June 15, 1858 Lincoln's "House Divided" Speech

Jun 2019
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#1
June 15, 1858 - Abraham Lincoln makes his "House Divided" speech before the Illinois Republican Convention to kick off his senatorial run against Stephen Douglas.

"House Divided" Speech by Abraham Lincoln

What does the "House Divided" speech tell us about Lincoln's feelings towards slavery as an institution or about African Americans as people? Does it jibe with what we know about him from the rest of his political career?
 
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Chlodio

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What I took away from the House Divided speech is that was a political speech aimed at telling his audience what they wanted to hear. (His audience wanted to be frightened about the slave power, so Lincoln told them about all of the success the slave power had achieved in recent years.) This is especially true about what he says on Kansas. He mentioned the pro-slavery Lecompton Constitution but failed to mention that Kansas had voted on two other constitutions, including the most recent one, that were anti-slavery. Lincoln didn't mention the Leavenworth Constitution because it contained language of full racial equality, and Lincoln knew Illinois voters were not yet ready for that. Douglas sniffed him out on that. In one of their subsequent debates Douglas accused Lincoln of favoring racial equality including interracial marriage. Lincoln's denial was nuanced and probably cost him some votes.
 
Jun 2019
67
Chicago Suburbs
#3
What I took away from the House Divided speech is that was a political speech aimed at telling his audience what they wanted to hear. (His audience wanted to be frightened about the slave power, so Lincoln told them about all of the success the slave power had achieved in recent years.) This is especially true about what he says on Kansas. He mentioned the pro-slavery Lecompton Constitution but failed to mention that Kansas had voted on two other constitutions, including the most recent one, that were anti-slavery. Lincoln didn't mention the Leavenworth Constitution because it contained language of full racial equality, and Lincoln knew Illinois voters were not yet ready for that. Douglas sniffed him out on that. In one of their subsequent debates Douglas accused Lincoln of favoring racial equality including interracial marriage. Lincoln's denial was nuanced and probably cost him some votes.
This was definitely a political speech, but it's unlikely to have changed any votes any more than the debates did. The Senators were still selected by the state legislatures in 1858 and Douglas' party was in the majority in the Illinois legislature.
 
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Chlodio

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This was definitely a political speech, but it's unlikely to have changed any votes any more than the debates did. The Senators were still selected by the state legislatures in 1858 and Douglas' party was in the majority in the Illinois legislature.
Wasn't the full legislature up for re-election in '58? If Lincoln's Republicans had taken the legislature, Lincoln would have been elected to the Senate. I agree the odds were against Lincoln that year because the legislative districts had been apportioned according to the 1850 census and were heavily biased in favor of the Democrats. The Republican Party hadn't even existed in 1850. Most of the legislative incumbents up for re-election were Democrats, and it was just as hard then to unseat an incumbent as it is now.

Edit: But I get what you're saying about costing votes. I was speaking figuratively. Lincoln and Douglas were their parties' front men that year in the race to control the legislature. Douglas was running on a campaign of 'Vote for Democrats to the legislature.' Lincoln was running on 'Vote for Republicans.' Lincoln's nuanced stance on racial equality probably took some votes away from Republican candidates to the legislature that year.
 
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Jun 2019
67
Chicago Suburbs
#5
Wasn't the full legislature up for re-election in '58? If Lincoln's Republicans had taken the legislature, Lincoln would have been elected to the Senate. I agree the odds were against Lincoln that year because the legislative districts had been apportioned according to the 1850 census and were heavily biased in favor of the Democrats. The Republican Party hadn't even existed in 1850. Most of the legislative incumbents up for re-election were Democrats, and it was just as hard then to unseat an incumbent as it is now.
Good point. I forgot that legislative elections were on at the same time.
 
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Code Blue

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#6
What does the "House Divided" speech tell us about Lincoln's feelings towards slavery as an institution or about African Americans as people? Does it jibe with what we know about him from the rest of his political career?
Is that a question for a doctorate thesis? I'll keep it short.

