoln’s House Divided speech

June 16, 1858: Lincoln gives a famous speech. Abraham Lincoln was accepting the Republican Party’s nomination to run for United States senator from Illinois. The speech was delivered at the State Capitol in Springfield. Lincoln was launching his campaign against incumbent Stephen A. Douglas who began serving as Senator from Illinois in 1847. The campaign eventually brought the two men together with the Lincoln-Douglas debates later in the year. There were seven debates between Republican Lincoln and Democrat Douglas within each of the remaining congressional districts in the state. There are nine districts in all and each man had already spoken in two of them. The main topic of the debates, as of this speech, was slavery.

Lincoln’s House Divided speech is one of his three most famous along with the Gettysburg Address and his second Inaugural address. In this speech he was attempting to differentiate himself from Douglas as well as predict the future as he saw it. The idea of “A house divided against itself cannot stand” comes from Scripture, Mark 3:25 where Jesus is quoted. Thomas Hobbes in 1651, Thomas Paine in 1776, Abigail Adams in 1812, and Lincoln himself on two previous occasions (1843 and 1850) had used the idea. Lincoln’s address predicted the nation’s need to be all slave or all free as the two were incompatible. Douglas felt that popular sovereignty should decide whether or not future states would be free or slave.

Lincoln felt the Dred Scott decision had made Douglas’s proposal invalid. There were only two options after the decision was handed down. Either the US would be all one or all the other – all free or all slave. Since the North and South were so divided on this issue, the time would come when the government would no longer be able to function. Slavery had come to be part of every political, social, and economic decision facing the nation. Lincoln did not expect the nation to be dissolved, but some method of decision would be made and the country would once again be in agreement.

Douglas went on to win the election although he died in 1861 at the age of 48 from typhoid fever. He died almost two months after the US Civil War had begun and serving in a Senate headed by President Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln was elected to two terms as President and lived to see the end of the War and the reunited United States before he was assassinated on April 15, 1865 at the age of 56. His leadership through the war was instrumental in bringing the nation he loved back under one roof, undivided, and slavery at an end. There was still much work to be done and Reconstruction would have been much different had Lincoln been available to help heal the country after such horrific wounds had been inflicted.

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 lawful in all the States, old as well as new — North as well as South.

Let any one who doubts, carefully contemplate that now almost complete legal combination— piece of machinery so to speak—compounded of the Nebraska doctrine, and the Dred Scott decision. – Abraham Lincoln, from the House Divided speech

Also on this day: Red v. White – In 1487, the Battle of Stoke Field is fought ending the Wars of the Roses.
Education – In 1976, the Soweto Uprising took place.
Psycho – In 1960, Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller was released.
Children’s Party – In 1883, the Victoria Hall Disaster  left 183 children dead.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: