Read Lincoln at Cooper Union: The Speech That Made Abraham Lincoln President by Harold Holzer Online


Winner of the Lincoln PrizeLincoln at Cooper Union explores Lincoln's most influential and widely reported pre-presidential address -- an extraordinary appeal by the western politician to the eastern elite that propelled him toward the Republican nomination for president. Delivered in New York in February 1860, the Cooper Union speech dispelled doubts about Lincoln's suitaWinner of the Lincoln PrizeLincoln at Cooper Union explores Lincoln's most influential and widely reported pre-presidential address -- an extraordinary appeal by the western politician to the eastern elite that propelled him toward the Republican nomination for president. Delivered in New York in February 1860, the Cooper Union speech dispelled doubts about Lincoln's suitability for the presidency and reassured conservatives of his moderation while reaffirming his opposition to slavery to Republican progressives.Award-winning Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer places Lincoln and his speech in the context of the times -- an era of racism, politicized journalism, and public oratory as entertainment -- and shows how the candidate framed the speech as an opportunity to continue his famous "debates" with his archrival Democrat Stephen A. Douglas on the question of slavery.Holzer describes the enormous risk Lincoln took by appearing in New York, where he exposed himself to the country's most critical audience and took on Republican Senator William Henry Seward of New York, the front runner, in his own backyard. Then he recounts a brilliant and innovative public relations campaign, as Lincoln took the speech "on the road" in his successful quest for the presidency....

Title : Lincoln at Cooper Union: The Speech That Made Abraham Lincoln President
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ISBN : 9780743299640
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 368 Pages
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Lincoln at Cooper Union: The Speech That Made Abraham Lincoln President Reviews

  • Joe
    2019-04-04 02:37

    A few months back I had finished Harold Holzer's "Lincoln: President-Elect" and therefore anticipated another five stars. I was not disappointed. If I were to read these two books again however, I would read this book first.Lately, I have been trying to better familiarize myself with some of the most important documents and speeches of our nation's history, and Lincoln's Cooper Union ranks pretty close to the top. Lincoln basically summarizes the north/south conflict with slavery, and presents his viewpoint on how to best deal with it as a moderate Republican abolitionist candidate for President. Because of Lincoln's simple, solid, and convincing logic, it was hugely successful. The text of the speech was therefore reprinted many times in the papers, and later sold quite well in annotated pamphlet form. In short, his speech catapulted him to become one of the leading contenders for the Republican nominee for President in 1860, and later to become our nation's 16th President.Harold Holzer presents the story of Lincoln's Cooper Union speech very well. He doesn't examine it line-by-line like I expected him to, (probably because this speech is so long) but instead, he dissects the most important aspects of it, and also examines the history of how those ideas evolved. My only criticism is that Holzer could have added another chapter or two in examination of the speech itself, but decided to concentrate more on it's history instead. But all-in-all Holzer does a superb job of presenting Lincoln's Cooper Union, and I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about Lincoln's most famous pre-presidential speech.

  • Brent
    2019-03-30 23:24

    An awesome book that I've now read twice: once a few years ago and now a second time after borrowing it from my son (conveniently I gave it to him ). It is not simply a discussion of the speech at New York's Cooper Union that helped Lincoln become nominated and elected, but almost a biography of Lincoln covering the time period from October 1859 until his election in November 1860. Besides including the entire speech in an appendix and using a chapter to discuss and analyze the speech, there are chapters on Lincoln's activities leading up to the speech, his two weeks traveling through New England after Cooper Union (giving more speeches), the reprinting and repackaging of the speech by newspapers and the Republicans, and his nomination and election.A few of the vast differences between 1860 and our time highlighted in this book: 1. While Abe could travel to and from NYC from Illinois by train, it was time-consuming and not that comfortable.2. Listening to long sermons and speeches was a form of entertainment and education to people of the day. The Cooper Union speech lasted an hour and a half and Edward Everett's Gettysburg "Oration" (which was supposed to be the main event of the day) was two hours long.3. Political events were closely followed in this time period. Three elections from 1840 - 1876 had a voter turnout of more than 80%, including in 1860. In the last 100 years, we've only gone over 62% once.

