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Lincoln at Cooper Union: The Speech That Made Abraham Lincoln President Hardcover – Deckle Edge, April 27, 2004

ISBN-13: 978-0743224666 ISBN-10: 0743224663 Edition: First

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First edition (April 27, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743224663
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743224666
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.6 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,079,751 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Few people know more about Abraham Lincoln than Holzer (editor of Lincoln the Writer; Lincoln Seen and Heard; etc.). This fine new work focuses on a widely known but little studied address that Lincoln delivered early in 1860 in New York City, which Holzer believes made Lincoln the Republican candidate and therefore president. While one has to credit other political and historical factors, Holzer is probably right. Surely no one will again overlook this masterful speech, even if it never rose to the eloquence of the Gettysburg Address. That's precisely one of Holzer's main arguments: that the speech was intended as a learned, historically grounded, legally powerful rebuttal to claims of Lincoln's great Democratic opponent, Stephen Douglas, about the constitutionality of slavery's spread into the territories. But how, Holzer asks, did a long speech hold its audience at Cooper Union and then infuse tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of newspaper readers with enthusiasm for the man? The answer lies in large part with the nature of American cultureâ€"a highly politicized one of readersâ€"in the 1860s. But as Holzer also makes clear, Lincoln conceived of the speech as part of an astute strategy to win his party's nomination. While his political wizardry will surprise few readers, they'll learn again how it was combined with intellectual power and a fierce determination to clarify his moral convictions. It was on this visit to New York that Matthew Brady shot his most celebrated portrait of Lincoln (which appears on the book jacket). Holzer devotes a fascinating chapter to this episode.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

A prolific Lincoln editor (The Lincoln-Douglas Debates: The First Complete, Unexpurgated Text, 1993), Holzer here steps forward as a full-fledged Lincoln author. The oration he scrutinizes, the February 1860 address to a Republican Party audience in New York, gave wings to Lincoln's presidential aspirations, and its historical stature makes the humble details of its arrangement and delivery interesting in their own right. So much so that, after Lincoln's death, all sorts of apocrypha have risen around the speech, which Holzer studiously analyzes. Yet Holzer's is not a dry exercise in scholarly exactitude but a vivid narration of the episode, from Lincoln's purposes in consenting to speak to the physical appearances of his surroundings on trains and in New York. Holzer's prose conjures the figure Lincoln cut onstage and the aural impact of his words, which identified the Republicans as the genuine upholders of the Founders' position on slavery, that is, against its extension and for its extinction. An excellent contribution to Lincolnalia. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

More About the Author

Harold Holzer, one of the country's leading authorities on Abraham Lincoln and the political culture of the Civil War era, serves as chairman of the Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation. He has authored, coauthored, and edited forty-two books, including Emancipating Lincoln, Lincoln at Cooper Union, and three award-winning books for young readers: Father Abraham: Lincoln and His Sons, The President Is Shot!, and Abraham Lincoln, the Writer. His awards include the Lincoln Prize and the National Humanities Medal. He lives in New York City.

Customer Reviews

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I intend to read that book also and will review and and compare it when I do so.
David E. Levine
Harold Holzer's new book further cements Lincoln's reputation as the United States' greatest president.
Richard M. Affleck
I enjoyed this book immensely and now look forward to reading more from Holzer about this period.
W. Worland

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 43 people found the following review helpful By R. B. Bernstein on May 27, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Harold Holzer's excellent analysis of the Cooper Union speech is a model of historical and rhetorical scholarship. Written with clarity and unpretentiousness, it offers a wonderful view of the political world of 1859-1860, of Lincoln as a would-be candidate for president seeking to make his first big venture in the East, of the turbulent and anti-Republican metropolis of New York City, of the ordeal of railroad travel, of the growing power of photographic images in politics, and of the interactions of newspapers and politics. Holzer more than proves his case that the Cooper Union speech was vital to making Lincoln President, and that it was one of his greatest and most intellectually formidable speeches. Highly recommended as a book that belongs with Garry Wills's LINCOLN AT GETTYSBURG and Ronald White's LINCOLN'S GREATEST SPEECH: THE SECOND INAUGURAL ADDRESS. Now if Holzer would only tackle Lincoln's First Inaugural Address and his 1838 Young Men's Lyceum speech in the same way....
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Rocco Dormarunno on June 20, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Of all of Lincoln's pre-Presidential speeches, the one he gave at New York City's Cooper Union in February 1860 stands out as the most historically significant: it made him president; it compelled the South to secede; and it saved the Union. And, yet, as Professor Holzer points out, this speech, while mentioned in history books, is rarely given the recognition it deserves. His comprehensive and readable "Lincoln at Cooper Union: The Speech that Made Abraham Lincoln President", rectifies this terrible oversight.