IMO, there are two basic factions in the new Republican Party. The Neo-Hamiltonians and Abolitionists. Lincoln's is part of the former. He is a Clay-Whig, American system in his long term self-description: high-tariff, central bank, mercantile partnership of major industry and government).
Governor Banks, in his rhetoric, sort of represents one faction - I can conceive of a time when this Constitution shall not be in existence when we shall have an absolute dictatorial government, transmitted from age to age, with men at its head who are made rulers by military commission, or who claim an hereditary right to govern those over whom they are placed
William Seward, was a bigger fish in the Republicans than Lincoln in 1858, and his rhetoric sort of represents the other faction arguing through the 1850's that slavery had no Constitutional guarantees.

At that point, in 58, my read is Lincoln would rather just keep slavery on the back burner. He earns his street cred with the typical white race superiority rhetoric. He just wants to get his foot in the Senatorial door. Later, during the war, to destroy the enemy, and with the abolitionists breathing down his neck, he moves to destroy slavery. I really don't believe even the money behind the Abolitionist faction really cares about humanitarianism either.

The words of the House Divided had a big effect on the South. South Carolina refer to half-slave line in the Causes Document. After those remarks and the acceptance of the Helper's Guide at the Republican Convention (with its "exterminate" the South rhetoric), the South was convinced that they were at the brink.
 
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Futurist

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Wasn't the full legislature up for re-election in '58? If Lincoln's Republicans had taken the legislature, Lincoln would have been elected to the Senate. I agree the odds were against Lincoln that year because the legislative districts had been apportioned according to the 1850 census and were heavily biased in favor of the Democrats. The Republican Party hadn't even existed in 1850. Most of the legislative incumbents up for re-election were Democrats, and it was just as hard then to unseat an incumbent as it is now.

Edit: But I get what you're saying about costing votes. I was speaking figuratively. Lincoln and Douglas were their parties' front men that year in the race to control the legislature. Douglas was running on a campaign of 'Vote for Democrats to the legislature.' Lincoln was running on 'Vote for Republicans.' Lincoln's nuanced stance on racial equality probably took some votes away from Republican candidates to the legislature that year.
How exactly was Lincoln's stance on racial equality nuanced when he advocated against intermarriage, against blacks serving as jurors, against black suffrage, et cetera?
 

Chlodio

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How exactly was Lincoln's stance on racial equality nuanced when he advocated against intermarriage, against blacks serving as jurors, against black suffrage, et cetera?
Instead of clearly stating yes or no to the question of racial equality, he split hairs. He said that blacks should have economic equality (the right to own the fruits of one's own labor) but denied blacks the right to political and social equality. People like politicians who speak plainly, not the ones who equivocate.
 
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Code Blue

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#9
People like politicians who speak plainly, not the ones who equivocate.
The equivocation would continue. After Bull Run, with the contracts of the original 75,000 expiring, he needed to get hundreds of thousands to enlist. So, he and the Congress made it clear that the war was for "the union," whatever that means. They weren't going to get that many whites to sign up to fight for backs. Then after he had a sufficient corps of men, he could roll out the EP, when deserters could be shot.

From Congress
“Resolved: That this war is not waged on our part in any spirit' of oppression, or for any purpose of conquest, or for interfering with the rights or established institutions of those States, but to defend and maintain the supremacy of the Constitution, and to preserve the Union with all the dignity and rights of the several States unimpaired and that as soon as these objects are accomplished the war ought to cease."

This is why you see some back-and-forth on Lincoln: racist or emancipator. Just like any talented politician, he has a knack for manipulation. His attitudes on race are standard for his times, and he is willing to use people, black or white. It would have been so-o-o simple just to let the Cotton Seven go. Without them, the count is about 20-6? Isn't that pretty close the 3/4? IMO, Lincoln wants war, but I am not exactly sure why.

They north is not fighting to free the slaves, but they free them? (Abolitionist goal)
They just want to "preserve" the union, but (after Lincoln) they overthrow the existing system the 14th amendment? (Mercantilism goal).

PS, even when politicians are speaking plainly, they are lying anyway. lol
 
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sparky

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Jan 2017
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#10
this was the high tide of the Know Nothing movement fiercely populist and nativist
Lincoln was deeply wading in those waters
Nationwide , they were the main opponent to the Democrats ,
while Racial equality was not to be thought off , they were against the Democrat slave-owners power
not anti-black as such , they had no particular objection to a negro not being a slave
their status was somewhat similar to the red Indians ,
not citizens but human being none the less
 

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