The Cooper Union Speech

Today in History, February 27: 1860:

“One of the most happiest and most convincing political arguments ever made in this City … No man ever made such an impression on his first appeal to a New-York audience.”

— Horace Greeley in his paper regarding “The Cooper Union Speech” by Abraham Lincoln.

A former Congressman and Illinois lawyer, Lincoln had been launched to the national stage by his debates with Stephen Douglas over the slavery question 2 years before, but he was still mostly unknown in the east.

A young Republican’s group in New York invited him to speak at Cooper Union’s Great Hall. The hall was not filled for the speech, but the text of it was given to Greeley’s and other’s papers; from there it was broadly published across the nation in pamphlet form.

Lincoln made convincing arguments that the Founding Fathers were against the expansion of slavery and desired it’s eventual end. At the same time he tried to convince Southerners that the Republican party did not wish to interfere in their affairs.

While in New York he had his photo taken by Matthew Brady, and the photo was used along with the pamphlet to broaden his recognition.

It is widely believed that the speech is what launched him into the Presidency.

He closed with a message to his colleagues:

“Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the Government nor of dungeons to ourselves. Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.”

Death had to take Roosevelt sleeping, for if he had been awake, there would have been a fight.” -Vice President Thomas Marshall

Today in History, January 6: 1919 –

“Death had to take Roosevelt sleeping, for if he had been awake, there would have been a fight.” -Vice President Thomas Marshall. President Theodore Roosevelt dies at Sagamore Hill, Oyster Bay, New York in his sleep of a heart attack. “Teddy” had taken every last drop of adventure and worthiness that he could squeeze out of life in the preceding 60 years.

Roosevelt had been a sickly child; constantly plagued by breathing problems, he could rarely play with the other children. His father, Theodore Sr., a remarkable man himself, told “Teedie” that if he wanted to have a successful life, he would have to take charge and force his body into the form he needed to match his intellect. Roosevelt did just that. He took exercise as his “raison detre” until he was barrel chested and of vigorous health. Each time he became sick during his life, he would simply work through it.

As a young man, while serving in the New York Assembly, Roosevelt’s wife and mother died on the same day…February 14, 1884. Roosevelt fled into the west, becoming a rancher and for a time a lawman in the Dakota Territory. The experience would strengthen him and give him a background people respected.

During his life he was a state rep from New York, the Police Commissioner for New York City, Governor of New York, the Assistant Secretary of the Navy (he oversaw the building of a modern US Navy while his boss was not paying attention), he led the “Rough Riders” (1st Volunteer US Cavalry) up San Juan Hill in the Spanish-American War, became Vice President, and the President after President McKinley was assassinated.

As President he defined the modern presidency, breaking up monopolies, seeing that mistreated workers got a fair shake, sent the “Great White Fleet” around the world establishing American as a world influence, saw the Panama Canal built, saw the establishment of the National Parks Service, and countless other accomplishments.

He worked tirelessly for the American people. After the Presidency he traveled extensively, going on an African Safari, and exploring an unknown region of South America, “The River of Doubt”; a region so treacherous that it was considered a no-man’s land. He nearly died in the mapping of the river, now called “Rio Roosevelt” in his honor.

All of his male children fought in WWI, and the only reason Teddy didn’t was because the Democrat President (Wilson) refused to let him, afraid Roosevelt would run against him in the next election and win. One of his sons, Quentin, would be shot down over France and be killed. That was the last straw for the “Old Lion”. He mourned dreadfully until his death.

One of his other children, Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., would be the only General to go ashore with the troops at D-Day in WWII; Teddy Jr would die of a heart attack himself several weeks after the Normandy invasion. The entire world would mourn President Roosevelt’s passing; he had become larger that life, a hero to people the world over. The quintessential American. And in case you couldn’t tell, my favorite Hero.

