History for the Rest of Us

Abraham Lincoln’s ‘House Divided’ Speech

Abraham Lincoln’s ‘House Divided’ Speech

Jun 16, 2015

Abraham Lincoln delivered his ‘House Divided speech, one of the best known of his career, on June 16, 1858 in the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield. He had won the Republican Party’s nomination as Illinois’ US Senator. He was unsuccessful in his campaign for the seat which was held by Stephen A. Douglas, a campaign memorable for the Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858. The most well known section of the speech is: “A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become lawful in all the States, old as well as new — North as well as South.” The following is the text of Abraham Lincoln’s ‘House Divided’ Speech delivered June 16, 1858; Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Convention: If we could first know where we are and whither we are tending, we could better judge what to do and how to do it. We are now far into the fifth year since a policy was initiated with the avowed object and confident promise of putting an end to slavery agitation. Under the operation of that policy, that agitation has not only not ceased but has constantly augmented. In my opinion, it will not cease until a crisis shall have been reached and passed. “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved; I do not expect the house to fall; but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it...

Abraham Lincoln – State of the Union – December 1, 1862

Abraham Lincoln – State of the Union – December 1, 1862

Dec 1, 2012

FELLOW-CITIZENS OF THE SENATE AND HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES—Since your last annual assembling another year of health and bountiful harvests has passed; and while it has not pleased the Almighty to bless us with a return of peace, we can but press on, guided by the best light he gives us, trusting that in his own good time and wise way all will yet be well. The correspondence touching foreign affairs which has taken place during the last year is herewith submitted, in virtual compliance with a request to that effect, made by the House of Representatives near the close of the last session of Congress. If the condition of our relations with other nations is less gratifying than it has usually been at former periods, it is certainly more satisfactory than a nation so unhappily distracted as we are might reasonably have apprehended. In the month of June last there were some grounds to expect that the maritime powers which, at the beginning of our domestic difficulties, so unwisely and unnecessarily, as we think, recognized the insurgents as a belligerent, would soon recede from that position, which has proved only less injurious to themselves than to our own country. But the temporary reverses which afterward befell the national arms, and which were exaggerated by our own disloyal citizens abroad, have hitherto delayed that act of simple justice. The civil war, which has so radically changed, for the moment, the occupations and habits of the American people, has necessarily disturbed the social condition, and affected very deeply the prosperity, of the nations with which we have carried on a commerce that has been steadily increasing throughout a period of half a century. It has, at the same time, excited political ambitions and apprehensions which have produced a profound agitation throughout the civilized world. In this unusual agitation we have forborne from taking part in any controversy between foreign states, and between parties or factions in such states. We have attempted no propagandism and acknowledged no revolution, but we have left to every nation the exclusive conduct and management of its own affairs. Our struggle has been, of course, contemplated by foreign nations with reference less...

Richard M. Nixon – ‘I Am Not a Crook’

Richard M. Nixon – ‘I Am Not a Crook’

Nov 17, 2012

The following is a transcript of a Question and Answer session with Richard M. Nixon at the Annual Convention of the Associated Press Managing Editors Association (APME). During the session, President Nixon delivered the now infamous line, ‘I am not a crook’. The Convention was held November 17, 1973 in Orlando Florida at the Contemporary Hotel at Walt Disney World. Listen to an excerpt of the session: Richard M. Nixon ‘I am not a crook.’ The President: President Quinn [president of the Associated Press Managing Editors Association] and Ladies and Gentlemen: When Jack Horner, who has been a correspondent in Washington and other places around the world, retired after 40 years, he once told me that if I thought that the White House press corps answered (asked) tough questions, he (I) should hear the kind of questions the managing editors asked him. Consequently, I welcome this opportunity tonight to meet with the managing editors of the Nation’s newspapers. I will not have an opening statement, because I know, with 400 of you, it will be hard to get through all of the questions you have. And I understand the president has a prerogative of asking the first question. Q & A WATERGATE AND THE FUTURE Q. [Mr. Quinn:] Mr. President, this morning, Governor Askew of Florida addressed this group and recalled the words of Benjamin Franklin. When leaving the Constitutional Convention he was asked, “What have you given us, sir, a monarch or a republic?” Franklin answered, “A republic, sir, if you can keep it.” Mr. President, in the prevailing pessimism of the lingering matter we call Watergate, can we keep that republic, sir, and how? The President: Well, Mr. Quinn, I would certainly not be standing here answering these questions unless I had a firm belief that we could keep the republic, that we must keep it, not only for ourselves but for the whole world. I recognize that because of mistakes that were made-and I must take responsibility for those mistakes–whether in the campaign or during the course of an administration, that there are those who wonder whether this republic can survive. But I also know that the hopes of the whole...

