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Lincoln at Cooper Union : The Speech That Made Abraham Lincoln President

4.7 out of 5 stars 43 customer reviews
ISBN-10: 0743224663
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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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (May 5, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743224663
  • ASIN: B0006SHMO8
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,552,745 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Paperback
Harold Holzer's book on Abraham Lincoln's speech at Cooper Union gives a clarity to the importance of that speech and how it affected Lincoln as a speaker, politican and future candidate for his Republican Party. While Lincoln was well known among the western states, he wasn't that well regarded along the northeastern seaboard. One of the most important things about the book was how the author explained how this speech gave Lincoln so much creditability among the easterners and how that speech firmly put Lincoln on the political map national wide. This helped pave the way for Lincoln's nomination when others were looking for alternative choices beside William Seward who was at that time, the leading Republican front runner.

The book proves to be quite informative. Abraham Lincoln is obviously one person you cannot judge by your first impression. The author throughly explained the mannerism of Lincoln's speech skills and the way it contrast to his physical appearances which often led to initial misgiving by the audience before they roared in their approval at the end of the speech.

Its pretty clear that Mr. Holzer have complete command of his subject matter which is reflected on the superb writing and ease of reading material that only an expert can do to any subject. The book appears to be well researched and it was about time that a book on this subject came out (I think the last book about this speech came out before Mr. Holzer was born).

I would considered this book to be a mandatory reading material for anyone interested in Abraham Lincoln and probably a good background material for anyone interested in the coming of the American Civil War.
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