  • Donna
    2019-04-09 19:39

    Lincoln's speech at Cooper Union was the event which secured him the Republican nomination in 1860. This speech was unlike many of his prior ones in that he did much more research and used a lot of statistics to prove his his point that the founders intended slavery to be "in the course of ultimate extinction." It was an overwhelming success in front of a sophisticated New York City audience. The other important event of this trip was a Matthew Brady portrait which became the iconic image for the campaign.The book clarified much of the surrounding myths of the speech and the following speaking tour in New England. Well written.

  • David Myers
    2019-03-28 01:30

    Lincoln's Cooper Union Speech is arguably his most famous speech that most of us know nothing about. His speech at Coopers Union elucidated his overall positions on the most important issue of the time. In a time when news traveled in days or weeks Lincoln's speech traveled by newspaper and a (bestselling) pamphlet. His major stances were laid out and informed the voting public ( white men)of Republican positions. This famous address was to a large extent responsible for Lincoln's election to the presidency. We all know what happened next.....

  • Christopher
    2019-03-23 01:18

    A wonderful book that tells the story of one of Lincoln's most successful (but as Holzer notes, least quoted) speeches. At this point in his political career, Lincoln was something of an also-ran when people talked about who the nominee would be for the Republicans in the upcoming 1860 election. The frontrunner was New York's own William Seward. This was Lincoln's first chance to speak to an eastern audience. Fun facts about like that Lincoln's original invitation was to give his speech in Brooklyn at an abolitionist church but it was rescheduled at the last moment to Cooper Institute in Manhattan. Also amusing are all the various "myths" that have popped up over the years surrounding the speech (people taking various little bits of credit for it, seeing early drafts and making suggested changes, etc).Most noteworthy is that this was NOT a stemwinder speech. At nearly 8000 words, Lincoln's speech was closer to a legal brief than a stump speech. The general topic being the federal government's ability to regulate slavery. Some called it the "final Lincoln/Douglas debate" and that's certainly true as Lincoln starts out immediately calling out Douglas and chastising him (gently) for the position that the signatories to the Constitution tried to EXCLUDE slavery from the federal government's purview. Lincoln goes through the state delegations by name to show how they each and all expected and understood the slavery question to be entirely within the newly formed federal government's ability to regulate. Also interesting is the details about HOW Lincoln gave his speech, Holzer quotes witnesses who described him as standing with his feet planted firmly on the floor, nearly no hand gestures, but relying on his facial expressions almost exclusively to engage his audience. It's an odd thing to imagine, but captivating at the same time.While the speech is heralded as that which launched his presidential career, what's more amusing is that Lincoln still got trounced in New York City in the general election. Can't please everybody.

