Reader Mike Sterling writes that “[e]vidence of Lincoln’s greatness abounds, but the fact that his speeches and sentiments can so often be applied to contemporary events is the greatest proof that he was, perhaps, the greatest person ever to walk the planet. Take the screeching of buffoons like Krugman — Lincoln disposed of such idiots in his Cooper Union Speech while addressing efforts to link John Brown to Republicans.” Mr. Sterling refers to this passage of the Cooper Union Speech:
You charge that we stir up insurrections among your slaves. We deny it; and what is your proof? Harper’s Ferry! John Brown!! John Brown was no Republican; and you have failed to implicate a single Republican in his Harper’s Ferry enterprise. If any member of our party is guilty in that matter, you know it or you do not know it. If you do know it, you are inexcusable for not designating the man and proving the fact. If you do not know it, you are inexcusable for asserting it. . .
The Cooper Union Speech is indeed one Lincoln’s great speeches. It is a work of original scholarship reconstructing the views of the founding fathers on slavery. Harold Holzer devoted a good book to the speech; don’t miss Allen Guelzo’s admiring review of Holzer’s book. Like so many of Lincoln’s speeches, the Cooper Union Speech remains a fount of political and practical wisdom some 150 years later.
UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds rounds up good comments, including his own.