This is not a step-by-step examination of Lincoln's references in, and the rhetorical craftsmanship of, the speech, although those are explored thoroughly. The book also explores the heretofore unacknowledged campaigning savvy that Lincoln possessed. He knew he had to come to Gotham to convince the Eastern Republicans of his credibility. He knew the importance of the local newspaper printers, like Bryant and Greeley. He understood the importance of having a visual aid, like a Matthew Brady photograph. But, most important, as Professor Holzer takes great pains to reveal, Lincoln did not want to appear to be an abolitionist. That would border on radicalism which would be a guarantee of defeat.

As a bonus, "Lincoln at Cooper Union: The Speech that Made Abraham Lincoln President", presents us with a unique view of 1860 New York: the thieves at the docks; the "mass transit" of the age; the hunger for entertainment, of which political speeches were a significant part; the elegance and extravagance of the rich; and the desperation of the Five Points poor.

"Lincoln at Cooper Union: The Speech That Made Abraham Lincoln President" is a wonderful book that will please anyone interested in American History, New York City, or oratory. And Professor Holzer deserves our thanks for making it so fascinating. It only reflects his own passion for the subject.

Rocco Dormarunno, author of THE FIVE POINTS
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Richard M. Affleck on July 19, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Harold Holzer's new book further cements Lincoln's reputation as the United States' greatest president. Lincoln's speech at Cooper Union in New York City early in 1860 was designed as a rebuttal to Stephen A. Douglas's doctrine of Popular Sovereignty, which would have allowed the spread of slavery into the territories. It was also meant to define the Republican Party and, by extension, Lincoln himself, countering the South's contention that the Republicans were nothing more than a sectional party. Holzer does a masterful job in relating Lincoln's research in crafting the Cooper Union speech, the long, tiring journey from Illinois to New York, his performance, and the long, winding trip back to Springfield. Holzer's book will stand for quite some time as the definitive study of "The Speech that Made Lincoln President".
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By David E. Levine on April 18, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This excellent book, by Harold Holzer, sheds light on the speech that may well have launched Lincoln towards the Republican nomination for president in 1860. In the fall of 1859, Lincoln had received an invitation to speak at the Plymouth Church in Brooklyn, NY. After negotiations about the most convenient date, it was agreed that Lincoln would speak in February 1860 for a fee of $200.00. He made the long, arduous trip from Springfield, IL, and when he arrived in New York, he discovered that the speech was going to take place in Manhattan at Cooper Union (the organizers had overlooked informing him of this change).

He had an ill fitting, rumpled suit that was packed in a trunk. Prior to the speech, he went to Matthew Brady's studio, and through photographic wizardry, Brady made Lincoln appear distinguished looking although he was actually ungainly and he was wearing that suit. Because he seemed so presidential in the photo, it was used in campaign literature and was widely distrubuted, often with artistic variations. That night, when he appeared on the stage, people were shocked at the awkward looking presence before them. He got up to speak and he started in sort of a frontier accent (some reports state that he opened by saying "Mr. Cheerman."). Before long, however, he had the audience enraptured. The first part of the speech was a well researched, scholarly exposition on whether the Constitution authorized the federal government to regulate slavery in the territories. By demonstrating that many signers of the Constitution who later served in Congress voted for such regulations (such as in the Northwest Territories) he argued forcefully that their understanding was that the Constitution did allow it.
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