  • Nathan Albright
    2019-04-12 21:43

    This book corrects what is a curious and unfortunate lacuna in the historical record about Abraham Lincoln’s speeches, and that is the absence of a substantial work on the Cooper Union Address, one of the most famous speeches hardly anyone has ever read. It is curious that given the huge attention the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln commands that this is the first full-length book ever that deals with the first and only major speech given by Abraham Lincoln during the entire 1860 presidential campaign. For that alone this book is essential for anyone who wishes to understand the real Lincoln and his development of a mature fact-based style of speaking that proved him to be a reputable political historian of the highest order.The book is organized well and persuasively to bring Lincoln’s neglected Cooper Union speech (about which I have written before, in “Let Us Have Faith That Right Makes Might: The Enduring Relevance of Lincoln’s Cooper Union Speech[1]”) to the forefront of attention for students of Lincoln’s oratory. The introduction of the book shows the forgotten nature of Lincoln’s speech and the place this book serves in filling the gap in the historiography of Lincoln’s career. Then Holzer examines the tangled negotiations and political skullduggery that led a group of New York Republicans to invite mostly obscure western Republican stump speakers (including Lincoln) to give a series of political speeches to help draw votes away from Seward and for their favored candidate, Chase. After this Holzer examines the difficult historical labor that Lincoln spent in researching thoroughly the positions of the Founding Fathers (those 39 men who signed the US Constitution) in actual votes to allow or deny federal authority to regulate slavery in the territories, finding that 21 of the founders had explicitly voted in favor of such Congressional limitations either under the Articles of Confederation or Constitution, and that only 2 voted against such restrictions. Additionally, some of the other sixteen who had no official vote on record were known to be among the most noted antislavery men in the United States at the time of the Founding (Alexander Hamilton and Benjamin Franklin, for example).At this point the book continues its very detailed and fact-based narrative and examines Lincoln’s trip to New York City (a harrowing one full of late-night transfers and dreadful conditions) as well as the ramshackle state of New York’s streets from primary source documentation. The book demonstrates Lincoln’s savvy about dealing with newspaper editors (in order to have his speeches published with the best formatting and to his advantage as a politician) as well as his desire to finally have a good campaign photo, which is provided in this case by the incomparable Matthew Brady. More than 100 pages of the book are complete by the time the book shows an awkward and rough looking Abraham Lincoln standing on the stage at Cooper Union on a chilly February evening beginning his speech and making a bad first impression (but a marvelous following one) on the sophisticated New York audience.The longest chapter of the book, which is a close analysis of the Cooper Union speech and its fact-based approach, follows. Holzer demonstrates that Lincoln’s rhetoric, while not using triads (by the people, for the people, of the people) as he would so eloquently in later speeches, was itself a sophisticated example of parallelism that showed considerable elegance. Likewise, the Cooper Union was three speeches in one: the first, and longest, a masterpiece of political history, examining in detail the positions of the Founding Fathers on the issue of Congressional authority to regulate slavery in the territories in refutation of Stephen Douglas’ spurious Popular Sovereignty doctrine [2], the second a subtle attack on the South, and the third a stirring call to action for Republicans to remain true to their principles in the face of the pressure to compromise for the sake of a hollow peace.After this most excellent summary of the speech itself (the entire speech is, including historical footnotes from a pamphlet whose publication was supervised by Lincoln, included in an Appendix which demonstrates Lincoln’s historical brilliance in vivid detail), Holzer focuses on the immensely positive impression Lincoln made on his audience. Additionally, Holzer examines in detail the often neglected follow-up speeches made in the Northeast (including one in Exeter, New Hampshire, where his eldest son Robert was attending a prep school to prepare for Harvard) that showed Lincoln’s rising position as a hopeful for the presidency as a direct result of the Cooper Union speech. The book closes with an examination of Lincoln’s subdued behavior through the rest of the 1860 campaign, which was according to the Victorian customs of reserve and silence, and an Epilogue which shows some of the later fate of the principals of the speech (showing that Lincoln rewarded most of the men who invited him to speak in New York, and demonstrating his recognition of the importance of the speech in winning him the Republican nomination).The book as a whole is a gripping historical narrative, full of intriguing footnotes and showing the care and diligent historical research of a master historian. Anyone who wishes to see Lincoln’s savvy dealings with the press and his own careful attention to historical work and speech preparation ought to read this rewarding book. The fact that the book includes a great many quotations from Lincoln’s letters and those other letters and statements about him from his contemporaries makes the book a treasure trove of useful quotations and useful sources for the Lincoln scholar. I highly recommend this book, which is a definitive work on the importance and rhetorical excellence of Abraham Lincoln’s Cooper Union Address, fully meeting the ambitious goals set out by its able author to provide new and useful research about Abraham Lincoln and the pivotal importance of his most significant pre-presidential speech.[1] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress...[2] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress...

  • Bill
    2019-04-20 23:24

    In this book the author makes a convincing argument that this speech helped to make Lincoln president. More important he provides good evidence that without this speech and everything that grew out of it Lincoln would not even have been nominated.The author makes good use of the different sources available in telling the story in chronological fashion. The use of letters, newspaper headlines and quoted dialog provide a variety that gives some pace to narrative history that some authors make dull. There are even photographs beginning with the the one taken by Matthew Brady the day of the speech. I enjoyed learning history by reading a small part of the biography of Abraham Lincoln. The more I learn about him the more I see him as a remarkable person. After the speech was given the sponsor group published a footnoted version of his speech. It took two people three weeks to thoroughly duplicate the research that Lincoln had put into his speech.Reading the book I had the feeling that Lincoln was consciously running for President the whole time. He deliberately wrote a scholarly speech debunking his image as a western rube. Even though he began the speech by saying "Mr. Cheermen" in a high squeaky voice by the end he had connected with his audience and his voice was full and bold.All of the audience, except the hardcore democrats, were amazed and moved by the speech. It was published in all of the newspapers and sold as a pamphlet for many years. Lincoln went on to speak twelve times in fourteen days throughout New England using the same speech and turned down many requests so that he could get back to Springfield. Lincoln definitely accomplished his goal of improving his political standing.The author's portrayal of 19th century America included all of the aspects of daily life, riding for days on a train with no sleeping accommodations, getting covered with mud from the streets. I learned that Lincoln was a temperance man and 80% of the white males, the only voters, voted in the Presidential election of 1860.I enjoyed the book and recommend it for anyone who has done some reading in this area. It was informative and entertaining. This is a well written account of a critical event in the election of 1860 and I would look for other books by this author.

