Lincoln's House Divided Speech - Wikipedia

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House Divided


Abraham Lincoln in May 1858

The House Divided Speech was an address given by Abraham Lincoln, later President of the United States, on June 16, 1858, at what was then the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, after he had accepted the Illinois Republican Party's nomination as that state's US senator. The nomination of Lincoln was the final item of business at the convention, which then broke for dinner, meeting again at 8 PM. "The evening session was mainly devoted to speeches",[1] but the only speaker was Lincoln, whose address closed the convention, save for resolutions of thanks to the city of Springfield and others. His address was immediately published in full by newspapers,[2][3][4] as a pamphlet,[5] and in the published Proceedings of the convention.[6] It was the launching point of his unsuccessful campaign for the Senatorial seat held by Stephen A. Douglas; the campaign would climax with the Lincoln–Douglas debates. When Lincoln collected and published his debates with Douglas as part of his 1860 Presidential campaign, he prefixed them with relevant prior speeches. The "House Divided" speech opens the volume.[7]

Lincoln's remarks in Springfield depict the danger of slavery-based disunion, and it rallied Republicans across the North. Along with the Gettysburg Address and his Second Inaugural Address, the speech became one of the best-known of his career. It begins with the following words, which became the best-known passage of the speech:[8]

"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.[6]: 9

Lincoln's goals were to differentiate himself from Douglas — the incumbent — and to voice a prophecy publicly. Douglas had long advocated popular sovereignty, under which the settlers in each new territory would decide their own status as a slave or free state; he had repeatedly asserted that the proper application of popular sovereignty would prevent slavery-induced conflict and would allow Northern and Southern states to resume their peaceful coexistence. Lincoln, however, responded that the Dred Scott decision had closed the door on Douglas's preferred option, leaving the Union with only two remaining outcomes: the country would inevitably become either all slave or all free. Now that the North and the South had come to hold distinct opinions in the question of slavery, and now the issue had come to permeate every other political question, the Union would soon no longer be able to function.

Quotes [ edit ]

The nearest approach to the point of declaring the power of a state over slavery, is made by Judge Nelson. He approaches it more than once, using the precise idea, and almost the language too, of the Nebraska Act. On one occasion his exact language is, "except in cases where the power is restrained by the Constitution of the United States, the law of the State is supreme over the subject of slavery within its jurisdiction." In what cases the power of the states is so restrained by the U.S. Constitution, is left an open question, precisely as the same question, as to the restraint on the power of the territories was left open in the Nebraska Act. Put that and that together, and we have another nice little niche, which we may, ere long, see filled with another Supreme Court decision, declaring that the Constitution of the United States does not permit a state to exclude slavery from its limits. And this may especially be expected if the doctrine of "care not whether slavery be voted down or voted up" shall gain upon the public mind sufficiently to give promise that such a decision can be maintained when made.

Prior mentions of "a house divided" [ edit ]

Early Christians:

It also appears in widely-read English writers:

In the United States:

However and most relevantly, the expression was used repeatedly earlier in 1858 in discussions of the situation in Kansas, where slavery was the central issue.

See also [ edit ]

References [ edit ]

  1. ^ "Republican Convention". The Pantagraph (Bloomington, Illinois). June 18, 1858. p. 2 – via
  2. ^ "Conclusion of the Republican State Convention. Speech of Hon. Abraham Lincoln". Chicago Tribune. June 19, 1858. p. 2.
  3. ^ "Republican principles. Speech of Hon. Abraham Lincoln, of Illinois, at the Republican state Convention, June 16, 1858". New-York Tribune. June 24, 1858. p. 3 – via
  4. ^ "Speech of Hon. Abraham Lincoln". Alton Weekly Telegraph (Alton, Illinois). June 24, 1858. p. 2 – via
  5. ^ Lincoln, Abraham (1858). Speech of Hon. Abram [sic] Lincoln before the Republican state convention, June 16, 1858. OCLC 2454620.
  6. ^ a b Proceedings of the Republican state convention, held at Springfield, Illinois, June 16th, 1858. Springfield, Illinois. 1858.
  7. ^ Lincoln, Abraham; Douglas, Stephen A. (1860). Political Debates between Hon. Abraham Lincoln and Hon. Stephen A. Douglas, In the Celebrated Campaign of 1858, in Illinois; including the preceding speeches of each, at Chicago, Springfield, etc.; also, the two great speeches of Mr. Lincoln in Ohio, in 1859, as carefully prepared by the reporters of each party, and published at the times of their delivery. Columbus, Ohio: Follett, Foster and Company. pp. 1–5.
  8. ^ Foner, Eric (2010). The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery. pp. 99–100. ISBN 978-0-393-06618-0.
  9. ^ "Mark 3:25". Bible Gateway.
  10. ^ David Kennedy, Lizabeth Cohen, Thomas Bailey: The American Pageant: Volume I: To 1877, p. 253.
  11. ^ "Missouri Question: Speech of Mr. Walker, of N.C." City of Washington Gazette, 5/11/1820, Vol. V, Iss. 759, p. [2].
  12. ^ Address to the people of Illinois, in Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, I, p. 315
  13. ^ "Organization of the American General Committee". Brooklyn Evening Star (Brooklyn, New York). January 8, 1858. p. 2 – via
  14. ^ "Kansas in Congress—The Decisive Issue upon the Slavery Question". New York Daily Herald. January 12, 1858. p. 4 – via
  15. ^ "Democratic Disunion". Alton Weekly Telegraph (Alton, Illinois). January 28, 1858. p. 1 – via
  16. ^ W. (April 23, 1858). "The Foul Anchor". The Liberator – via

Further reading [ edit ]

External links [ edit ]