by Steve Payne
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
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.
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.
Editor of Today in
Alternate History, a Daily Updating Blog of Important Events In
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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