  • Jim
    2019-03-21 19:35

    I think that I have read more books about Lincoln and the Civil War period than just about any other topic and that is since I was a kid reading the Chicago Tribune with its daily article about what had happened 100 years before...this was during the Civil War Centennial of 1961-65! So this is yet another Lincoln book. But it was interesting to me as it focused on one crucial event in Lincoln's life. That is the speech Lincoln delivered at the Great Hall of Cooper Union in New York City in February, 1860. This speech was in effect a continuation of the Lincoln-Douglas debates which had been held in Illinois in 1858. By making an important speech (which was so well-received), Lincoln showed that he needed to be taken seriously as a candidate for the presidency in that election year of 1860. He certainly showed the Easterners that he was more than just a backwoods lawyer from what was considered the "Western" state of Illinois. As Holzer says, no Cooper Union speech, no Gettysburg Address, as Lincoln would not have been nominated by the Republican Party to run for president--if he had not made that speech.

  • Joseph Iliff
    2019-03-26 03:44

    I really enjoyed this examination of Lincoln work at Cooper Union. Holzer has placed the book within the historical context in which it was arranged, delivered, and later remembered. There are a ton of details, but none that I can think of that I deemed unnecessary. Each of them is woven into a tapestry of how this one speech, on one day, changed Lincoln, and subsequently America. Holzer makes a compelling case that Lincoln stepped out on the stage at Cooper Union like a unassuming batter stepping up to the plate in Game 1 of the World Series, who makes his presence known by hitting a long home run. That game, and the rest of the series, now depend on him, and he determines who wins. Cooper Union put Lincoln squarely on the national stage, and though he had his ups and downs, he never left it for the rest of his life. And now, would be considered an eternal part of everyone's conception of America. This book is a great read for anyone interested in how history can happen by just one small thing.

  • Jacob Lines
    2019-03-28 23:38

    Abraham Lincoln’s speech at the Cooper Union in 1860 turned him into a serious presidential candidate. This book is a marvelous look at the speech’s content, context, and effect. It starts with the invitation to speak and follows Lincoln as he prepares the speech, travels to New York, and gives the speech. As it does, Holzer explains the issues of the day – the problems, the proposed solutions, and the differences between parties and leaders within parties. Then he offers a detailed description and analysis of the speech itself. Lincoln was one of our greats, and his greatest tool was words. This book does a great job of explaining the words that helped make him president.

  • Chelsea
    2019-04-15 20:41

    I loved this. Harold Holzer, another brilliant Lincoln historian (if you need proof, he was one of the on-call references for the recent Lincoln movie by Spielberg), narrates the events surrounding Lincoln's masterful Cooper Union speech. This is one of Lincoln's most famous speeches, because it propelled him into the limelight of politics and essentially secured his place on the Republican ballot in 1860, which then led to his election. If you're interested in history, especially the history and politics around Lincoln's time, this is a must-read.

  • Kathleen
    2019-04-14 23:19

    A fantastic story that I had never heard before. All historians should read this book; not only because of the interesting subject, but because of the writing style. This book is a perfect example of how history should be recorded. The book was part of a required reading list in my historical methods class.

  • Richard Campbell
    2019-04-13 23:26

    Fascinating minute-by-minute account of Lincoln's travel to NYC for his "Cooper Union" speech, a final rebuttal to the Lincoln-Douglas debates, and the response that essentially won him the Presidency. Detailed and engrossing.

