Lincoln's Lost Speech (lost Abraham Lincoln speech; 1856)

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A photo of former United States president Abraham Lincoln.

Status: Lost

Lincoln's Lost Speech is the name given to a speech made by former United States president Abraham Lincoln at the Bloomington Convention in Bloomington, Illinois on May 29th, 1856. This speech is significant as it helped to relaunch Abraham Lincoln's political career and give a boost to the abolitionist movement in the U.S.


Abraham Lincoln had served in Illinois House of Representatives from 1834-1842 and in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1847-1849 before losing his re-election bid. Slavery was still a hot issue in the U.S. in the 1850s. The Kansas–Nebraska Act of 1854, which allowed Kansas and Nebraska territories to decide whether slavery would be legal in those territories, prompted Lincoln to return to a political career. In his 1854 Peoria speech, Abraham Lincoln declared himself to be against slavery.[1]


On May 29th, 1856, over 1,000 people met at Major's Hall in Bloomington, Illinois to formally establish the Illinois Republican Party. Many speeches were given but as the meeting progressed, there were cries for Abraham Lincoln to give a speech. Eventually at 5:30 PM, Lincoln gave a 90-minute speech. In the speech, Lincoln stressed the importance of a Republican victory to stop the expansion of slavery in Western U.S. territories. Longtime friend and Lincoln's legal partner William Herndon attempted to write down the speech, but gave up after fifteen minutes and threw away the paper that contained part of it. Historians claim that reporters who were in attendance were in a transfixed state and forgot to write the speech down.[2] In 1896, an attorney and close friend to Lincoln, Henry Whitney published his version of the speech in the McClure Magazine. This garnered a lot of attention, but also faced skepticism about it being a faithful transcription. Among the skeptics was Abraham Lincoln's personal secretary, John Nicolay and Robert Lincoln (Abraham Lincoln's oldest son). Henry Whitney's version of the speech was eventually debunked by Historian Paul M. Angle who cited a forty-year gap between the speech in 1856 and the 1896 publication.[3]