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Escaping History 


by Steve Payne



Author says: what if the platform address at Cooper Union had been a disaster? Please note that the opinions expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of the author(s).

27th February 1860: on this "frigid and stormy evening" the Presidential candidacy of Abraham Lincoln of Illinois was ripped apart by the tough crowd at the Great Hall of New York's newest college, Cooper Union. Because Lincoln had set himself the ambitious goal of convincing a demanding audience that he meant no threat to slavery whilst insisting that the institution itself was unmistakably evil.

His track record gave some cause for optimism that he could pull off this duplicity. Because in the Senatorial race two years before, in argument, he had at least equalled, if not bested the winning candidate Stephen A. Douglas.
"His clothes hung awkwardly on his gaunt and giant frame; his face was of a dark pallor, without the slightest tinge of color; his seamed and rugged features bore the furrows of hardship and struggle. His deep-set eyes looked sad and anxious".
However, outdoor "town hall" format meetings in rural Illinous were hardly a preparation for delivering a key note speech to the elite intelligentsia of New York City. And therein lie the cause for Lincoln's over-confidence.

The two hour session began badly, and got worse in a hurry. Over a quarter of the seats were empty as Lincoln lurched towards the platform. And starting his address with the dysfluent "Mr. Cheerman ..." in a discordant frontier twang, his high-pitch tone jolted every listener in the Great Hall.

When an unfavourable photograph was taken by Mathew Brady, the rhetorical disaster was complete. "Brady and Cooper Union cost me the presidency" summarised Honest Abe. To paraphrase his own later words, he had "escaped history" altogether.

Author says, considerable amounts of source material have been repurposed from the source articles Holzer, Harold. "The speech that made the man: Lincoln's oration at New York's Cooper Union showed that the prairie lawyer could play in the big leagues" published in American History, Winter Edition: 35 Decisive Moments in American History and also Wikipedia.

Steve Payne

Editor of Today in Alternate History, a Daily Updating Blog of Important Events In History That Never Occurred Today. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Imagine what would be, if history had occurred a bit differently. Who says it didn't, somewhere? These fictional news items explore that possibility. Possibilities such as America becoming a Marxist superpower, aliens influencing human history in the 18th century and Teddy Roosevelt winning his 3rd term as president abound in this interesting fictional blog.


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