The New Lincoln
If there was ever a single-issue candidate for high office, it was Abraham Lincoln. In 1854, slavery, specifically the threatened spread of slavery into the Western territories, dominated his thoughts, and the issue set him afire. His voice took on new urgency, his message greater clarity, and he would entertain no compromise. Lincoln considered Illinois Senator Stephen A. Douglas’s concept of “popular sovereignty”—allowing the territories to determine their own policy on slavery—a denial of the responsibility of the Congress to uphold the United States Constitution. Lincoln’s guiding beacon was the statement in the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal.” By upholding that principle, with all of its implications, Abraham Lincoln set the course for his own destiny and that of the United States.
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The passage of this Act in 1854 negated the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and made it possible for voters in Kansas and Nebraska to decide whether or not slavery would exist in their respective territories. Opponents of slavery were outraged. Abraham Lincoln clearly saw the threat that such legislation presented to a government founded on the ideals and principles set forth in the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. In a brilliant speech at Peoria, Illinois, on October 16, 1854, he laid out his objections to the Kansas-Nebraska Act. The speech revived his political career. Read more about Kansas/Nebraska Act »
Finding His Voice
Compelled by conscience to attack both the Kansas-Nebraska Act and its principal author and defender, Illinois Senator Stephen A. Douglas, Abraham Lincoln found his true voice. In Peoria, he spoke immediately after Douglas, who was touring Illinois to defend the Kansas-Nebraska Act. From that moment on, abolitionists, Free-Soilers, and members of the new Republican Party began to think of Lincoln as their spokesman. Drafted in 1855 to run for the U.S. Senate, Lincoln began with a majority vote in the legislature in a very complicated contest, but could not reach the necessary number of votes to secure his election. Read more about Finding His Voice »