Lincoln and Kansas: A Partnership for Freedom

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9780897452540: Lincoln and Kansas: A Partnership for Freedom

Much mythology and lore have grown to surround Abraham Lincoln, and Carol Ayres has tried to find the fact among the fiction regarding Lincoln's 1859 visit to Bloody Kansas, the year after he had finished the debates with Stephen Douglas. Lincoln's Leavenworth, Kansas, speech was his first campaign speech, Ayres states in essence, the same speech he would give two months later at the Cooper Institute in New York City, the one that observers claim propelled him toward the presidency. Kansas was one of the territories north of Missouri's southern border that the Missouri Compromise of 1820 had declared would be free. All territories south of Missouri's southern border would be slave an attempt to maintain balance in a Union trying to exist with opposing philosophical and political viewpoints. This balance, however, would be upset by the later Kansas-Nebraska Act, which allowed the people of a territory to determine the future of slavery in their state. Lincoln's December 1859 Kansas speech was thus given amidst a roiling political background of proslavery and free-state activity vicious attacks, reprisals, and counter-reprisals. Within this atmosphere moved the infamous John Brown, James H. Lane, William Clarke Quantrill, and Charles Jennison. Lincoln's Kansas speech clarified the Republican position on slavery, stating there was no desire to interfere with the practice where it existed, but that its extension to new territories should be prevented. The speech was praised, and Lincoln lauded for his truthfulness, common sense, and art of oratory. In all, Lincoln made six speeches in Kansas to what the newspapers of the day called "large and enthusiastic audiences." It was evident that the feeling was mutual, as Lincoln wrote after the speech:

If I went West, I think I would go to Kansas . . .

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