The Cooper Union Address, February 27, 1860
Invited to New York City in early 1860, Lincoln electrified the audience of Republicans by speaking about the slavery crisis in American society. He cited how various founding fathers, some who were slaveholders, had envisioned the end of slavery into the future of the embryonic country. With the speech, Lincoln broadened his exposure to an Eastern electorate and made himself a viable spokesman for a moderate view addressing slavery.
In his speech Lincoln gives understanding and tolerance to the Southern states while drawing a line, not being intimidated into giving up his principles.
2/27/1860 ...A few words now to Republicans. It is exceedingly desirable that all parts of this great confederacy [the United States] shall be at peace, and in harmony, one with another. Let us Republicans do our part to have it so. Even though much provoked, let us do nothing through passion and ill temper. Even though the Southern people will not so much as listen to us, let us calmly consider their demands, and yield to them if, in our deliberate view of our duty, we possibly can. Judging by all they say and do, and by the subject and nature of their controversy with us, let us determine, if we can, what will satisfy them...The question recurs, what will satisfy them? Simply this: We must not only let them alone, but we must, somehow, convince them that we do let them alone.
...what will convince them? This and only this: cease to call slavery wrong and join them in calling it right. And this must be done thoroughly-done in acts as well as in words. Silence will not be tolerated-we must place ourselves avowedly with them. Senator Douglas's new sedition law must be enacted and enforced, suppressing all declarations that slavery is wrong, whether made in politics, in presses, in pulpits, or in private.
We must arrest and return their fugitive slaves with greedy pleasure. We must pull down our free state constitutions. The whole atmosphere must be disinfected from all taint of opposition to slavery, before they will cease to believe that all their troubles proceed from us...
If slavery is right, all words, acts, laws and constitutions against it, are themselves wrong, and should be silenced, and swept away. If it is right, we cannot justly object to its nationality-its universality; if it is wrong, they cannot justly insist upon its extension-its enlargement. All they ask, we could readily grant, if we thought slavery right; all we ask, they could readily grant; if they thought it wrong. Their thinking is right, and our thinking is wrong, is the precise fact upon which depends the whole controversy. Thinking it right, as they do, they are not to blame for desiring its full recognition, as being right; but thinking it wrong, as we do, can we yield to them? Can we cast our votes with their view, and against our own? In view of our moral, social, and political responsibilities, can we do this?
Wrong as we think slavery is, we can yet afford to let it alone where it is, because that much is due the necessity arising from its actual presence in the nation; but can we, while our votes prevent it, allow it to spread into the national territories, and to overrun us here in these free states? If our sense of duty forbids this, then let us stand by our duty, fearlessly and effectively...
Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the government nor of dungeons to ourselves. 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. LL 309-19