Tag: Peoria

Lincoln at Peoria


I hope today’s rather brief group writing post on “Truth” is informative on a topic I regard as significant. The reason for its significance surrounds the mounting accusations of racism involving our Republic, revisionist history with regard to the role of slavery, and the need to temper certain accusations with truth.

We are told almost on a daily basis, even by our leaders, that the United States is systemically racist. We are told that our founding was a product of slavery, as was the Second Amendment. We are told that some of our most revered persons bear the stain of slavery. In addition to the founding fathers, even Abraham Lincoln—in my view, our greatest President—has been subjected to scrutiny.

It is true that, until his address at Peoria, IL, on October 16, 1854, Lincoln had not focused on the issue of slavery. But, in 1854, the Kansas-Nebraska Act drew his scrutiny. The law permitted settlers to determine whether slavery would be permitted in their region, and Lincoln saw it as a de facto repeal of the Missouri Compromise, which outlawed slavery above the 36°30′ parallel.

Abe Lincoln 2016


Screen Shot 2015-08-31 at 08.57.00May I recommend two books? Harold Holzer’s Lincoln at Cooper Union and Lewis E. Lehrman’s Lincoln at Peoria are wonderful treatments of wonderful speeches. The authors present Lincoln’s moral genius and rhetorical power in the context of the critical issue — the extension of slavery —  and the era’s state and national party politics.

Of the two eponymous speeches, I especially like Peoria. Lincoln gave this speech as he shadowed Stephen Douglas on the hustings in Illinois. Douglas was addressing voters in support of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which opened the west for the extension of slavery.

Here’s why I like Lincoln’s Peoria speech: the audience.