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Abraham Lincoln at The Cooper Union

Abraham Lincoln in the hours before his speech at the Cooper Union.  Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress

Abraham Lincoln in the hours before his speech at the Cooper Union. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress

On February 27, 1860 Abraham Lincoln, at the invitation of an organization calling itself "The Young Men's Central Republican Union", delivered a masterful speech in the Great Hall at The Cooper Union that would cement his candidacy for president. The western politian's introduction to the east, the speech argues against allowing the spread of slavery into the western territories and includes the line, "Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it."  It became a sensation and was "the most pivital public appearance of his career," according to Harold Holzer, in his book Lincoln at Cooper Union: The Speech that Made Abraham Lincoln President.  For more about the speech and its impact see the Columbia Journalism Review.

On the 144th anniversary of the occasion actor Sam Waterston reenacted the speech in the Great Hall.  The recording by C-SPAN2 can be viewed below.

  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.