A Farewell to Brothers in Arms

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Today in History, December 4: 1783 – General George Washington, veteran of the French and Indian War, leader of his men from Bunker Hill to Valley Forge to Yorktown, with all of the hardships involved, announces to his officers that he is resigning his commission and returning to civilian life at the Fraunces Tavern in New York City. “with a heart full of love and gratitude, I now take leave of you. I most devoutly wish that your latter days may be as prosperous and happy as your former ones have been glorious and honorable.” Washington then took a moment with each of his officers alone. There was not a dry eye in the house, including the future President…George Washington….wept.

Evacuation Day

Today in History, November 25: 1783 –

After seven years of occupation, the last British troops depart New York City, three months after the Treaty of Paris was signed ending the American Revolutionary War.

At the outset of the war Gen. George Washington had wanted to fight to keep NYC, but after losing tactically to British forces, had to flee with his army in the dark of night. NY would remain in British hands throughout the war.

After the last British troops left, Gen. Washington entered the city to great fanfare from its citizens.

He would later be inaugurated as the first President in the city that would become the nation’s first capitol.

As Long as I Count the Votes…

Today in History, November 23: 1876 –

“It’s hard not to admire the skill behind Tweed’s system … The Tweed ring at its height was an engineering marvel, strong and solid, strategically deployed to control key power points: the courts, the legislature, the treasury and the ballot box. Its frauds had a grandeur of scale and an elegance of structure: money-laundering, profit sharing and organization.”

“Boss Tweed”, William Magear Tweed, is delivered back to US custody by the US Navy after being captured in Spain, where he was working as a sailor. Tweed had been elected to the New York Legislature in the 1850’s, but soon realized he would have more power on various commissions and controlling WHO got elected.

For several years he ruled New York and in a large part the nation through his corrupt control of votes and purchased positions via Tammany Hall. It finally led to potential financial collapse, which is when his friends finally turned on him and he was arrested.

Released to visit his family, he fled, ending up in Spain. Unfortunately for him, Thomas Nast of Harper’s Weekly had drawn him so many times, that he was recognized. Once he was out of options, he testified against his cohorts, but remained in prison until his death in 1878. This was the Democrat Party of the 19th century.

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Today in History, November 12: 1954 –

Ellis Island in New York Harbor, which had seen millions of legal immigrants processed through since it’s opening in 1892, closes for good. It had been used continuously to process immigrants, and also as a military hospital and a facility to process illegal immigrants out.

A few of those that claimed America as their home via Ellis that you may know (according to the National Park Service, which now manages the Island)…Isaac Asimov (science fiction author extraordinaire), Charles Atlas (fitness), Irving Berlin (White Christmas and much more), Frank Capra (It’s a Wonderful Life and more), Claudette Colbert (silent film actress), Max Factor (cosmetics magnate), Samuel Goldwyn (Hollywood mogul), Bob Hope (Mr. USO and decades of acting), Al Jolson (actor), Meyer Lansky (gangster), Bela Lugosi (the original scary actor), HYMAN G. RICKOVER (pioneer of our nuclear Navy), Edward G. Robinson (actor), KNUTE ROCKNE (football hero when it meant something), Igor Sikorsky (helicopter pioneer), Lee Strasberg (actor), Baron Von Trapp (The Sound of Music)….so much history. Oh, and of course….Vito Corleone….

Liberty Enlightening the World


Today in History, October 28: 1886 – “Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “GIVE ME YOUR TIRED, YOUR POOR,

YOUR HUDDLED MASSES YEARNING TO BREATHE FREE,

THE WRETCHED REFUSE OF YOUR TEEMING SHORE.

SEND THESE, THE HOMELESS, TEMPEST TOST TO ME,

I LIFT MY LAMP BESIDE THE GOLDEN DOOR!”

—Emma Lazarus, 1883

“Liberty Enlightening the World” a statue gifted to America by France in recognition of the two nation’s alliance during the Revolutionary War, is dedicated in New York harbor. The dedication was presided over by President Grover Cleveland.