Analysis Abraham Lincoln Cooper Union Address

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The “Cooper Union Address was written on February 27, 1860 by an eminent abolitionist named Abraham Lincoln, who believed the expansion of slavery should come to a halt. He demonstrated a Republican outlook for him and his majority of followers who signed the Constitution. Lincoln and his followers believed Congress should control slavery in the territories already utilizing it, instead of allowing slavery expansion. Lincoln received a national opportunity to speak at the Young Men’s Central Republican Union of New York to spread awareness to many important political listeners of his perspective on the prohibition of slavery. This stood out as a major opportunity for Lincoln because he had a second chance to prove his perspectives with an immense number of listeners in front of him.

Lincoln’s address contained three subdivisions in which an argument and its purpose were discussed to advocate his reasoning for a standstill in expanding slavery. In Lincoln’s first subdivision, he emphasizes the weaknesses of senator Stephen Douglas’ assertions within a speech reported in the New York Times. Lincoln quotes Douglas saying: “Our fathers, when they framed the Government under which we live, understood this question just as well, and even better, than we do now. (Lincoln, p. 1074). Douglas is simply stating that all of the founding fathers of the Constitution were supporting the prohibition of slavery and that they also wanted to bring the expansion of slavery to an everlasting halt. Yet, Lincoln describes that twenty- three out of thirty-nine founding fathers acted on a question that he mentions in his speech: “Does the proper division of local from federal authority, or anything in the Constitution, forbid our Federal Government to control as to slavery in our Federal Territories? (Lincoln, p. 1075). Twenty-one of the fathers stood and acted on outlawing slavery, representing the fact that many favored the idea of completely stopping the growth and expansion of slavery. Therefore, very few fathers didn’t act out on the question, representing the minority in this equation.

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The second piece of Lincoln’s speech includes an explanation to help the South understand the actual goals and outlooks of Republicans. Lincoln refers the South as “you and refers to himself and the Republicans as “we to present clarity in his oppositions and speech. Lincoln is aware of the feelings of hatred the South feels towards him and other Republicans and aims to unravel this hatred by explaining himself with providing valid points. One valid point Lincoln touches on is that John Brown, an anti- slavery man, was not a Republican and that the Republican’s did not even support Brown’s hatred towards slavery. The South saw Brown as a crime committed by Lincoln and his party of followers and Lincoln realized this was a point he needed to clarify. The South believed that by ceasing the spread of slavery, that the places where slavery already existed would also be effected, whether it be economically or agriculturally. This was not the case and Lincoln took the time to emphasize that the regions with existing slavery would not be effected. Lincoln also emphasizes his want for peace and unity by saying, “It is exceedingly desirable that all parts of this great Confederacy shall be at peace, and in harmony, one with another (Lincoln p.1083) He simply wanted to just keep slavery out of the places where it had not yet existed and wanted to prove he did not want any more hatred.

In Lincoln’s third and last part of his speech, he begins his conclusion by mentioning the effect of such strong opinions that were either agreeing with him or against him. He states the spread of slavery will not come to a full halt because of the powerful opinions both sides have. Listeners were either proslavery or antislavery and Lincoln was more than aware of these differences. He concluded that antislavery people must remain calm and bear with the people of the South because they will always want more. The Southerners are contrarians who will only listen if they are satisfied, so Lincoln’s advice was to: “Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it. (Lincoln, p. 1084). Lincoln thought that joining the South with slavery would be the first step to making things right.

Prior to Lincoln’s speech: The “Cooper Union Address he had lost a debate for the seat in the U.S Senate against Stephen Douglas. The debate took place in 1858 and Lincoln wasn’t going to let this one loss stop him. Lincoln went on and gave speeches to different areas, in 1859, on the issue of slavery. He began to be recognized and was invited to speak in New York, which he immediately began preparing for with immense research and time. The timing of the speech was very important for Lincoln because he wanted to beat Douglas and wanted to be considered as a Republican Nomination for the 1860 election. Lincoln was up against many other Republicans including, William Henry Seward. He approached his speech with calm manner, unlike Seward who was forceful in his speech talking about economic effects of slavery, which isn’t what the people necessarily wanted to hear (“William H. Seward.”). The political listeners and viewers of both Lincoln and Seward’s speeches came down to an ultimate decision, resulting in the election of Lincoln as the Republican Nomination. Lincoln was nominated as the 16th President of the United States and named Seward secretary of state. Lincoln’s main arguments consisted of not completely agreeing with slavery but having faith that things will turn out the right way. With the closing of Lincoln’s speech, New York was left with something to remember and the “Cooper Union Address was something that would never be forgotten.

