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Dover Note on Lincoln�s �House Divided� Speech of June 16, 1858

With his �House Divided� speech of June 16, 1858, Lincoln accepted the young Illinois Republican Party�s nomination for the U.S. Senate seat held by Stephen A. Douglas. The background of the speech and of the subsequent campaign against Douglas was the raging debate over the question of slavery in new states and territories. In 1854, Douglas, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Territories, had maneuvered the Kansas-Nebraska Act through Congress with great political skill. The Act provided that citizens of new territories would in each case decide for themselves the question of slavery within their borders. As Lincoln makes clear in this speech, this amounted to the overthrow of the Missouri Compromise of 1820, under which slavery was prohibited in any part of the original Louisiana Purchase outside the state of Missouri north of Missouri�s southern boundary of latitude 36030�. The Kansas-Nebraska Act provoked great opposition in Illinois and the rest of the old Northwest, and gave direct rise to the new Republican Party. Lincoln had joined the Illinois Republican Party shortly after it was formed in 1856 and campaigned that year for the first Republican candidate for President, John Charles Fremont, who lost the election to Buchanan.

Lincoln�s position at that time was that slavery must be contained in its traditional home in the Southern states, where, he felt, it would eventually die out if not allowed to spread. 

[. . . .] Lincoln�s �House Divided� speech established his position on slavery and solidified his credentials as a national spokesman on this issue.

Note reprinted from Abraham Lincoln: Great Speeches. New York: Dover, 1991. 24-25.

Dover Note on the Address Delivered at the Dedication of the Cemetery at Gettysburg, November 19, 1863

The three-day Battle of Gettysburg in southern Pennsylvania early in July 1863 had brought enormous casualties to both sides�23,000 Union casualties, including over 3,000 killed on the battlefield, and 28,000 Confederate casualties, including at least 4,000 killed.  Yet there was no question when it was over that Lee�s army had suffered the greater blow, even though it escaped the total destruction that seemed briefly to be within the Union forces� grasp. (See also �Behind the Stonewall� for more images.) 

Later that year a Gettysburg attorney, David Wills, conceived the idea of dedicating a portion of the battlefield as a National Soldiers� Cemetery.  Lincoln was invited to be present and speak (although Edward Everett of Boston�a well-known orator and former President of Harvard, Governor of Massachusetts, U.S. Senator, diplomat and Secretary of State�was to be the chief speaker).  On November 19 a crowd of between 15,000 and 20,000 listened to Everett speak for two hours before Lincoln rose and in his high-pitched voice delivered his imperishable statement on the meaning of the war, which was at that time still far from won.  Witnesses record that he received a sustained ovation.  As military bands played, Lincoln and his party rode through cheering crowds on their way to the train that would take them slowly back to Washington.

Note reprinted from Abraham Lincoln: Great Speeches. New York: Dover, 1991. 103.

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