1865 Abraham Lincoln O 103cAbraham Lincoln gave a speech titled “The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions” to the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield on Jan. 27, 1838. Lincoln talked about the dangers of slavery in the United States because its existence could corrupt the federal government.

During this time, Lincoln was unmarried and in his late 20s serving as a novice lawyer and a state representative. Historians believe the speech delivered by Abraham Lincoln was inspired by an event that roused and divided the nation on the topic of slavery. In the fall of 1837, Elijah Lovejoy, an abolitionist newspaper editor, was murdered by a pro-slavery mob while trying to defend himself and his printing press near Alton. The arguments for and against slavery were being made in the time of Lincoln, and he was far from shy when it came to expressing his misgivings of its continuance in the United States.

In this speech, he warned against mob behavior and urged Americans to keep their faith in law. He believed that the injuries of slavery could not be contained within select states.

…(Outrages committed by mobs) have pervaded the country, from New England to Louisiana; they are neither peculiar to the eternal snows of the former, nor the burning suns of the latter; they are not the creature of climate neither are they confined to the slaveholding, or the non-slaveholding States.”

Like many leaders of the time, Abraham Lincoln saw the historical function of slavery, but he decided that its effect was too far-reaching and the recent killing of Elijah Lovejoy helped prove his point, although he did not mention his name. His words described slavery as something used by the founders of the country that outlived its usefulness and now caused more harm. Therefore, he supported measures that reduced the need for slavery in the United States. Lincoln would eventually be known as the Great Emancipator.

Click here for full Lyceum Address



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