The Evolution of Liberalism in America (1607- 1860):

Liberty and equality might be described as being “free or “independent from certain restrictions. In America today, we experience liberty and equality through natural rights without even thinking about it. However, it wasn’t always this way. American History has brought us to where we are today and it all started with the first settlers, searching for freedom and liberalism. It all began in the state of Virginia, where the first English settlers arrived in 1607 fighting for Liberalism. American thinking on liberty and equality has evolved over the course of time and focuses in on the time period between 1607 and 1860. From the time of the first settlers of Virginia to the very day in New York, where Abraham Lincoln gave his speech: The Cooper Union Address.

It all began with King James I, who settled in Jamestown, which was then named after him. King James delivered a series of speeches to parliament in 1610 explaining where the king comes from. He stated an argument from scripture that kings were called gods and another argument that the king was the political father of his people. In his “Address before Parliament, in 1610, he said “There be three principal similitudes that illustrate the state of monarchy: one taken out of the word of God, and the two other out of the grounds of policy and philosophy (James, p. 4). King James believed that the monarchy was established by the god and the bible, meaning the king was the political father of his people and therefore was presented as the “father of the country. He argued that he possessed gods authority, otherwise known as absolutism. This then lead to the term coverture in which a married woman loses her legal identity and the husband is responsible for the family. When the woman married the man she also didn’t have the right to an education, could not sign contracts, and could not work at salary. This demonstrated unequal rights to the woman and inequality in society.

Next is the Glorious Revolution of 1688 in which the people of England chased James the second off the throne. The English replaced him with William of Orange and his wife Mary as king and queen as a result of the Glorious revolution. A constitutional monarchy was created and sovereignty rested in the king working with the parliament, creating the three estates of monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy. This meant the king needed permission to do anything for parliament. Following these events, a man named John Locke wrote, “The Second Treatise of Government in which discusses the idea of natural law and natural rights on government. Locke takes his ideas on the state of nature and agrees upon the matter that some men are declined to be reasonable when it comes to natural rights and states, “Men being, as has been said, by nature, all free, equal, and independent, no one can be put out of this estate, and subjected to the political power of another, without his own consent. The only way, whereby any one divests himself of his natural liberty, and puts on the bondsof civil society,is by agreeing with other men to join and unite into a community, for their comfortable, safe, and peaceable living one amongst another, in a secure enjoyment of their properties, and a greater security against any, that are not of it (Locke, p. 51). John Locke mentions “the bonds of civil society and explains that a political society is needed. He suggests that people are biased towards their own belongings, meaning that they overvalue their own things and undervalue others. He also voices that it is important people know their rights of “life, liberty, and estates because if they are threatened they have the ability to overthrow the government.

After a couple years, the Parliament began abusing their power and the American Revolution had begun. This was a perfect example of the settlers putting liberalism to use because parliament was passing acts to put taxes on daily goods. One act that took place was the Stamp Act, designed to raise money to pay for the cost of defending the colonies after the seven years war. It was not about paying the British national debt, it was a modest tax and the people in America benefit from it. Yet the Americans were still upset with the act and believed it was tyranny. The people used liberalism to unite and stick up for themselves because they were truly outraged. A man named John Otis was in it for the people and wanted to help them during this time of grievance. In “Answer of the Council to the Speech of Governor Hutchinson, Otis states, “From all which it appears, that the inhabitants of this colony are clearly entitled to all the right and privileges of free and natural subjects; which certainly must include that most essential one, that no aid or taxes be levied on them, without their own consent, signified by their representatives(Bowdin, p. 230). Otis believed in order for there to be taxation there must be representation because it is a basic right. Since taxes were not given with consent of the people’s representatives, it was not right to tax them on their goods.This went for many acts including the Quartering Act, The Townshend Revenue Act, the Declaratory Act, and the Tea Act. In 1773 peoples anger escalated and they turned political conflict into violence. The American patriots dumped 342 chests of British tea into the Boston Harbor while disguised as Indians. The Americans wanted to prove a point that they wouldn’t just take taxation from Great Britain without putting up a fight. The American patriot’s rebellion ended with the signing of the Declaration of Independence declaring the colonies independence from Britain.

A major document following the Declaration of Independence was The Articles of Confederation. The Articles of Confederation were drafted in 1777 dealing with state sovereignty and giving powers to the states. They created a federal government that was made up of congress containing certain powers, which includes, being able to declare war and many other regulating duties. In order to demonstrate these powers, congress was required to gain permission from nine of the states. The articles clearly mention what is to be expected, “Each State retains its sovereignty, freedom and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled(Articles, p. 332). Congress did not approve of this and believed all the power was in the hands of the states and not at all in their own hands. The Articles of Confederation were unsuccessful because it was lacking a centralized government, which is necessary because it’s what makes the government strong for society.