  • Rod Zemke
    2019-04-01 03:38

    This is a clssic for anyone who wants to have more than a beginners knowledge of American History. The book is well written by an eminent Lincoln scholar who is not an academic--sometimes the best combination.

  • Don Dennis
    2019-04-14 22:20

    Fascinating delineation of the lead-up to the most important speech Lincoln ever made. A real nugget of a book.

  • Wendy
    2019-04-19 03:23

    Holzer is an engaging author. His narrative focuses mainly on Lincoln's speech and a Matthew Brady photograph, yet he crafts a compelling story. But, then again, I'm a bit of a Lincoln nerd . . .

  • Robin Friedman
    2019-03-21 22:16

    The Cooper Union AddressIn October, 1859, a small group of young Republican leaders in New York City invited Abraham Lincoln to give an address at Henry Beecher's church in Brooklyn on a subject of Lincoln's choosing. At the time, Lincoln was heavily involved in helping Republican Congressional candidates, was still smarting from his 1858 defeat for the Senate by Stephen Douglas, and was a dark-horse, favorite son for the Republican presidential nomination. Lincoln accepted the invitation, worked painstakingly on the speech, and travelled to New York City to deliver what became the Cooper Union Address on February 27, 1860. (Lincoln was unaware that the venue for the speech had been changed until he arrived in New York.) The speech and its aftermath brought Lincoln national attention. It played a major role in allowing Lincoln to overtake the Republican front-runner, Senator William Seward of New York, and secure the nomination and the presidency.Harold Holzer is an independent scholar who, in the midst of a busy career at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, has written or edited over twenty books about Lincoln. His most recent book: "Lincoln at Cooper Union: The Speech that made Abraham Lincoln President" (2004) is a comprehensive account of the "momentous" Cooper Union Address, including (p. 1) "its impetus, preparation, delivery, reception, publication, calculated reiteration, and its enormous, perhaps decisive impact on that year's presidential campaign." It is one of a number or recent books that examine in detail a specific Lincoln speech or proclamation, (such at the Gettysburg Address, Second Inaugural Address, Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln-Douglas debates.) But the book does more. It helps the reader understand Lincoln and the issues that lead to the Civil War.The Cooper Union speech was lengthy, scholarly, and factual and endeavored to show that a majority of the founders -- those that signed the Constitution -- believed that Congress had the right to regulate and prevent the spread of slavery into the territories. This issue was central to the dispute between North and South and to Lincoln's debates with his great opponent, Senator Douglas. Holzer's book begins with a discussion of how Lincoln, the self-educated backwoods lawyer and stump speaker carefully researched this issue in an attempt to present a dispassionate yet morally committed approach to the issue of slavery.The book includes excellent accounts of the difficult and tiring nature of train travel during Lincoln's time, especially for an aspiring presidential candidate travelling to make a major address. It includes fascinating discussions of the New York City of 1860 --Walt Whitman's New York -- and its docks, piers, hotels, and Broadway. There is a wonderful account of Lincoln's visit while in the City to Five Points -- a notorious slum -- and a letter he subsequently received in the presidency from young men in a charitable school that he visited at the time.While in New York, Lincoln had a famous photograph taken by Matthew Brady. Brady's artistry made Lincoln look distinguished and presidential rather than like a tall, gangling shabbily dressed backwoodsman. The Brady photo together with the speech helped bring Lincoln to public attention.In the heart of the book, Holzer offers a detailed analysis of the Cooper Union speech (the text is given in an appendix) and of Lincoln's delivery that fateful evening. Although his audience was initially taken aback by the rough-hewn Lincoln, the substance of the speech and Lincoln's style of his delivery captivated the audience and made an astonishing impression. Lincoln helped shepherd his text into print, and made a hectic speaking tour of New England while visiting his son Robert at Exeter, thus furthering his position as a statesman of vision, integrity, and prudence.An interesting feature of the book is how Holzer reminds the reader of the fragile nature of historical accounts, including alleged eye-witness accounts. Many times, Holzer points out a received account of the Cooper Union speech and shows in detail how the account is questionably supported or is inconsistent with other sources. (For example, there is a story that Erastus Corning, Director of the New York Central Railroad offered Lincoln the position as corporate counsel following the speech for the large salary of $10,000. Holzer shows that this account lacks foundation.) The book shows how historical sources need to be approached, used, and interpreted with caution.This book is an outstanding account of Lincoln in his complexity as a pragmatic, opportunistic and yet highly principled leader. It gives a vivid picture of our country and its political life in 1860. It considers issues about the nature of the Union and of human freedom that Lincoln addressed eloquently. These issues remain with us today.Robin Friedman

