Lincoln’s Cooper Union Address 

U.S. #555 is based on a photo taken just a few days before Lincoln’s 55th birthday.

On February 27, 1860, Abraham Lincoln gave one of the most important speeches of his career – the Cooper Union Address.

By late 1859, there were several contenders in the running for the following year’s presidential race. The Republican expected to win at that point was William Seward, though many in his party thought he might not be electable.

U.S. #1177 was issued on Greeley’s 150th birthday.

So the Young Men’s Republican Union, whose members included Horace Greeley and Hamilton Fish, invited a group of more moderate candidates to address a New York audience. Among the choices were Frank Blair, Cassius Clay, and Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln knew full well that his speech, if successful, could lead to a nomination, and even the presidency.

In preparing for the speech, Lincoln’s then-law partner William Herndon noted, “No former effort in the line of speech-making had cost Lincoln so much time and thought as this one.” Lincoln recognized that this speech could have a great impact upon his campaign for the presidency, and “searched through the dusty volumes of congressional proceedings in the State library, and dug deeply into political history. He was painstaking and thorough in the study of his subject.”

U.S. #1058 was issued at Fort Abraham Lincoln in North Dakota.

The focus of Lincoln’s speech was slavery. He spent months researching to prove that the framers of the Constitution believed that the federal government should regulate the adoption of slavery in new territories.

Initially, Lincoln’s speech was to be at Henry Ward Beecher’s church in Brooklyn. But when he arrived in New York City, he found that the event was moved to the Cooper Institute in Manhattan. Then on the unseasonably warm night of February 27, 1860, Lincoln addressed an audience of more than 1,500 New Yorkers at the Cooper Union. Many were initially shocked at his appearance. One person present that day recalled, “When Lincoln rose to speak, I was greatly disappointed. He was tall, tall, – oh how tall! And so angular and awkward that I had, for an instant, a feeling of pity for so ungainly a man.”

U.S. #4382 – The black and white portrait on this stamp is based on a photo by Matthew Brady taken on the afternoon of the Cooper Union Address.

But Lincoln’s audience embraced him once he got started and “his face lighted up as with an inward fire; the whole man was transfigured. I forgot his clothes, his personal appearance, and his individual peculiarities. Presently, forgetting myself, I was on my feet like the rest…cheering for this wonderful man.”

For more than an hour, Lincoln captivated his audience with an electrifying 7,500-word speech. The next day, his speech was printed in papers throughout New York City with one reporter exclaiming, “No man ever before made such an impression on his first appeal to a New York audience.”

Item #M10591 also pictures the photo taken shortly before Lincoln’s address.

With this speech, Lincoln established himself as a frontrunner in the Republican Party, easily securing the party’s presidential nomination just three months later.

Click here to read Lincoln’s Cooper Union Address.

Click here to see what else happened on This Day in History.

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  1. I really enjoy reading the articles and send them to my granddaughter who is a teacher and she
    teaches children in another city all about the Presidents. This is a good way to keep the kids
    informed about them. Thank you for doing this

  2. I read with interest this article. It show me that when really want something and prepare themselves that they can achieve any thing that they really want to achieve. I tell my grandchildren to follow their dreams even if they turn out not the way you expected you can say I tried and not the what IFS.
    I enjoy reading these short stories.

  3. The argument can be made that he has been this nation’s greatest President. I have often wondered if today, given how Lincoln was awkward and his appearance may pale in comparison to other candidates, if he would be elected. Or would we focus on what a candidate believes and the integrity of the individual?

  4. IMO Lincoln was certainly our greatest president, especially considering the challenges he & the country faced. & his Cooper Union address disposes effectively of claims that Congress had no power to regulate slavery in U.S. territories.

    I take issue though with the statement that Lincoln “easily” secured the nomination 3 months later. It took some conniving on the part of his supporters at the convention to get him nominated on the 3d ballot.

  5. No matter what your opinion of Lincoln is, be thankful for his presidency. He gave the Negros a new opportunity for their lives. It has been a long time ago for Lincoln. Thank you Mr. President.

  6. It seems that at least once a month there is an article and another stamp for President Lincoln. There is no way you can even say “Just when you thought you knew everything about Abraham Lincoln….”. There is just no way you could. His beliefs, his accomplishments and the speeches that accompany all of these are just the greatest. Consider the time frame, mindset of the populace, and politics of the time and it is no wonder as time goes on he becomes more beloved and appreciated.

  7. A really interesting book on this topic is, “Lincoln at Cooper Union, The Speech That Made Abraham Lincoln President,” (2004) by Harold Holzer. The author profiles Lincoln in the late 1950s, his elaborate research and preparations for the speech (which he wrote himself), New York City at the time, and he reproduces Lincoln’s entire address which runs 32 pages with explanatory footnotes.

  8. Very interesting. Didn’t realize all these individuals have been listed in America’s prestigious people.

    Many times the people who use stamps don’t realize that there are ‘little’ ways that Americans can be recognized for what they have done in their lives.

  9. Lincoln the Man, did have certain presence that transcended himself. You might say he possessed a ‘spiritual’ presence. He believed that his mother died as a result of what is known as ‘milk decease’, which referrers to someone passing from a bite of a ‘vampire’.

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