Lincoln at Peoria

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  • The pivotal speech that changed the course of Lincoln's career and America's history
  • Complete examination of the speech, including the full text delivered in 1854 in Peoria, Illinois

To understand President Abraham Lincoln, one must understand the extraordinary antislavery speech Lincoln delivered at Peoria on October 16, 1854. This three-hour address marked the turning point in Lincoln's political ...

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Lincoln at Peoria: The Turning Point

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  • The pivotal speech that changed the course of Lincoln's career and America's history
  • Complete examination of the speech, including the full text delivered in 1854 in Peoria, Illinois

To understand President Abraham Lincoln, one must understand the extraordinary antislavery speech Lincoln delivered at Peoria on October 16, 1854. This three-hour address marked the turning point in Lincoln's political pilgrimage, dramatically altering his political career and, as a result, the history of America.

Lincoln opposed any further extension of slavery in the American republic, holding to the Declaration of Independence's universal principle that "all men are created equal." In response to the Kansas-Nebraska Act, Lincoln launched his antislavery campaign, delivering speeches in Springfield and Peoria.

The Peoria address was rigorous, logical, and grounded in historical research. It marked Lincoln's reentry into politics and his preparation for the presidency in 1861. The speech catapulted Lincoln into the national debates over slavery and into national politics for the rest of his life.

Though historians and biographers have noted its importance, Lincoln's speech at Peoria has not received the attention it deserves. Lincoln at Peoria offers a complete examination of the speech that changed the course of our nation.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review.

In this careful, balanced look at Abraham Lincoln's stirring 1854 Peoria, Ill., speech, writer and historian Lehrman finds a "prelude to greatness" that put the little-known lawyer and politician on the path to national prominence while laying the intellectual groundwork for his presidency. The subject was slavery, already the great question of 19th century America, recently reignited with the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act that repealed earlier anti-slavery laws for certain new territories. Arguing that the fundamental principles of the Declaration of Independence extended to African-Americans, Lincoln took an abolitionist position daring for any politician with national ambitions (though he did not go so far as to advocate for full social or political equality). Lehrman also considers Lincoln's Illinois nemesis, Sen. Stephen A. Douglas, sponsor of the new Kansas-Nebraska Act who spoke at Peoria before Lincoln as a stalwart booster of "the rights of whites to enslave blacks." Ably building on the drama of Lincoln's anti-slavery efforts through subsequent years, culminating in his ascent to the presidency, Lehrman's detailed chronicle, rich in first-person accounts, lays out the case that from his earliest public forays, Lincoln was no ordinary leader.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

The Wall Street Journal
Lincoln's return to politics, and the speeches it occasioned, is the subject of Lewis E. Lehrman's "Lincoln at Peoria." Intimately familiar with the primary sources and armed with a sweeping command of the historiography, Mr. Lehrman convincingly argues that Peoria marks the inflection-point in Lincoln's political development, when he discovered both the essence of the cause he embraced and the most persuasive way to convey it. At Peoria, Lincoln ceased to be an unremarkable Whig politician, concerned with the usual party platforms on internal improvements and protective tariffs. He gave evidence for the first time of his scrupulous study of the American founding. That fall day was, Mr. Lehrman suggests, the moment when Lincoln became Lincoln.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780811703611
  • Publisher: Stackpole Books
  • Publication date: 7/4/2008
  • Pages: 350
  • Sales rank: 551,054
  • Product dimensions: 9.18 (w) x 10.90 (h) x 1.32 (d)

Meet the Author

Lewis E. Lehrman is dedicated to reviving the teaching of American history in its schools and colleges. Mr. Lehrman has written and lectured widely on American history and economics and has written for publications such as Harper's, the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, National Review, the New York Sun, and Policy Review. He also writes for the Lincoln Institute, which has created award-winning websites on the sixteenth president. With Richard Gilder, Mr. Lehrman built the Gilder Lehrman Collection of original historical manuscripts and documents to teach American history from primary sources, now on deposit for public access at the New-York Historical Society. He was presented the National Humanities Medal at the White House in 2005 for his work in American history and is a member of the Advisory Committee of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission and the Lincoln Forum.
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Table of Contents

Introduction     xiii
On the Road to the Springfield Speech     1
Lincoln and Douglas-the Early Years     5
Helping Congressman Yates     8
Preparation to Fight Kansas-Nebraska     12
Senator Douglas Returns to Illinois     18
Speeches and Debates     24
Campaigning for Free-Soil     25
Springfield, Peoria, and Beyond     37
On to Peoria     48
Peoria Speech     52
The End of the 1854 Debates     58
The End of the Campaign     62
The Kansas-Nebraska Act: The Context     69
Douglas's Motives     71
Insertion of "Inoperative and Void"     77
The Chase Appeal     81
The Opposition     86
The Whigs     87
Pushing Passage     90
Protesting Passage     97
The Peoria Speech: The Ideas and Arguments     101
The Founders and the Declaration of Independence     103
National Expansion and Compromise     110
The Compromise of 1850     119
Popular Sovereignty and Slavery     126
Race and Prejudice     135
Nationhood and Union     138
Principle and Policy     140
The Road From Peoria     153
Unintended Consequences of Kansas-Nebraska     155
Election Results and Realignment in Illinois     159
The 1854-1855 Senate Campaign     161
Realignment and the Republican Party     171
Bleeding Kansas     174
The 1856 Bloomington Convention     179
Challenging Dred Scott, the Supreme Court, and Douglas     189
The Republican Reaction     191
The 1858 Senate Campaign     196
The Lincoln-Douglas Debates     203
The Presidential Campaign     209
Peoria Characterizes the Lincoln Presidency     217
Declaration of Independence and the Constitution     221
Preserving the Union     224
Slavery and Equality     230
Union, Morality, and Reality     238
The South     241
Douglas and Lincoln     245
The Bible and the World     248
Coda     257
The Peoria Speech and the Historians' Record     269
Full Text of Speech at Peoria, Illinois     289
Acknowledgments     329
Milestones in the Lives of Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas      341
Notes     352
Bibliography     382
Index     396
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Customer Reviews

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