  • Andrew
    2019-03-25 00:43

    David Herbert Donald's life work on Lincoln left us with a definitive and dispassionate biography that refused to glorify or demonize a president that society views emotionally, rather than objectively. Donald's greatest literary and historical accomplishment was rewriting Lincoln's two century old history as history. Donald's understudy, Harold Holzer, who worked closely with him until his death, is now the most important Lincoln historian alive today. Holzer doesn't write over the ground that Donald already covered. Instead, Holzer takes the dispassionate base that Donald created, and carefully documents the more controversial or unknown aspects of Lincoln's career. Holzer writes with a dismissiveness of much written about Lincoln in the past century. He is so confidant in his original research and historical judgement, he even seems dismissive of writers who followed him. While most of the modern generation will read Doris Kerns Goodwin or Joshua Sheik for popular retellings of Lincoln's life, character, and career, Holzer presents a more historically grounded view.In this book, largely concerned with Cooper Union and Lincoln's surrogate Cooper speeches, Holzer makes the clear argument that Lincoln understood the intellectual side of his legal restructuring of the American government, even before he took office. His speech at Cooper Union is Lincoln's last address that clearly articulated a direct intellectual justification and defense. Lincoln felt that his Cooper address was his final intellectual thesis, preparing the country for his virtual rewriting of the Constitution, and justifying his actions for future generations. (Lincoln's first and and second inaugural addresses, as well as his Gettysburg speech, were reactionary in nature, and were closer to poetic/artistic in statement. Lincoln, who read and wrote poetry for most of his life, seems to have believed that Cooper Union was his final purely intellectual argument, and used the presidential platform for the remainder of his life to deal with the reality of death and war through art. With the exception of his addresses to Congress, his presidential "speeches" can all be most clearly described as poetry.)

  • Sue
    2019-04-01 23:45

    a look inside an extremely brief week in Lincoln's New York visit that left him exhausted without sleep. first the invitation to speak at a church turned out to be not an assembly of church goers in pews, but rather twisted in a turn-about, a large assembly auditorium filled with the intellectual elite of the city. the contrast of a hick persona amidst the polished educated thinkers and leaders of the day faded quickly to the credit of the audience as Lincoln's straight forward speech revealed his depth of legal issues and conviction regarding the issue of slavery in the expanding nation. Lincoln's reasoning and passion for the nation rallied these intellectuals around him in the push toward his nomination. Lincoln cared so much how the press reprinted his speech that he very early in the morning went to the newspaper and sat with the copy editor to proof the speech before it was printed. Attention to details such as this along with his thorough research planted his feet on firm ground while his humility and humor persuaded a second look at his potential. I especially appreciated reading the annotated copy of his Cooper Union speech.

  • Tan
    2019-04-04 02:33

    A well-written and researched account of how the Cooper Union speech was arranged, delivered, and published. I had the Audible version and I liked the reader’s portrayal of Lincoln delivering this speech and lines from other addresses.

  • R.K. Byers
    2019-04-03 22:45

    the writing on that era in New York was the best but i think i liked the book more than it was "good".

  • Matt
    2019-04-05 03:19

    Lincoln: great fucking guy. Also lied about payments made for speeches.

