Book Club: Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years and the War Years | Meeting Three

Meeting 3, February 6, 2020, Chapters 12-19

[01:00] Growth in Solitude (5 minutes)

As a young man studying law and politics, Abraham Lincoln spent many hours in solitude. These hours were critical in preparing him to lead the nation with the power of his voice and the conviction of his purpose. Studying the Bible and its principles furnished him with a proper perspective on slavery and how to preserve the unity of the nation.

[06:30] A House Divided Cannot Stand (5 minutes)

Lincoln was living in a nation torn by the institution of slavery. In the spring of 1858, he delivered his famous “House Divided” speech. In it, he addressed the nation, saying, “In my opinion, [slavery] will not cease until a crisis shall have been reached, and passed. ‘A house divided against itself cannot stand.’ I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved—I do not expect the house to fall—but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other.”

Though many of his colleagues felt this paragraph too strong for the people, Abraham Lincoln delivered it confidently. His words resonated with the common man. Sandburg wrote, “What he had said was easy to say and to understand, a common-sense telling of what millions of anxious hearts wanted told.” Later in life, Lincoln was extremely proud of the “House Divided” speech. He once said, “If I had to draw a pen across my record and erase my whole life from sight, and I had one poor gift or choice left as to what I should save from the wreck, I should choose that speech [House Divided] and leave it to the world unerased.”

[11:00] Debating With Douglas (7 minutes)

In the summer of 1858, Abraham Lincoln and Democrat Senator Stephen Douglas engaged in seven robust debates. Although he lost his senatorial race with Douglas, it was during these hot summer debates that Lincoln gained a reputation as an effective speaker and a capable leader.

[18:40] The Substance of His Message (6 minutes)

Abraham Lincoln’s profound speeches were a product of his deep thinking. He mined the depths of what he studied, striving to always bottom out the subject. His level-headed wisdom and simplicity in speaking is what made him such an effective leader during one of America’s darkest hours.

[26:35] Open Discussion (13 minutes)

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