Theodore Roosevelt – I Have Just Been Shot

Theodore Roosevelt – I Have Just Been Shot

Oct 31, 2012

Delivered on October 14, 1912 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin after being shot in the chest by a would-be assassin. Friends, I shall ask you to be as quiet as possible. I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot; but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose. But fortunately I had my manuscript, so you see I was going to make a long speech, and there is a bullet – there is where the bullet went through – and it probably saved me from it going into my heart. The bullet is in me now, so that I cannot make a very long speech, but I will try my best. And now, friends, I want to take advantage of this incident to say a word of solemn warning to my fellow countrymen. First of all, I want to say this about myself: I have altogether too important things to think of to feel any concern over my own death; and now I cannot speak to you insincerely within five minutes of being shot. I am telling you the literal truth when I say that my concern is for many other things. It is not in the least for my own life. I want you to understand that I am ahead of the game, anyway. No man has had a happier life than I have led; a happier life in every way. I have been able to do certain things that I greatly wished to do, and I am interested in doing other things. I can tell you with absolute truthfulness that I am very much uninterested in whether I am shot or not. It was just as when I was colonel of my regiment. I always felt that a private was to be excused for feeling at times some pangs of anxiety about his personal safety, but I cannot understand a man fit to be a colonel who can pay any heed to his personal safety when he is occupied as he ought to be with the absorbing desire to do his duty. I am in this cause with my whole heart and soul. I believe that the...

Theodore Roosevelt – Duties of American Citizenship

Theodore Roosevelt – Duties of American Citizenship

Oct 19, 2012

January 26, 1883 Buffalo, New York Of course, in one sense, the first essential for a man’s being a good citizen is his possession of the home virtues of which we think when we call a man by the emphatic adjective of manly. No man can be a good citizen who is not a good husband and a good father, who is not honest in his dealings with other men and women, faithful to his friends and fearless in the presence of his foes, who has not got a sound heart, a sound mind, and a sound body; exactly as no amount of attention to civil duties will save a nation if the domestic life is undermined, or there is lack of the rude military virtues which alone can assure a country’s position in the world. In a free republic the ideal citizen must be one willing and able to take arms for the defense of the flag, exactly as the ideal citizen must be the father of many healthy children. A race must be strong and vigorous; it must be a race of good fighters and good breeders, else its wisdom will come to naught and its virtue be ineffective; and no sweetness and delicacy, no love for and appreciation of beauty in art or literature, no capacity for building up material prosperity can possibly atone for the lack of the great virile virtues. But this is aside from my subject, for what I wish to talk of is the attitude of the American citizen in civic life. It ought to be axiomatic in this country that every man must devote a reasonable share of his time to doing his duty in the Political life of the community. No man has a right to shirk his political duties under whatever plea of pleasure or business; and while such shirking may be pardoned in those of small cleans it is entirely unpardonable in those among whom it is most common — in the people whose circumstances give them freedom in the struggle for life. In so far as the community grows to think rightly, it will likewise grow to regard the young man of...

Martin van Buren – State of the Union – December 5, 1840

Martin van Buren – State of the Union – December 5, 1840

Oct 19, 2012

Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives: Our devout gratitude is due to the Supreme Being for having graciously continued to our beloved country through the vicissitudes of another year the invaluable blessings of health, plenty, and peace. Seldom has this favored land been so generally exempted from the ravages of disease or the labor of the husbandman more amply rewarded, and never before have our relations with other countries been placed on a more favorable basis than that which they so happily occupy at this critical conjuncture in the affairs of the world. A rigid and persevering abstinence from all interference with the domestic and political relations of other States, alike due to the genius and distinctive character of our Government and to the principles by which it is directed; a faithful observance in the management of our foreign relations of the practice of speaking plainly, dealing justly, and requiring truth and justice in return as the best conservatives of the peace of nations; a strict impartiality in our manifestations of friendship in the commercial privileges we concede and those we require from others—these, accompanied by a disposition as prompt to maintain in every emergency our own rights as we are from principle averse to the invasion of those of others, have given to our country and Government a standing in the great family of nations of which we have just cause to be proud and the advantages of which are experienced by our citizens throughout every portion of the earth to which their enterprising and adventurous spirit may carry them. Few, if any, remain insensible to the value of our friendship or ignorant of the terms on which it can be acquired and by which it can alone be preserved. A series of questions of long standing, difficult in their adjustment and important in their consequences, in which the rights of our citizens and the honor of the country were deeply involved, have in the course of a few years (the most of them during the successful Administration of my immediate predecessor) been brought to a satisfactory conclusion; and the most important of those remaining are, I am happy to believe,...