On June 16, 1858, more than 160 years ago, a little-known politician delivered a speech at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield after he accepted his party's nomination for U.S. senator.
Abraham Lincoln lost his Senate bid that year, but his "House Divided" speech would make him a nationally known figure and resonate throughout American history.
"Near the speech's outset, he uttered what has become one of the most famous phrases in American history: 'A house divided against itself cannot stand,'" said former Reagan Education Secretary and Fox News contributor Bill Bennett in the latest episode of Fox Nation's "Patriot's Almanac."
"Lincoln was drawing on the words of Jesus in the Bible," Bennett continued. "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand."
In this Fox Nation series, Bennett provides a daily insight into the historical events, symbols and leaders that define the essence of the United States, mark its historic course and connect its people.
"[Lincoln] knew his audience would understand his meaning," explained Bennett. "Slavery and freedom were incompatible."
"The institution of slavery was a fatal flaw in the American republic. Either the United States must eventually rid itself of slavery and become a truly free nation or slavery would take hold in nearly every state."
Lincoln, a Republican, faced-off against Stephen Douglas, a Democrat, in a series of public debates during the 1858 senatorial campaign. Those encounters are remembered as the Lincoln-Douglas debates and both men presented their arguments for and against the spread of slavery in the U.S.
In 1860, Lincoln was the Republican Party's nominee for president and he again went up against Douglas. This time Lincoln won -- becoming the 16th president of the United States.
One month after Lincoln's first inauguration the Civil War began.
"Lincoln was unsuccessful in his Senate bid," concluded Bennett. "But the 'House Divided' speech helped put him on the national stage. It accurately predicted that the division between North and South over slavery would not cease until a crisis shall have been reached and passed."
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