Speech of Hon. Abraham Lincoln


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Speech of Hon. Abraham Lincoln
Speech of Hon. Abraham Lincoln


LINCOLN, Abraham. Speech of Hon. Abraham Lincoln, Delivered in Springfield, Saturday Evening, July 17, 1858. [Springfield: no publisher, 1858]. Octavo, original ivory leaves; pp. [1]-8. Housed in a custom clamshell box.

First and only separate printing of this "trial balloon" speech, in which Lincoln defines equality between blacks and whites, leading up to the famous series of debates with Stephen Douglas. First printings of any of Lincoln's speeches are quite scarce.

The political contest between Lincoln and Douglas constitutes "one of the great events in American political history' (Davis & Wilson, Lincoln-Douglas Debates, ix). Earlier on the day of this momentous July 17, 1858 speech by Lincoln, Stephen Douglas spoke to a small gathering, challenging Lincoln's understanding of "negro equality." When Lincoln delivered this speech that evening, he repeated the "house divided" warning he first issued at the State Republican Convention a month earlier, and in addition, pointed to the famous clause in the Declaration of Independence, which he interpreted as "all men are equal in some respects; they are equal in their right to 'life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," which he then further defined as "the right to put into his mouth the bread that his own hands have earned, he is the equal of every other man, white or black." When his speech came to a close, "Lincoln sat down amidst loud and continued cheering." Lincoln's strategy "of following his adversary and speaking in response to him was not uncommon in the Illinois politics of the time." This July 17 speech proved a turning point, however, for within a week "Lincoln approached Douglas with regard to 'an arrangement for you and myself to divide time, and address the same audiences,'" a move that prompted the Lincoln-Douglas debates (Davis &Wilson, xx-.xxi). To best know and "study Abraham Lincoln," historian Fehrenbacher has noted, "we must examine his words, and not only the words that he wrote but also those that he uttered" (Lincoln in Text and Context). Text in double columns. Variant seen with the title, "Reply of Hon. Abraham Lincoln, to Hon. S.A. Douglass": priority undetermined. Monaghan 12. Fish 526. Byrd 2960.

Text fresh with faint marginal soiling and toning, intact with minimal splitting along seam. A rare very good unrestored copy.

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