The failure of The Articles of Confederation led to the creation of the Constitution, in hope to form a centralized government. A Checks and Balances system was then introduced to keep the government from getting too powerful within a specific branch. It created different viewpoints of the people, consisting of the Federalists or Anti-Federalists. The Federalists were led by Alexander Hamilton, who supported the Constitution and favored the idea of having a single national government. He proposed that without it, America would be weak and vulnerable to war between different states. The Anti-Federalists disagreed, therefore rejecting the constitution because they suspected people’s liberties and freedom were being restricted. Both the Federalists and Anti-Federalists wanted to protect the people’s natural rights, just with different perspectives and outlooks. Following the Constitution, the Bill of Rights was introduced to please the Anti-Federalists and their desire to protect individual liberalism. The Federalists believed the Bill of Rights was not necessary because all powers were given to the states and citizens, not to the federal government. Overall, the Bill of Rights helped maintain liberalism and sovereignty for the people.

Liberalism was then readdressed throughout the late 1700’s and mid 1800’s for the abolishment of slavery. Slaves were seen as property and were not treated with the same rights and justices as a white man. Not only were the slaves treated as property, but they were traded as if they were objects being sold to other human beings. Not all people agreed with the slave trade, including Thomas Jefferson who states his opinions in Query 18 “Notes on the State of Virginia, “The spirit of the master is abating, that off the slave rising from the dust, his condition mollifying, the way I hope preparing, under the auspices of heaven, for a total emancipation, and that this is disposed, in the order of events, to be with the consent of the masters, rather than by their extirpation (Jefferson, p. 26). Jefferson argued the trading of slaves went against moral principles and violated natural law. He presented slavery as inhumane, yet was a hypocrite because he owned many slaves throughout his lifetime himself.

The abolishment of slavery wasn’t ideal for everyone, different consequences were addressed making it difficult for people to be on the same page. Many historical figures including Richard Nisbet, Patrick Henry, James Jackson, Thomas Tudor, and William Smith went back and forth arguing their opinions and stances on why they do or do not defend slavery. In “Debates in the United States Congress, Patrick Henry mentions, ‘”I apprehend, if though the interference of the General Government the slave trade was abolished, it would evince to people a disposition towards a total emancipation, and they would hold their property in jeopardy (Debates, p.44). Henry makes a point that without slaves, the societal demands for agricultural goods and farming cannot be met. The farmers need slaves because without them their land will suffer. Even though it wasn’t morally right to have the slaves, they were the cheapest way farm owners could afford labor and produce goods for society.

The issue of slavery is then addressed within the controversy of slaves counting as a person or not and what portion of the population they occupied. That is when the 3/5 compromise, proposed by James Wilson and Roger Sherman, was introduced in 1787 at the Constitutional Convention. The general senses of this compromise were that the slave population was less important to the economic outcomes than the white man. This was saying that slaves were non-property owners and had no exercise in government, meaning they could not make rational decisions due to their lack of education. Therefore, slaves could not vote, but the compromise wanted to keep the slaves from counting as part of the population. This was a large matter because if the population was larger, the House of Representatives would receive more representatives creating an advantage for the Southern states and their power in congress. The compromise settled that slaves were equal to 3/5 of a white man and were not considered a full person within a population.

In addition to the 3/5 compromise, Jefferson introduced his argument that all men are equal and everyone must have the right to vote. Although this topic wasn’t necessarily applied to slavery, it had to do with the matter of liberalism. Jefferson said we should trust all citizens to vote because they can all be good citizens including the poor. He believes that the reason democracy works is because of natural aristocracy and the genius and educated virtues of people running for government. In Counter argument to Jefferson, John Adams, in his “Letter to Thomas Jefferson, utters, “The five pillars of aristocracy are beauty, wealth, birth, genius, and virtue. Any of the three first can, of any time, overbear any one or both of the two last (Adams, p. 751). Adams conveys that we cannot trust non-landowners to vote and believes both genius and virtues can be overlooked, critiquing that democracy is impossible based on general public voting. He wants to maintain the rights of property owners and allow only those who own land to vote because they are the most educated. Jefferson thinks otherwise and communicates that even if people were to vote for the wrong pillars, that it would not have a large effect on the outcome. Jefferson conveys his opinion in his “Letter to John Adams, “I think the best remedy is exactly that provided by the constitutions, to leave the citizens the free election and separation of the aristoi from the pseudo-aristoi of the wheat from the chaff. In general, they will elect the real good and wise. In some instances, wealth may corrupt, and birth blind them; but not in sufficient degree to endanger the society (Jefferson, p.742). Jefferson trusts citizens of America to separate any personal fondness of an individual, from what is going to be the most beneficial to their society they live in.

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Analysis Abraham Lincoln Cooper Union Address. (2019, Sep 23). Retrieved from