On Oct. 16, 1854, a great man who had not yet become president delivered a speech about the evils of slavery. His name was Abraham Lincoln; at the time, he was a relatively unknown lawyer and a Congressional hopeful. His speech focused on the evils of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which had been passed by Congress only five months earlier. It threatened to set a precedent for sanctioning the practice of slavery.
Lincoln Said that Slavery Was Immoral
The Kansas-Nebraska Act brought two additional U.S. territories into the Union. While that may have been something to celebrate, there was something about the act to which Lincoln was vehemently opposed. It gave the citizens of the new states the ability to decide for themselves whether slavery would be legal in the regions. Lincoln was an abolitionist, the name given to individuals who were against slavery at the time, and publicly denounced the act on Oct. 16, while calling slavery immoral.
Lincoln was campaigning on behalf of abolitionists in Illinois at the time of his speech. He denounced those in the Democratic Party who supported the law, which seemed to condone the right to enslave another human being. He said that the law contradicted the founding principal of the United States -- the notion that all men are created equal. At the time, Lincoln believed that confining slavery to southern states would eventually lead to the death of the practice, and he hoped to prevent slavery from spreading into other states. He thought this was the best way to prevent civil war and preserve the Union.
Lincoln's Anti-Slavery Efforts Led to His Presidency
In the years that followed, Lincoln continued to speak out against the Kansas-Nebraska Act, and helped raise campaign money in support of Kansas anti-slavery politicians. He also continued to practice law while he campaigned to become a U.S. Senator in 1859. He lost that election, but gained national support from Northerners and abolitionists throughout the country, which ultimately led to his presidential win in 1860. The groundwork laid by Lincoln's efforts throughout his political career was a catalyst to the birth of the African American civil rights movement that would occur about 100 years later.
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