  • Thomas Rush
    2019-03-23 00:21

    The Mecca of New York looms large in the American consciousness for a variety of reasons. It's “The Big Apple,” “The City-That-Never-Sleeps,” and so much more. One of the reasons that it looms so large is the fact that its 10 million inhabitants makes it one of The World's most populous cities, and that, in the most powerful nation on Earth. It's a complicated city, that has both in its spiritual and material resources, something to please any and everyone. There is nothing that cannot be found in New York. It can be a compassionate place and it can be a downright mean place—both realities exist. For a newcomer, New York can be especially brutal. In the mid-1970's, singer George Benson released a song called “On Broadway,” about an poor aspiring guitarist who shows up in The City seeking fame and fortune. The song is about a lot of things, but its main theme is the narrator's confidence in his guitar-playing ability, a belief of supreme talent, and it is that talent that the singer feels will allow him to make it big “On Broadway.” This confidence is expressed in the lyric, “'Cause I can play this here guitar!” The song feeds into the precept and legend of New York, the idea “That if you can make it here (in New York), you can make it anywhere.” With “On Broadway” as a backdrop, consider one Abraham Lincoln, arriving in the city in February of 1860, a time when New York was just as much a legend then, as it is now. Mr. Lincoln had spent months and months before that in serious research, marshaling all of the resources of his lawyerly and prodigious mind, to do the research on the Founding Fathers, and what their official votes were, across time, on the issue of slavery. It is said that Mr. Lincoln spent more time researching on the particular speech that he would give in New York, than any other in his life. At the time, Lincoln was a fairly obscure lawyer and politician from The West. He had somewhat made a name for himself several years prior in his heated debates with Stephen A. Douglass, but he was not, in any sense, a household name. His New York speech would change this. Lincoln knew that h could change his fortunes in New York, if the speech that he had prepared as a result of his research was a Big Hit. He knew this primarily because New York was the media capital of the World, and a good, solid political speech would resonate, through all of the national newspapers, like waves resonating out from a rock that has been thrown into a pond. Lincoln wanted to be meticulously prepared. So, late in February of 1860, Lincoln took the stage at Cooper Union in New York to give the most important speech of his life. On first impression, the audience was rather nonplussed at his slovenly appearance, an uncouth, homely and tall man, standing before them in a wrinkled suit. Lincoln's six-foot-four stature was pronounced by a head full of black hair, that seemed to be all over the place, leaving many to wonder why the speaker had not bothered to comb his hair. The audience sat before him rather dumbfounded. But, then the speaker opened his mouth, letting the results of his research flow freely in abundant supply. The presentation of his words were so perspicacious that all sat in rapt attention, quickly forgetting the physical appearance of the man before them, and being taken in by the power of the crystal clear logic and sincerity of what he had to say. At the end of the speech, the crowd exploded with a standing ovation, thus laying the groundwork for the newspapers over the next few days to make Abraham Lincoln a national name. In sum I have just summed up Harold Holzer's book about Lincoln and Cooper Union. For anyone who truly wants to understand the power, intensity and genius of Abraham Lincoln as a powerful intellect and actor, this book might be one of the best. Lincoln knew all that was at stake for his speech at Cooper Union. He prepared for it like no other chore that he had prepared for in his life, and ultimately, the speech that he made reflected his efforts. This book is the story of that, and a damn good one. It is excellent in showing the work ethic and intense efforts that Lincoln put into making his speech a success. It's also a most lucid portrayal of the effect of that speech. As George Benson would say, Lincoln, “Can play that there guitar!” since his effort in New York was a rousing success.

  • Vincent Li
    2019-04-12 22:26

    I consider myself a relatively boring person, in that I find interest in niche and obscure topics. Being a relatively boring person, I found this book...pretty boring. It has nothing to do with Holzer's writing or research, which is actually pretty thorough and rigorous. I'm impressed by Holzer's study of meteorological reports, and old train schedules. At points the book does seem to be on such a niche topic that its length needs to be inflated. For example, there's substantial sections tied to the famous Matthew Brady portrait of Lincoln (Holzer ties to this to the speech that both concurrently "made" Lincoln's image). Additionally, Holzer spends a large amount of pages disproving or affirming various "Cooper Union Myths" (hardly a household name) that were told by Lincoln contemporaries (some are as mundane as claiming to have sat with Lincoln on the train when they didn't). Personally, I found most interesting was the general thesis of the book (that get repeated over and over without too much analysis). Holzer claims that Lincoln was politically savvy and used the speech to remake himself as a sophisticated moderate that would be the best standard bearer for the Republican party. Whereas before, Lincoln was seen as a western stump speaker (who seemed almost radical with his house divided speech), the Cooper Union speech (and subsequent newspaper reprints, and following speech tour) made him credible in the eyes of the Eastern Republicans. Holzer's analysis of the speech (helpfully reproduced at the end of the book) is pretty decent, moving from historical rebuttal of Douglas's claim of popular sovereignty, to a condemnation of the south, to Lincoln's conclusion that slavery was a moral wrong that needed to be contained. Then again, most of this can be inferred by just reading the speech directly (which I do recommend, it's brilliantly structured and has a lawyer's taste for clever argument). Holzer does put into context what was at stake, as well as Lincoln's strategic stances in painting his position as moderate and historically accurate.This book has a serious claim to being the definitive exploration on the Cooper Union speech. I'm just not sure that we needed a "definitive exploration on the Cooper Union Speech".

  • Steve
    2019-04-16 20:24

    The speech Lincoln gave at New York's Cooper Institute in February of 1860 made him President. Harold Holzer tells the story of how Lincoln came to be invited to make this trip East, his research into the speech, and its immediate and longer-term aftereffects. He also includes the speech itself, of course, and good analysis of what was in the speech and why it was so important.The speech had three parts: the first was an answer to some comments Stephen Douglas had made about the founders and slavery, the second was a response to charges by the Democrats in the South that the Republicans were "sectional" and the third a more impassioned hope that "right makes might" in the struggle. It's a fascinating speech, and the longest of Lincoln's famous speeches. Holzer's account of its delivery puts you right there, mostly in the words of those who heard it, and the same is true of the whirlwind set of speeches he made in the weeks after, as he toured New England.There is so much to be said about Lincoln, it's good to read something relatively tightly focused but so important.

  • Grady McCallie
    2019-04-08 03:42

    This was a smartly-paced, narrative history of Lincoln's February 27, 1860 speech at the Cooper Union in New York, which - along with the following two weeks of repeating much of the speech all over New England - turned him from a western regional candidate into a national candidate for the Presidency in the 1860 election. The book includes a text of the speech, assembled from four different printed versions, as an appendix, and that is worth reading first. The author has a tendency to say what he's going to say, say it, and then say what he said; while that slows the book a little, somehow it doesn't bog it down. For a work with a narrow focus - a single, short speaking tour, however important - the book manages to cover a lot of ground: GOP party politics; Lincoln's character and public persona; the feel of New York City in 1860; the rhetorical structure and qualities of the speech; and the public's rapturous reception of Lincoln across the Northeast.

  • William Monaco
    2019-04-07 19:41

    Having read about Lincoln's Cooper Union as a side note in many books, I was excited to read Holzer's book dedicated to the speech and it did not disappoint! The book is excellent and puts Lincoln's speech perfectly in context of the months leading up to the 1860 Republican Convention. I learned a lot about Lincoln I never knew before. My only complaint is that it doesn't delve into the speech as much as I was hoping it would. That said, it includes the entire speech at the end and offers great insight into the words Lincoln spoke at Cooper Union. A must read for any fan of Lincoln!

  • Glenn Robinson
    2019-04-09 23:26

    A book based on the famous speech that Lincoln made before the primaries in Manhattan-the large amount of research Lincoln put into the writing, the structure of the speech and the speech itself. A good description of what happened afterwards and how this speech was put into print both in the newspapers and pamphlets. William Seward was the front runner and Abe was a long shot from Illinois, yet this speech helped build his name in New England and elsewhere. Ironically, in the general elections, NYC and the boroughs went to Stephen Douglas.

  • Mike
    2019-04-12 23:41

    A surprisingly great read about the narrow topic of Abraham Lincoln's speech at Cooper Union in 1860. The book is very well written, and does a great job of telling the story of Lincoln, the country, and the politics of the time period. The book gives the reader great details about life at the time and how Lincoln was as a person, but not too much detail was any of it was simply filler. The speech itself plays center stage, and the close look at it is well worth the read. Overall a fantastic book that I learned a great deal from reading.

  • Russell
    2019-04-01 02:22

    Everything a history buff needs to get to know how Lincoln came up with the message being sent in his famous Cooper Union speech. The research that went into this book is incredible, but the content is somewhat dry for those who aren't absolutely in love with Lincoln. I, myself, have a great appreciation for all of Lincoln's work but lost interest a few times while reading the book. Most importantly there is valuable information abound in this book.